Speed Chills - 6 hours of the Nürburgring

  • 2016 6 Hours of Nürburgring

    The Nürburgring yet again gave us great racing and a large and passionate crowd.

    Video Credit: FIA WEC

  • Porsche Dominate 1-2 Thriller at the 'Ring

    Porsche Team took an emphatic one-two victory today; surviving penalties, dodging traffic and leading from flag to flag to dominate the inaugural FIAWEC 6 Hours of the Nurburgring.

    The German endurance legends continued their steady rise to dominance with a largely unchallenged run to the finish, the #17 of Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard eating up the miles and never looking anything other than comfortably best.

    The sister #18 car was the early leader at the hands of Neel Jani, the Swiss driver making the most of being in the form of his life. The gap behind quickly grew towards the minute mark and it seemed as though nothing would get in its way.

    However a faulty engine sensor put paid to the #18’s hopes, causing a recurring overfuelling problem which rewarded the car with three, ever increasing stop and go penalties. First five seconds were spent at a standstill, then another 30s and finally a whole minute in the box.

    While this allowed the #17 to drive off into the sunset it gave the fans a great spectacle as Jani and then Marc Lieb were forced to overtake both Audis on the track. Multi-corner battles came thick and fast with the experienced Audi squads making it as hard as they possibly could.

    It was here that Porsche showed a glimpse of just how dominant they could have been - after having lost a lot of time by changing drivers at every pit stop, a triple stinting Jani demolished the gap. The #18 took second with half an hour to go and stayed there until the end.

    It was telling that, despite running a typically clean and efficient race, Audi couldn’t get anywhere near matching their compatriots’ pace, relying instead on the wide elbows of their drivers.

    The #7 took the chequered flag ahead of the #8, Andre Lotterer and Lucas Di Grassi having to slow down past a mass of cheering Porsche fans and flags. For the previously unbeatable force, the first WEC visit to their homeland must feel like a true lost opportunity.

    Toyota Racing were, as is a common theme in this year's series, the also rans. Never anywhere near the pace of the other two manufacturers the Japanese marque finished over 3 laps down. While having confirmed that they’re now focussing on their 2016 challenger, the atmosphere around the blue and white garage has been one of resignation, and almost depression, all weekend.

    Of the privateers it was a big day for the ByKolles team who took their first win in the LMP1 subclass. It may have been due to mechanical failures on the part of both Rebellion Racing entries, but endurance is a sport which rewards reliability, and the party at the small team’s hotel will nonetheless be long and loud tonight.

    LMP2 gave us another thrilling 6 hours with fights, problems and penalties galore. The Le Mans winning KCMG Oreca 05 took first position in class after a clean drive, while the two G-Drive Ligiers showed their ever present pace to take second and third.

    Sard-Morand were best of the rest followed by Signatech Alpine, with Strakka Racing splitting the two ESMs to complete the field.

    GTE Pro was, as in the prototype ranks, an all Porsche affair. The #91 finished ahead of the #92, a legacy of both the pace of the 911 and issues for AF Corse’s ever strong 458 Italias; the #71 Ferrari finishing third.

    It was a day to forget for Aston Martin Racing, the #95, #97 and #99 V8 Vantages well off the pace and stuck in their own internecine battles throughout the race. It was also an uncharacteristically poor day for the world champion #51 team of Bruni and Vilander, which suffered a failure early in the race and spent the rest of it circulating seven laps down on the leaders.

    GTE Am saw a return to the podium for the Russian SMP Racing team, an outfit that has improved to the point of being a strong force in world class endurance racing. The #98 Aston took second ahead of the third placed #83 Ferrari.

    It was a day of glory for Porsche, who had stamped their return to endurance at Le Mans but couldn’t have dreamed of such a strong performance in front of the 62,000 spectators - a fact and figure which will please greatly the men in suits who approve these programmes.

    It was also an event to be remembered for the FIA World Endurance Championship, who have brought top flight sportscar racing back to Germany with great success. An action packed race on a short, twisty track seems to be the perfect formula for fans of longform motor racing, and it seems inevitable that the series will return again in 2016.

    But overall it was a great day for the people who follow the sport - huge crowds, a glowing buzz around the whole event and a sense that motorsport was back in a place that has been relatively racing-deserted of late, all added up to create a spectacle of which the sport can be proud.

