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.