Porsche Retain Title at Shanghai

For the first time in WEC history, Porsche has won a second consecutive FIA World Endurance Manufacturer title.

The title came thanks to a fourth season win from the #1 Porsche which dominated most of the 6 hours of Shanghai. A tough battle for second place saw the Toyota duo complete the LMP1 podium, with the #6 finishing ahead of #5. In LMP2, G-Drive took their second win of the season with the #26 crew. The #30 team took second place with their new squad’s second race as #43 RGR Motorsport rounded off the podium. #36 Signatech Alpine secured the LMP2 Title with Nicolas Lapierre, Gustavo Menezes, and Stephane Richelmi coming across the line for fourth.

As Rebellion Racing suffered a horrid day in their penultimate LMP1 race, Bykolles Racing Team took their first Privateer victory with the #4. It finished seventh in class.

In the GTE classes, Ford took control of the Pro class just as they did last race in Japan, taking another 1-2 finish. The #67 crew of Andy Prialux and Harry Tincknell were glorified on the top step. The AF Corse duo in the #51 took the bottom step of the podium. The Am class gave a battle to the line as #98 Aston Martin and AF Corse Class Championship leader #83 contended for the position. It was the #98 who came out on top, taking their fifth race victory of the season. KCMG #78 Porsche 911 finished third on the podium.

Starting from pole position, Brendon Hartley took the Porsche #1 off the line. He momentarily lost the lead to Sebastien Buemi into the first corner but before the end of the lap the New Zealand driver had the position back. It was in the second hour that Porsche had to first to hold the lead. Hartley had hit a large ball of rubber and was forced to pit for a new nose, bringing the chasing pack in on the race leader. However the threat was short lived as Hartley managed to keep the car in the lead, something that Porsche would not relinquish bar a few laps during pit stops.

The battle for second in LMP1 was where the action was. In the middle of the fifth hour, Porsche had managed to get themselves into a position for a potential 1-2 finish. Had they had managed to hold this position, it would have been expected that Porsche would have swapped the #1 and #2 so the Championship leaders would have won the race. Had #2 Porsche have won this weekend, Porsche would not have only won the Manufacturer’s Title but Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas would have wrapped up the Driver’s Championship as well.

But it was not to be as Jani, on board the #2 for the final few hours, struggled a lot with front grip in his Porsche. The pace deficit this gave him allowed Kamui Kobayashi to close in and pass the Porsche for second. Anthony Davidson was also putting pressure on the Championship Leader, but he made the pass in the final pit stops. This gave Toyota a 2-3 finish with Porsche having to settle for only one car on the podium.

Toyota #6 made some bold tyre strategy decisions during the race in an attempt to close down on the #1 for the victory. Had it not have suffered two punctures during the six hours that forced it in for early or extra pit stops, the Porsche team could have had a serious battle on their hands for the win.

Audi took themselves out of contention early on in the race as they tangled with each other. The #8 Audi finished 3 laps off of the leading Porsche, whilst #7 was 14 laps down after being forced into the garage after the inter-team clash, finishing on the same lap as the #4 Bykolles privateer LMP1. Bykolles took their first privateer win at Rebellion Racing’s demise. The #13 had a horrid race filled with engine issues that kept setting the car further and further down the order. It did manage to classify but it was 29 laps off the leader, 15 off its privateer contender.

Although they did not manage to finish on the podium, #36 Signatech Alpine took the 2016 LMP2 Title this weekend. From their season they fully deserved the title and this adds on the team’s successful year after their 24 Hour Le Mans class victory in June. It was not an easy race for the Championship Winners, with contact from title rival’s #43 RGR Sport and a spin attempting to take them out of the race.

After the one and only Safety Car period at the beginning of the race, Alex Brundle set the #26 G-Drive at the front of the class grid, holding the lead to the end of the race with his teammates Roman Rusinov and Will Stevens (still in the car in place of René Rast). There was close fighting for the two remaining podium positions, with #36 Signatech looking to nearly finish the race in third before pit stop strategies played their part. It was impressive to see the #30 new crew on the podium in just their second race, and the first race for debutant Tom Blomqvist who took Giedo Van de Garde’s seat for the Shanghai round.

In the Pro class, Aston Martin’s #97 crew found there race was over before it even began. In an incident that saw the race’s single Safety Car/yellow flag period, Richie Stanaway got unlucky as the LMP2 #45 Manor spun during the first lap. It took out the #97 Aston as the field filtered around it, wrecking both it and the Aston’s race. Both the Aston Martin and the Manor retired from the race.

But it would not have mattered anyway if the #97 had remained in the race as the Ford’s were too dominant to be caught. They shot off into the distance, leaving the rest of the Pro field to fight for the last podium positions. Just as they had in Japan for the last race meet, Ford brought home another 1-2 finish. Clearly the track and air temperature and the humidity of the Asian tracks suit the performance of the Fords.

Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy, and Mathias Lauda took their fifth win of the 2016 season, but it was not a simple victory. The #83 AF Corse team were fighting for the win, hoping to claim the Am Class Championship this round out in Shanghai. But the title decider will go down to Bahrain in a fortnight’s time. AF Corse lead by 25 points, so if the Ferrari team takes class pole in Bahrain they will win the Championship. With Aston Martin’s strong form at the moment that does not look to be the case, but Aston Martin will need AF Corse to not finish the race and for them to win if they hope to take the 2016 title.

Photograph Gabi Tomescu - AdrenalMedia.com