    The FIAWEC returns in three short weeks to the Circuit of the Americas for Lone Star Le Mans. Half way through the season and it’s all to play for, so stay tuned to speedchills.com and @SpeedChillsView to see how the 2015 season will play out.

  • Reigning Champions take First Win at Nürburgring

    A year on from their first victory, the #1 Porsche took its first win of the season on home soil in what was proved to be a dramatic fight.

    The #1 car beat out the sister #2 Porsche of Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas and the two Audi R18s which had race-winning pace to take its first win of the year. Audi took second and third, the #8 car leading the #7 across the line whilst Neel Jani took 4th after a tense final stint and an incredibly close battle with the third place Audi.

    The #36 Signatech Alpine dominated in LMP2 scoring valuable points in their hunt for the P2 Championship. RGR Sport continued with their strong form, taking the second step of the podium with the #31 ESM Ligier rounding out the top 3.

    AF Corse took a 1-2 finish in GTE-Pro ahead of the pole siting #95 Aston Martin which had lead for the majority of the race. The British marque took the top step of the podium in GTE-AM in the hands of Pedro Lammy, Mathias Lauda and Paul Dalla Lana, ahead of the #83 AF Corse Ferrari and the #50 Larbre Competition Corvette.

    Both Audi’s looked capable of taking the win as the race unfolded, the #8 car looked dominant during the middle stint whilst the #7 car took an early lead. Both cars suffered under badly timed full course yellows which saw the #2 Porsche inherit the lead. As the race entered the final third, everyone's attention was on the #2 Porsche which was charging hard. A mistake from Lieb saw him collide with the #88 Abu Dhabi Proton Porsche and receive a drive through penalty. The slipped back to third as it re-joined the race with 80 minutes left on the clock and a charging Jani at the wheel with Duval just ahead. Duval and Jani ran side by side for the ensuing laps, Jani was forced wide at T1 and pulled alongside again as the pair fought their way through traffic, demonstrating their skill and talent that makes them two of the best drivers in the championship. The fight came to an early end however, Jani was forced to pit after losing a piece of bodywork through contact with an SMP LMP2 car. It was a much simpler run to the flag for the #1 car which crossed the line with a minute in hand.

    It was a quiet race for Toyata, the pace from Le Mans nowhere to be seen. Both cars finished a number of laps off the lead.

    In LMP2, G-Drive held an early lead before transmission trouble with Alex Brundle at the wheel saw their race come to an early end, the car retired part way through the third hour. The #36 car inherited the lead and claimed the teams third consecutive victory. The RGR Sport Ligier took a solid second place whilst a last minute move from the #31 ESM car saw it out accelerate the #42 Strakka on the run to the finish line, the out dated Gibson showing its age in comparison to the new generation of Ligier’s. On a more positive note, it was an incredibly impressive performance from the newest driver to the Strakka line up, Lewis Williamson in his debut outing.

    Aston Martin looked to be running away with the race in GTE-Pro before Gianmaria Bruni took the lead with two and a half hours to run. This seemed to shake the Aston Martin drivers as the car slipped down the order, becoming entangled with the battle between the #71 Ferrari and #66 Ford GT. A notable change in performance for the GTE field, the Fords struggling in comparison to their dominance just 6 weeks before at La Sarthe with Aston fighting at the front again after a poor first half of the season.

    The #98 Aston Martin took victory in GTE-AM with a strong performance from Lamy, Dalla Lana and Lauda. The lead changed a number of times throughout the race, Larbre Competition, KCMG and the Abu Dhabi Proton Porsche all leading as the race unfolded. The AF Corse 458 challenged at the midway point before Perrodo threw the car in to the gravel at the final chicane.

  • Toyota take Pole for 6 Hours of Nurburgring

    After Porsche dominated Friday, Saturday belonged to Toyota. Taking the fastest lap in final practice and in qualifying, Jose Maria Lopez helped take the #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing car to pole position for the 6 Hours of Nurburgring. The close fights for pole position continued down the field, with the biggest advantage a pole sitter had was 0.4 seconds. Both the #26 G-Drive Racing and the #98 Aston Martin Racing cars continue to have an unbroken streak of pole positions this season, whilst Porsche GT Team made it four different manufacturers on pole in Pro in the first four rounds.

    Lopez was a man on a mission after returning to the #7 car for the first time since his crash at the 6 Hours of Silverstone. He proved to the team why he should be in that car by taking the fastest lap in both free practice three and qualifying. Giving Kamui Kobayashi a two-tenth advantage on the second-placed Porsche #2 at the driver change over, it was a nice simple job for the Japanese driver to set a relative lap time that gave them pole position.

