WEC Austin 2017: Porsche defeats strong Toyota’ s
Bernhard/Hartley/Bamber take the next step to the title with victory in the Austin WEC race – Toyota back on track – Ferrari wins GTE-Pro fight
Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber have taken the next step towards winning the driver’s title in the 2017 World Endurance Championship (WEC).The Porsche trio in the 919 hybrid with starting number 2 won the Austin 6-hour race and thus celebrated its fourth WEC victory in series.The second place went to the sister car with Neel Jani, Andre Lotterer and Nick Tandy.Toyota took his two cars to third and fourth place.
In contrast to the last race in Mexico, this time there was an exciting battle between the two LMP1 manufacturers.Although Porsche once again had indicated a dominance of Porsche in the training sessions, the world looked different on race day.Toyota was able to keep up with the weather in the first two hours of the race and the lower track temperatures.The two works finally met again at eye level.
“It was really nice racing today and I’m sure that the next races will be very tight”, explains race winner Brendon Hartley.The successful crew around the New Zealanders had a lot of work ahead of them to win the biggest trophy at the end.At the start Neel Jani took the lead in the Porsche #1, while Timo Bernhard was the victim of consequent Toyota attacks in the first round.The German dropped back to fourth place – bad conditions for the start of the race.
Toyota surprises Timo Bernhard at the start
“I was surprised by the Toyotas in the first round.I obviously had to save more fuel than the other two,”says Bernhard.His Porsche then lost the connection.While Jani’s two TS050s could hardly be shaken off, Bernhard was almost ten seconds behind after the first stint.In traffic I was unlucky when I lost four seconds twice.That’s how it came to the arrears.”
Meanwhile Toyota pulled out all the stops and wanted to seize the chance of a race victory with both hands.The Japanese did not need to change tyres at the first stop, which put them in the lead and left more than two thirds of the race distance in the Porsche’s reach at all times.This close duel led to a thrilling duel between Andre Lotterer and Jose-Maria Lopez,”It was fun.We played with Boost and attacked really nice,”says the German.
As the race progressed, Toyota was unable to keep up the Porsche pace, especially in comparison with the stints on fresh tyres, despite increasing track temperatures,”We had a full attack.I’m afraid there was a little bit of a loss.But on the whole, we are pleased that we were able to keep up surprisingly well here.This makes us confident about the upcoming race in Fuji,”says Sebastien Buemi.
Alpine can still do it: First win of the season
Because the Porsche’s were in the “wrong” order at the top, the expected exchange of places was carried out about 70 minutes before the end, in order to pull the leading car in the World Championship with the number 2 – as already at the Nürburgring – to the top.But at the penultimate stop, the cars were not completely filled up to keep the lead over Toyota.Suddenly, Nick Tandy was back in front again.Only six minutes before the end, the Briton waited for Earl Bamber to let him pass.
“That’s not exactly how you want to win, but that’s the way it goes,”explains Brendon Hartley,”The number 1 would have deserved this victory,”says Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber in unison.The winners finally brought their car over the line with a lead of 0.276 seconds.Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Davidson replacement Stephane Sarrazin crossed the finish line 20 seconds later.The sister car with Kobayashi/Conway/Lopez was 45 seconds behind.
In the LMP2 class, Alpine was finally able to shake off the epidemic of recent months.Nicolas Lapierre, Gustavo Menezes and Andre Negrao, who was in top form this Saturday, had worked out a sovereign lead on the two rebellion orcas until shortly before the end, but it was once again exciting.The Alpine was asked by the race control to the pits because the rear lighting didn’t work.In no time at all, the rear section was swapped and rescued from Beche/Heinemeier Hansson/Piquet and Prost/Senna/Canal to the finish line.
GTE: Ferrari just ahead of Porsche, Ford without any chance
In the GTE-Pro category, Ferrari ignited a real fireworks display, while Ford was completely without chance in front of the home crowd.James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi were able to secure a 5.6-second lead over their rivals in spite of a puncture shortly before the end.Second place went to Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen for a strong performance in the Porsche 911 RSR #92, while Sam Bird and Davide Rigon clinched important World Championship points in third place.The second Porsche (Lietz/Makowiecki) was thrown back behind the two Aston Martins due to penalties in sixth place.
For Ford, the appearance in Austin was a real debacle.The Americans were unable to keep up with the pace despite improved ratings.The Ford GT took the tires too much in the heat, and the flounder on the straights lacked speed.The cars were overhauled early in the race and lost the connection.Penalties for pit stop mistakes did the rest: both Ford GTs in the last two places of the GTE Pro class.
In the amateur category, Proton (Ried/Cairoli/Dienst) has lost his lead in the championship.After two class victories in series, the Aston Martin of Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda had to be given the lead again.What’s more, due to a defective drive shaft, the team had to shut down the 911 shortly before the end.The Proton Porsche was still ranked fourth in the class.
Bernhard/Bamber/Hartley have further expanded their lead in the WEC World Championship by winning their fourth consecutive victory.The trio has a 51 point lead over Toyota riders Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima.A total of 78 points are still to be scored on the three remaining World Cup weekends in Fuji, Shanghai and Bahrain.Porsche is 73.5 points ahead of its Japanese rivals in the manufacturers’ standings.