The title fight in the Sports Car World Endurance Championship WEC remains gripping to the end: At the six-hour race on the Shanghai International Circuit on Sunday, Richard Lietz (Austria) and Frédéric Makowiecki (France) secured second place in the GTE-Pro class with the Porsche 911 RSR after a spectacular catch-up race. Clinching the eighth WEC podium result for the 510 hp racer from Weissach this season, they narrowed the gap in the GT Drivers World Championship to just two points before the final race in Bahrain on 18 November. For their teammates Michael Christensen (Denmark) and Kévin Estre (France), the race on the 5.541-kilometre Grand Prix circuit on the outskirts of the Chinese economic metropolis came to an early end: After holding the lead for almost the entire first third of the race, they had to park their 911 RSR after 2.15 minutes due to engine damage.
Driving the #91 Porsche 911 RSR, Richard Lietz and Frédéric Makowiecki were very close to clinching their first world championship victory. After a difficult qualifying, which saw them take up the race from the seventh grid spot, they fought their way to the front with consistently fast lap times. After about an hour they were running in third place, and shortly after their team colleagues’ retirement while in the lead, Frédéric Makowiecki took the front spot. For almost an hour, the Frenchman defended his position before relinquishing it to come into the pits. With approximately 90 minutes to the flag, Richard Lietz took over driving duties in the 911 RSR, moved into third place and, in a spectacular overtaking manoeuvre, snatched second place.
The final phase was definitely not for the faint-hearted. Over many laps, the Austrian delivered a gripping duel with the leading Ford, where he was practically glued to the bumper of the frontrunner. With 35 minutes to go, a critical incident thwarted his charge: A Toyota prototype hit the right side of the Porsche in the first corner. Because of this, Richard Lietz lost more than 15 seconds and ultimately the connection to the leader. With his damaged 911 RSR he still managed to salvage second place, only eleven seconds off the winning time.
In the first third of the race, Kévin Estre and Michael Christensen impressed with a strong performance. Taking up the race from the first grid row, it took Kévin Estre only three laps to move into the lead with the #92 Porsche 911 RSR. Estre took the top position after a spectacular duel with the Aston Martin pilot Nicki Thiim, a former teammate from the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup. Michael Christensen also put in a consistent stint until the second pit stop, where he handed the 911 RSR off to Kévin Estre again at the lead as the fastest GT car in the field. This would be their last driver change on the Shanghai International Circuit: After 2:15 hours, the Frenchman suddenly lost power and had to pull over at the end of the start-finish straight.
The Porsche customer teams also delivered strong performances. Gulf Racing with drivers Ben Barker (Great Britain), Nick Foster (Australia) and Khaled Al Qubaisi (Abu Dhabi) finished on second place. Clinching third place, Dempsey Proton Racing defended their title chances in the drivers’ and team’s classification of the FIA Endurance Trophy with the Porsche Young Professional Matteo Cairoli (Italy), Christian Ried and Marvin Diernst (both Germany).
The ninth and final round of the Sports Car World Endurance Championship WEC will be contested in Sakhir/Bahrain on 18 November.
Comments on the race
Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser, Vice President Motorsport and GT Cars: “The fight for the world championship remains gripping. Today we managed to narrow the small gap to two points. Hopefully in Bahrain we’ll finally be able to bring home our long overdue maiden world championship win for our new 911 RSR. In the GTE-Pro class it was even closer than usual today. It’s a shame that the incident with the Toyota cost us decisive seconds as well as the chance to be even closer and perhaps even score a victory. The title race in the GTE-Am class is still open.”
Richard Lietz (911 RSR #91): “That was an exciting race. I feel sorry for Michael and Kevin. They were doing so well. Our 911 RSR was running well, too. Fred drove a fantastic double stint and, at the end, the situation with the leading Ford became really close. The incident involving the Toyota cost us a lot of time, and afterwards our car was pretty badly battered. The steering wheel was wonky and I felt strong vibrations. I’m pleased that I managed to salvage second place. We’re still totally in contention for the world championship.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (911 RSR #91): “Obviously we would rather have won. We were so close towards the end. But we’ve again improved our chances of winning the world championship with second place, so I’m satisfied. What I didn’t like was how disrespectful the LMP1 and LMP2 drivers were. That wasn’t the first time we were nudged unnecessarily today. But the most important thing is that it’ll be really exciting at the season finale in Bahrain.”
Michael Christensen (911 RSR #92): “It’s always disappointing to have a race end prematurely. But considering how we’ve improved over the second half of the season, we have no reason to hang our heads. Again, every team member did a great job today and contributed to a great start to the race, possibly our best this year. Now we would like to reap the fruits of our hard work at the season finale in Bahrain.”
Kévin Estre (911 RSR #92): “The beginning of the race went well for us. I had a great start and could move into first place after three laps. Michael then extended the lead. Our 911 RSR ran like clockwork, it was the fastest GT car in the field. But two laps after Michael handed the car off to me, the car suddenly lost power. That was tough because at that point the situation seemed very promising for us to win the race. It’s just bad luck. But we’re looking ahead now and we hope for a good season finale in Bahrain.”
Matteo Cairoli (911 RSR #77): “That was a very tough race. We experienced problems with the tyres over the whole weekend, plus we lacked a bit of speed compared to the frontrunners. Viewed in this light, third place is a good result, even though it means we’ve lost our lead in the FIA Endurance Trophy. Still, the final score will be settled after the last round in Bahrain.”
1. Priaulx/Tincknell (GB/GB), Ford GT, 170 laps
2. Lietz/Makowiecki (A/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 170
3. Calado/Pier Guidi (I/I), Ferrari 488 GTE, 170
4. Mücke/Pla (D/F), Ford GT, 170
5. Thiim/Soerensen (DK/DK), Aston Martin, 170
6. Rigon/Bird (I/GB), Ferrari 488 GTE, 170
7. Turner/Adam (GB/GB), Aston Martin, 170
8. Christensen/Estre (DK/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 65
1. Dalla Lana/Lamy/Lauda (CAN/P/A), Aston Martin, 166 laps
2. Barker/Foster/Al Qubaisi (USA/GB/UAE), Porsche 911 RSR, 165
3. Ried/Cairoli/Dienst (D/I/D), Porsche 911 RSR, 164
4. Mok/Sawa/Griffin (MYS/J/IRL), Ferrari 488 GTE, 158
5. Flohr/Castellacci/Molina (CH/I/E), Ferrari 488 GTE, 37