    Timo Bernhard tried his hardest to close the gap on the Toyota team, but traffic meant he could get Brendon Hartley and his average lap time any closer than 0.154 seconds. The advantage for the #2 car is that it was not their championship rival Toyota who took the pole position point today, and tomorrow they have the sister Porsche between them. Hartley stated that he hoped team orders would not come into play with so much of the season left, but it can be assumed that Porsche will not risk their championship-contending car losing points to Toyota if they can manipulate the situation.

    The qualifying session for the #8 Toyota was a messy one which cost them in the fight for pole. Although the car had been set-up with more focus on the race, as Anthony Davidson told Speed Chills, LMP2 traffic hindered the majority of their session. Davidson’s teammate Kazuki Nakajima was nearly driven off the track by #35 Signatech Alpine driver Nelson Panciatici. Exiting Bilstein Curve, the LMP2 driver ran Nakajima wide, looking like he had not seen the LMP1 car before swerving away. The #35 has picked up a 30 second stop/go for the incident.

    The drama did not stop there. Davidson went on to explain to Speed Chills that as he was starting his flying lap another LMP2 car came out of the pits, traveling much slower than Davidson, and drifted onto racing line. This compromised Davidson’s fast lap and contributed to the #8 Toyota only managing a fourth-place start, half a second off the pace. Davidson was not happy about the way the LMP2s had driven in the qualifying session, saying that the drivers needed to learn to “Look in their mirrors.”

    Aside from the incidents with the #8 Toyota, the racing in the LMP2 class for pole position was between #26 G-Drive and the Le Mans-winning #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing car. Oliver Jarvis was pushing hard to try and close in on the #26, but the G-Drive team proved once again why they have had four consecutive pole positions. The astounding pace of Pierre Thiriet and Ben Hanley, standing in for Alex Lynn who is in New York for Formula E, gave G-Drive Racing their 20th WEC pole position. However, the #26 G-Drive failed scruteneering after qualifying had finsihed because their front barge board was at too steep of an angle. This means that the car will start at the back of the grid, whilst #38 jackie Chan DC Racing inherits its first class pole position of the season and Vaillante Rebellion hold a strong two-three.

    The GTE Pro Le Mans-winning Aston Martin had a bad qualifying session as the team ended up at the back of the class. Multiple infringements for track limits saw lap time after lap time deleted for the team, meaning they could only get an average 1.3 seconds off the time of the pole-sitting #92 Porsche GT Team. This was a positive thing for GT Drivers’ and Team Championship leaders in the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi car. With a small disadvantage due to a heavier BoP, Ford have appeared to be on the back foot all weekend. It was a surprise when Olivier Pla managed to jump the #66 up to fastest in class in the final moments of free practice three this morning. The #67 did not have the best qualifying, but they will start ahead of the #97 Aston Martin tomorrow, meaning they have a track advantage. If they can keep the British team behind them they will extend their championship lead before the summer break.

    It was an impressive performance from Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre in the #92 Porsche. The Porsche 911 RSRs have been the cars to beat this weekend and look to be in for a tight fight with the AF Corse Ferraris tomorrow. Their pole position today means that all four of the manufacturers in the GTE Pro class this year have taken pole position this season. Four different pole sitters in four races just proves how close the fight between the GT cars is this year. The pole position is also the first for the new Porsche 911 RSR so a great achievement for the team.

    The sole Aston Marin in GTE Am performed spectacularly in qualifying. Pedro Lamy and Paul Dalla Lana are the qualifying duo for the team and did not disappoint as they took to the track to take their fourth consecutive pole position of the season. The #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche, however, cannot be overlooked ahead of tomorrow’s race. The team pushed hard, keeping the pressure on the Aston Martin to the chequered flag. With the two going wheel-to-wheel in tomorrow’s race, the Am class holds the potential for some fantastic on track battles. The #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE has also been very quick so far this weekend. Stating from third, the team could really muscle into the fight for class victory.

    The entire grid was very close on pace today, showing that there should be some tight fights come tomorrow’s six-hour endurance event. Make sure to follow @SpeedChillsView on twitter for live updates from trackside as the race unfolds.

    Lights out for the 6 Hours of Nurburgring is at 13:00 CEST.