By taking a one-two victory in Austin, Texas, USA, the Porsche LMP Team further extended its world championship lead. Earl Bamber (NZ), Timo Bernhard (DE) and Brendon Hartley (NZ), the championship leading Le Mans winners, crossed the line first at the Circuit of The Americas. The sixth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) was a hot six-hour race with up to 33 degree Celsius ambient temperature and 40 degree Celsius track temperatures. The reigning world champion Neel Jani (CH), André Lotterer (DE) and Nick Tandy (GB) finished second. This trio had started from pole position and led for most of the race before letting the sister car ahead in the closing stages which is better placed in the championship. Jani achieved the fastest race lap in 1:47.149 minutes on lap 9 of 192. Toyota’s prototypes were strong opponents.
The result marked the Porsche 919 Hybrid’s 17th race win and the seventh one-two victory since its debut in 2014. Furthermore, it now has eleven fastest race laps to its tally. Porsche aims to complete the innovative prototype’s career in a perfect manner in its final season this year. Having won the Le Mans 24-Hours three years in a row, the team is aiming to achieve a third consecutive world championship title for manufacturers and drivers. Porsche has now scored 242 points in the manufacturers’ world championship with Toyota on 168.5 points. In the drivers’ rankings, Bamber/Bernhard/Hartley (159 points) have extended their lead over the best placed Toyota drivers (108 points). Jani/Lotterer/Tandy lie fourth in the championship (90 points). Due to the excessive heat, the maximum consecutive time for a driver at the wheel was limited to 80 minutes from the regulations. This made it clear before the start that no double stints would be possible. The 919 Hybrid could do 30 laps with one fuel fill which lasted approximately 57 minutes. The seventh of nine WEC rounds will take place on October 15 in Fuji, Japan.
How the race went for car number 1:
Jani starts from pole position and builds up a solid lead of more than ten seconds. After 30 laps he hands over to Lotterer who gets fresh tyres. Because the Toyotas don’t change tyres at their first stops, Lotterer drops back to third. From lap 47 to 52, he is embroiled in a tense battle with José Maria Lopez in the number 7 Toyota that Lotterer wins to continue in P2. At the next stop after 60 laps, Tandy takes over. He continues on the same set of tyres and leads the race for his entire stint. After 91 laps, Jani is behind the wheel again. He gets fresh tyres but retains the lead. After 123 laps, Lotterer jumps into the leading car once more and continues on the used tyres. Shortly before the next stop, he gets touched by the number 7 Toyota (Kamui Kobayashi) but both cars continue. After 153 laps, Lotterer hands over to Tandy. After leaving the pits, he is overtaken by the sister car and continues in P2. During the last round of pit stops – Tandy refuels at the end of 174 laps, Tandy leads again. At the end of a highly exciting race, with four laps to go he lets the sister car pass with the championship in mind.
How the race went for car number 2:
Bernhard starts from P2 but loses two positions on the first lap to the Toyotas. At the first stop after 29 laps, Hartley takes over and gets new tyres. Because Toyota do not change tyres, Hartley drops to fourth before overtaking the number 7 Toyota with Lopez at the wheel on lap 53. After 59 laps, Hartley hands over the third placed car to Bamber. He continues on used tyres, now in P2 again after Toyota has a longer stop for tyres. Moments before the end of Bamber’s stint, Kobayashi gets ahead of him but Bamber successfully fights back and regains P2. After 90 laps, Bernhard is back in the car and on fresh tyres. Once again he drops back to P4 because the Toyotas refrain from a tyre change this time. From lap 97 to lap 100, the safety car is on track and all gaps disappear. On lap 104, just after mid distance, Bernhard successfully closes down Mike Conway in the number 7 Toyota. When Toyota changes tyres, the Porsches are up in front again. Hartley takes over after 121 laps in P2. After 151 laps, Bamber is back behind the wheel. On lap 154, he overtakes the sister Porsche for the lead. After 173 laps, he comes for the final stop for refuelling and is now second, less than ten seconds behind the leader. On lap 188 of 192, the sister car hands the race win to him.
The Porsche LMP Team after the race
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1: “Our fourth consecutive race win is the result of a hard fight as Toyota was a strong competitor. It was a difficult race in incredible heat. Thanks to Porsche, the LMP team at home and here at the race track as well as to our tremendous drivers. We have again moved closer to our target: to defend both championship titles.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: “After the pole position yesterday, the crew of the number 1 Porsche produced a superb race today. There is no doubt they deserved the race win. Congratulations to the team of the 919 Hybrid number 2, they made the next step towards the title win. Today we experienced a very, very close race with Toyota. Thanks to an errorless and perfect performance of drivers and team, faultlessly working cars and the right decisions at the right time, we managed the day despite the high temperatures. Our joint hot weather test with tyre partner Michelin in Barcelona paid off. For the entire weekend, we’ve had the better package. Now we are preparing for Fuji, where we expect another close battle with Toyota.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid car number 1:
Neel Jani (33, Switzerland): “I drove the start and had a good first stint with the tyres we used in qualifying. It was pretty lonely at the front and I could extend the lead to more than ten seconds. To manage the traffic when lapping other cars was not easy and the heat stressed the tyres. During my second stint, the safety car came out and our advantage melted away. I also could not maximise the potential of the new tyres I had. But later I could open up a gap again and had lots of fun. We obviously knew before the race that we would step back for our colleagues in the sister car.”
André Lotterer (35, Germany): “It wasn’t an easy race today. We had made some changes to the car to adapt for the race. Unfortunately this led to heavy understeer. We then tried to make up for it by changing some settings. On my first stint, the second one of the race, I had a pretty good fight with José María López in the Toyota for second position. He kept boosting to keep ahead. This way he made room for the other Toyota that was leading that time. That was okay though. Shortly before the end of my second stint in the last two hours of the race, I was suddenly hit by Kamui Kobayashi. Luckily it happened very late in the corner when I was already accelerating, which in our case means I had four-wheel drive. I kept my foot on the throttle and the front wheels pulled me straight again. It was tough racing.“
Nick Tandy (32, Great Britain): “I was the third driver in our car and my first stint was on used tyres and we didn’t know what to expect. But the pace stayed consistent and competitive so that we kept the lead. I have the feeling that my teammates had the more exciting stints and battles then I had. Congratulations to Porsche for a great result. On our side of the garage we once again did a perfect race. We were really fast and did everything right.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid car number 2
Earl Bamber (27, New Zealand): “Our sister car number 1 had the edge on us today. They did a fantastic job with no mistakes and we also had a big challenge from Toyota. I’m sure they will be very strong in Fuji, so we have to keep working. Our car was good today, we had great stints and some battles to enjoy.”
Timo Bernhard (36, Germany): “Another one-two is certainly great but it wasn’t easy today with lots of difficult situations in traffic. I was not happy with my opening stint. The car behaved differently than I’d expected causing me to lose ground. When I was in the car for the second time, I had some good fights with the two Toyotas and could overtake Mike Conway. Of course we are pleased about the maximum points for the drivers’ championship, but our sister car would definitely have deserved the race win.”
Brendon Hartley (27, New Zealand): “The result is an awesome team effort. Both our cars were always close together and Toyota kept us honest for the entire race. It was interesting to see the different tyre strategies today. I was second and fifth in the car and had good, clean stints.”