Porsche’s no. 1 crew of Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley weathered a turbulent 6 Hours of Mexico at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez to claim their second win of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship season.
In a race that saw all of the leading LMP1 manufacturers suffer setbacks across the course of the six hours, Porsche’s no. 1 919 Hybrid saw off the challenge from Audi to claim the first WEC victory in Mexico City.
After locking out the front row of the grid on Saturday, Audi looked ready to take the fight to Porsche in the race, and duly delivered in the early stages as Lucas di Grassi led in the no. 8 R18 after the first hour.
Porsche hit the front at the halfway stage just as a rain shower hit the circuit, prompting each team to keep an eye on the sky and change its tires accordingly.
The no. 1 car was hit with a stop/go penalty after crossing the pit entry line before bailing out at the last minute, handing Audi the advantage.
However, a brake failure for Oliver Jarvis while behind the wheel of the no. 8 Audi in the fourth hour sent the car into the wall, dashing its hopes of victory. Although Audi was able to patch up the car and send it back out, further issues resigned the no. 8 to the garage after 166 laps.
A tire battle ensued at the front between the no. 1 Porsche and the no. 7 Audi, Andre Lotterer piloting the latter with fresher and more suitable tires that saw him pull Bernhard in at around five seconds per lap.
Bernhard’s lead fell to under 20 seconds as he tried to make it through a wet-tire stint before switching back to slicks to stay on-strategy. The German was handed a reprieve when Lotterer locked up, hitting the wall and losing 30 seconds in the process.
A late rain shower threatened Porsche’s advantage late on, with Audi banking on a late splash-and-dash for Lotterer in the no. 7 car. The German marque rolled the dice, fitting him with intermediate tires with 12 minutes remaining to place pressure on Bernhard at the front.
With five minutes to go, the pressure on Porsche almost tolled. Coming out of the stadium section, Bernhard slid off the track after hitting the curb, kissing the barrier. Although the incident did not damage the 919 Hybrid, it allowed Lotterer to close in by 20 seconds.
After completing the final few laps in a tentative manner, Bernhard crossed the line after six hours of racing to secure the no. 1 crew’s second win of the season following last month’s success at the Nurburgring.
Lotterer brought the no. 7 Audi home in second place, while Toyota completed the podium with its no. 6 car after an impressive final stint from Stephane Sarrazin.
LMP2 saw the RGR Sport by Morand Ligier-Nissan claim a memorable home victory, putting the Mexican flag on the top step of the podium. Early incidents saw the no. 43 car shared by Bruno Senna, Ricardo Gonzalez and Felipe Albuquerque drop back, handing the advantage to the no. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca-Nissan.
G-Drive enjoyed a sizeable lead heading into the final hour, only for a dramatic brake failure with Rene Rast behind the wheel to scupper the Russian team’s hopes of victory, dropping it outside of the points.
This left the RGR Sport by Morand team to win the LMP2 class, with the no. 36 Signatech Alpine entry finishing second as Extreme Speed Motorsports – rather aptly for a team sponsored by a tequila brand – rounded out the podium in Mexico.
GTE Pro saw Aston Martin and Ferrari engage in a fierce battle throughout the six-hour race, with the British marque emerging victorious with its no. 97 Vantage V8. Darren Turner and Richie Stanaway saw off the challenge of the no. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE, while the second AMR entry was third despite a trip into the barrier earlier in the race.
Abu Dhabi Proton Racing scored victory in GTE Am after a race-long battle with KCMG and AF Corse. An early crash ruled the no. 98 Aston Martin Vantage V8 out of contention for victory, leaving the no. 88 Porsche 911 RSR to finish a minute clear of the no. 83 AF Corse, with KCMG’s no. 78 finishing third.
Defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence is a proud Texan who hates to lose. But if there’s one person Torrence likely doesn’t mind seeing win if he can’t reach the winner’s circle – particularly if it’s on home turf – it’s father Billy.
Steve was cheering his father on as the latter boosted his own championship hopes Sunday by winning the Top Fuel category in the final eliminations of the 34th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals in the Dallas suburb of Ennis, Texas.
Billy Torrence (3.775 seconds at 319.67 mph) defeated Jordan Vandergriff (4.299 seconds, 246.03 mph in his first career final round) for his fourth win of the season, including his second win in the first four races of the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs. With the fifth Top Fuel triumph of his career, the elder Torrence moved into fourth in the Top Fuel standings, just 71 points behind his son with two races remaining in the Countdown.
Even though Billy’s son lost in the opening round Sunday, he still leads the Top Fuel standings, holding a 33-point lead over second-ranked Doug Kalitta and a 46-point lead over third-ranked and the weekend’s No. 1 qualifier, Brittany Force.
Sunday marked the third consecutive win in this year’s playoffs for the father-son combo and their second straight triumph at Dallas (Steve won there last year as part of an unprecedented sweep of the six-race Countdown en route to the championship).
“It’s home turf and we love to race here,” Billy Torrence said after visiting the winner’s circle. “We’ve raced here our whole career and we have a lot of fans here. There’s no better place to race than Dallas, Texas, and we did have the best car today.
“It has been very humbling, and we’ve been very blessed and fortunate to have the success we’ve had. We’ve got a great group of guys on both cars and our success is just a testament to the work these guys do. I think that we’re probably the second-best car in the country, with Steve having the best. We’ve had a stellar season.”
In Funny Car: Matt Hagan (3.909 seconds at 327.59 mph) roared to his third win of the season – as well as his third at the Motorplex – and the 32nd victory of his career, defeating Bob Tasca (3.928 seconds at 323.12 mph). Hagan also moved up to fourth in the standings.
