On Sunday afternoon, Porsche LMP Team’s No. 2 919 Hybrid shared by Earl Bamber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley claimed overall victory in the 6 Hours of the Nürburgring. The No. 1 Porsche made it a dominant one-two for Porsche.
The four factory LMP1 entries were reduced at the front to three right at the start as the No. 8 Toyota had a fuel pump issue on the warm-up lap. A stop for repairs resulted in the No. 8 resuming five laps down. They would never make up any of those laps.
The three remaining LMP1 factory entries stalked away from the rest of the field early. Kamui Kobayashi held off the two Porsches until the first round of stops. In those stops, Kobayashi got out of the car in favor of Jose Maria Lopez. The No. 2 Porsche switched from Bernhard to Hartley at the first stop. Once Hartley got in the car, he quickly moved up from third.
On lap 43 (77 minutes in), Hartley was able to get past Lopez for the overall lead. From that point, no Toyota threatened the overall lead for the rest of the day.
The two factory Porsches swapped the lead back and forth for the rest of the day. In the fifth hour, the No. 25 CEFC Manor TRS Racing ORECA 07 of Tor Graves spun directly in the front of the Porsches approaching the NGK-Schikane. Bamber in the No. 2 was forced to divert to the alternate chicane used for VLN races. When that happened, the No. 1 of Nick Tandy snuck past to take the lead.
The lead changed for the final time late in the race when the final stops were made. In a move dictated by team orders, the No. 2 of Bernhard jumped the No. 1 of André Lotterer by virtue of a much shorter final stop. The stops occurred within a lap of each other.
Afterwards, Bernhard was overjoyed with Porsche Team’s form on home soil in Germany. However, he understands the importance of the championship.
“It was a great team effort for all of Porsche Team,” Bernhard told the WEC’s Louise Beckett. “Both cars could have won today. In the end, we had to bring it home because we’re fighting the Toyota No. 7 [in the World Endurance Drivers’ Championship] and we were clearly in front of them.”
Bamber, Bernhard and Hartley’s margin of victory was 1.6 seconds over the No. 1 Porsche of Lotterer, Tandy and Neel Jani. The No. 7 Toyota of Mike Conway, Kobayashi and Lopez was nearly 65 seconds back in third.
The team orders result in Bamber, Bernhard and Hartley leading the World Endurance Drivers’ Championship by 30 points over Toyota’s No. 8 shared by Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima that finished fourth. The Jackie Chan DC Racing No. 38 is third, followed by the No. 1 Porsche. Conway and Kobayashi in the No. 7 Toyota are fifth.
The LMP2 class was once again dominated by Jackie Chan DC Racing’s No. 38. After G-Drive Racing’s times were deleted due to a skid block violation on Saturday, the No. 38 ORECA 07-Gibson of Oliver Jarvis, Thomas Laurent and Ho-Pin Tung led the class to green.
Early on, Vaillante REBELLION’s No. 31 driven by Bruno Senna was able to get past Jarvis and take the lead. Senna led through the first round of stops. On the second set of tires, Jarvis was able to get back past on lap 37 (70 minutes in). From there, the No. 38 was untouched for the rest of the day.
A complete lack of Safety Car periods during the six hour race meant that no one could seriously make up any ground on the No. 38. Jarvis, Laurent and Tung ultimately pulled away to take their third class victory of the year.
The No. 38’s margin of victory was a full lap over the No. 31 Vaillante REBELLION entry of Senna, Filipe Albuquerque and Julien Canal. Signatech Alpine Matmut’s No. 36 for Nicolas Lapierre, Gustavo Menezes and Matthew Rao was third, followed by Vaillante REBELLION’s No. 13 for Mathias Beche, Pipo Derani and David Heinemeier Hansson. Fifth, two laps down was the No. 37 Jackie Chan DC Racing entry of Alex Brundle, David Cheng and Tristan Gommendy.
GTE-Pro saw a three-way battle early on between the No. 92 Porsche of Michael Christensen, the No. 51 Ferrari of James Calado and the No. 95 Aston Martin of Marco Sørensen. Sørensen was able to take the lead on lap 2 and stayed up front until the first stops.
However, beyond the first round of stops, the class was a battle between the No. 92 Porsche and the No. 51 Ferrari. After the first round of stops, the No. 92 with Kevin Estre at the wheel emerged with the lead. For much of the next portion of the race, Estre raced hard with the No. 51 Ferrari with Alessandro Pier Guidi at the controls. The two veteran racers went back and forth for the next couple of hours.
The second half of the race saw AF Corse assume control of the proceedings as Calado and Pier Guidi slowly but surely pulled away from the rest of the class. By the finish, the No. 51 was 50 seconds clear of the rest of the pack for their first win of the season.
The No. 91 Porsche of Frédéric Makowiecki and Richard Lietz was second, followed by Christensen and Estre in the No. 92. Sørensen and Nicki Thiim were a lap down in fourth while Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell were fifth in the best Ford GT. That finish came despite Tincknell spinning into the gravel following contact with the No. 1 Porsche.
GTE-Am was ultimately the most competitive of the classes at the finish, despite the overall standings being closest. The race came down to Miguel Molina in the Spirit of Race No. 54 Ferrari trying to run down Matteo Cairoli in the Dempsey-Proton Porsche. Molina was able to turn in sub-two minute laps in the final 20 minutes when Cairoli was unable to. Unfortunately for Molina, he simply ran out of time. Cairoli was able to hold on to give Dempsey-Proton Racing their first win of 2017.
Cairoli, Marvin Dienst and Christian Ried‘s margin of victory was 4.607 seconds over Molina, Francesco Castellacci and Thomas Flohr in the No. 54 Ferrari. Aston Martin Racing’s No. 98 for Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda was a lap down in third.
FIA World Endurance Championship teams now take more than a month off. They will be back in action in September at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.
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