“We had a great race car today,” Hagan said. “Qualifying was pretty tough, but to turn on four win lights was pretty huge. (Tasca) is a great driver and those guys are good, so I’m glad things turned out the way they did.
“We’re just trying to keep some momentum going, keep doing our job and control what we can control. It was a pretty special weekend. We’ve just got to keep digging and keep working. I love this sport and it’s been a big part of my life for 10 years. I knew (crew chief Dickie Venables) was tuned in and you could see he was confident, and that builds confidence in me.”
Robert Hight continues to lead the Funny Car standings, followed by Jack Beckman (70 points back) and No. 1 qualifier John Force (74 points back).
In Pro Stock: Greg Anderson (6.609 seconds at 209.75 mph) defeated longtime rival Jeg Coughlin Jr. (6.610 seconds at 207.56 mph) to earn his third win of the season, fifth of his career at the Motorplex and 94th of his overall Pro Stock career.
It was the 102nd time Anderson and Coughlin, who qualified No. 1 for the weekend, have met each other in a race, including the 21st time in the final round.
“We’ve had so many titanic clashes with so much on the line, and I knew it would be close,” said Anderson, who is seventh in points. “It’s a total team effort and that’s what it takes to win a national event in Pro Stock right now. You’ve got to have perfection every time out there.
“We made a lot of changes this week and we hit on it. It showed it on Saturday and I knew coming into today we had a chance. Now it’s a matter of if I can drive the car well enough. I can’t tell you who’s going to win this thing because everybody right now can beat everybody else.”
Erica Enders held on to her lead in the category, but saw the margin over second-ranked Matt Hartford drop to only 28 points. Coughlin is third (-65 points) and Anderson is seventh (-99 points).
In Pro Stock Motorcycle: Jerry “Alligator Farmer” Savoie (6.881 seconds at 195.90 mph) took a big step towards potentially earning his second PSM championship in the last three seasons, defeating three-time champion Eddie Krawiec (6.901 seconds at 195.62 mph).
It was Savoie’s third win of the season and 12th of his career. It’s also his second win in the first four playoff races and fifth straight appearance in the final round at the Motorplex. He’s now third in the PSM standings, 94 points behind five-time champion Andrew Hines.
“It was a great day and we knew we had a good bike coming in,” Savoie said. “We said if we held our composure we could win this thing. For the most part, tracks favor certain riders and we’ve been blessed here. It’s a great place and today was great.
“Bottom line, I want a championship just as bad as anybody else, so whoever is in my way I’m going to do everything I can to try and beat them. I felt good and we’ve got a great team. To me, this win gives you more hope and means a lot. This gives you that window of opportunity where you could win a championship again.”
NOTES: Only two races remain this season: Las Vegas in two weeks (Oct. 31 – Nov. 3) and Pomona, California four weeks from now (Nov. 14 – 17).
TOP FUEL: 1. Billy Torrence; 2. Jordan Vandergriff; 3. Brittany Force; 4. Austin Prock; 5. Leah Pritchett; 6. Antron Brown; 7. Shawn Reed; 8. Lee Callaway; 9. Steve Torrence; 10. Terry McMillen; 11. Doug Kalitta; 12. Kebin Kinsley; 13. Mike Salinas; 14. Cameron Ferre; 15. Clay Millican; 16. Richie Crampton.
FUNNY CAR: 1. Matt Hagan; 2. Bob Tasca III; 3. John Force; 4. Robert Hight; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 6. J.R. Todd; 7. Jack Beckman; 8. Shawn Langdon; 9. Tim Wilkerson; 10. Ron Capps; 11. Paul Lee; 12. Blake Alexander; 13. Cruz Pedregon; 14. Jim Campbell; 15. Jeff Arend; 16. Jonnie Lindberg.
PRO STOCK: 1. Greg Anderson; 2. Jeg Coughlin; 3. Deric Kramer; 4. Matt Hartford; 5. Erica Enders; 6. Chris McGaha; 7. Aaron Stanfield; 8. Bo Butner; 9. Jason Line; 10. Fernando Cuadra Jr.; 11. Val Smeland; 12. Kenny Delco; 13. Shane Tucker; 14. Fernando Cuadra; 15. Alex Laughlin; 16. Richie Stevens.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Jerry Savoie; 2. Eddie Krawiec; 3. Angelle Sampey; 4. Andrew Hines; 5. Steve Johnson; 6. Karen Stoffer; 7. Scotty Pollacheck; 8. Matt Smith; 9. Hector Arana; 10. Ryan Oehler; 11. Angie Smith; 12. Hector Arana Jr; 13. Kelly Clontz; 14. Michael Ray; 15. Jianna Salinas.
FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight, 2,437; 2. Jack Beckman, 2,367; 3. John Force, 2,363; 4. Matt Hagan, 2,325; 5. Bob Tasca III, 2,315; 6. Ron Capps, 2,302; 7. J.R. Todd, 2,274; 8. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,243; 9. Shawn Langdon, 2,239; 10. Tim Wilkerson, 2,188.
PRO STOCK: 1. Erica Enders, 2,395; 2. Matt Hartford, 2,367; 3. Jeg Coughlin, 2,330; 4. Jason Line, 2,327; 5. Deric Kramer, 2,323; 6. Bo Butner, 2,321; 7. Greg Anderson, 2,296; 8. Alex Laughlin, 2,239; 9. Chris McGaha, 2,217; 10. Val Smeland, 2,124.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Andrew Hines, 2,464; 2. Karen Stoffer, 2,383; 3. Jerry Savoie, 2,370; 4. Eddie Krawiec, 2,365; 5. Matt Smith, 2,297; 6. Hector Arana Jr, 2,274; 7. Angelle Sampey, 2,248; 8. Angie Smith, 2,181; 9. Ryan Oehler, 2,159; 10. Hector Arana, 2,128.