For the second consecutive year, Porsche has taken all the titles in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC)! These include: victory in Le Mans, winning the manufacturers’ world championship and the drivers’ world championship at the finale in Bahrain. In fact, Porsche had already clinched the manufacturers’ world championship at the penultimate round in Shanghai. In the last of nine WEC rounds, Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber finished third, having started second on the grid in the #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid. The new world champions, Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb only managed to finish sixth after contact with another car early in the race.
The final race of the season mimicked the round in Austen, Texas, in that it was a day/night race, starting at 16h00 and finishing at 22h00.
Timo Bernhard started the race from second on the grid in the #1 car, and let Neel Jani in the #2 car pass him on the first lap. Bernhard slipped back to fourth when the #7 Audi passed him but Webber, who took the wheel after 29 laps, managed to move up to third place when he overtook the #5 Toyota on lap 43. Hartley took over after 59 laps, and after 89 laps it was Bernhard’s chance again until Hartley was back in the car after 120 laps. It was Bernhard’s turn once again after 150 laps, before finally, after 180 laps, Webber took the wheel giving him the opportunity to enjoy the final stint of his racing career. After a total of 201 laps he brought the #1 Porsche 919 home in third place.
Neel Jani in the #2 Porsche, who started third behind the #1 sister car, gained one place when he moved up to second on the first lap. Jani lost one place before he pitted on the 28th lap, but he stayed in the car. Just one lap later he had contact with a GT car and was forced to pit again, where a damaged tyre and rear bodywork is changed. By this stage the #2 Porsche is one lap down, but after 60 laps Dumas took over, and again after 91 laps it was Lieb’s turn behind the wheel. Jani is back behind the wheel after 122 laps and 21 laps later it was Dumas’ turn once again. Marc Lieb climbed into the car for the final stint to cross the line some 20 minutes later, after 198 laps (3 laps down), becoming world champion!
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1, said, “Today’s race has shown what characterises the Porsche Team. It was able to handle a difficult race under huge pressure. I can only say thank you to all six drivers, every single team member and the Porsche board members, who have supported this programme right from the beginning. Also, today at the track they have personally shown that they absolutely support the project.
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal, shared, “Le Mans winners, manufacturers’ and drivers’ champions for the second consecutive year, we have achieved all our goals. I congratulate our three world champions Marc, Neel and Romain as well as the crew of car #2. This car has been the only one of all the LMP1 entries that hasn’t spent a single second inside the box with technical problems during the 2016 races. We are now looking forward to the celebrations, and, after a short pause for a rest, we will start flat out with the preparations for 2017.”
Timo Bernhard (#1 Porsche): “My start wasn’t too bad. Neel came on the inside and, of course, I left him room to overtake. We were about the same speed and neither of us was quick enough to catch the Audi, but clearly we beat Toyota. For us it was very important to hand over the car to Mark at the end and enable him to do the last laps, and we wanted to be together with him on the podium for one last time. This was a very emotional day, too much to put it into words.”
Brendon Hartley (#1 Porsche): “My first stint went pretty cleanly, I had Kazuki Nakajima behind me so it was a bit tricky with the traffic, but it came out okay. Regarding the Audi, we were hoping to get closer when it was getting cooler, but it didn’t work out today. And for Mark and us it worked out, as we got onto the podium in his last race. We did our maximum today, and it is really very sad to see him go.”
Mark Webber (#1 Porsche): “I was the second and the last driver in the car today, and pretty happy with both stints. Early in the race I had a nice little fight with the #5 Toyota, I managed to get passed him and tried to pull away, but we didn’t have enough pace to fight the Audi. Then for the final stint it was pretty emotional putting my helmet on for the last time. I enjoyed the last stint and I got the chance to bring the car to the chequered flag for the top three finish, and this was the maximum we could get today. It has been such an incredible three years for me with Porsche, together with Timo and Brendon and the whole team. Nothing is forever, I’m stopping at a good time and I’m looking forward to seeing everybody again soon.”
Romain Dumas (#2 Porsche): “For us the chance for a podium was over after one hour into the race. After Neel had contact with another car our car felt strange, with oversteer everywhere. But, because of the championship situation, we didn’t have to push. For us it was important to finish the race reliably and avoid any mistakes – I’m relieved it worked out.”
Neel Jani (#2 Porsche): “It was a promising race start. It was also hard work, because I frequently got into traffic in the worst places, but the strategy and the first pit stop went very well. Then when I was on my out lap a GT car just hit me, which caused damage to a rear tyre and bodywork. After the repairs the car wasn’t great anymore and we had no chance to close the huge gap to the front. All we could do was hope the #6 Toyota would not win and make sure that we would not take any risks on track.”
Marc Lieb (#2 Porsche): “For me it went pretty smoothly, and I was just carrying the car around the track. Since the hit when Neel was driving early in the race, the steering wheel wasn’t straight anymore. Our 919 wasn’t in the best shape in the end, but we rolled it home, and we just made it.”
From all at Porsche Road & Race, we would like to congratulate Romain, Neel and Marc on becoming World Champions, a thoroughly well-deserved and fitting accolade to the hard work put in by the crew of the #2 car. To all involved in the Porsche LMP1 operation, our hearty congratulations on becoming Manufacturers’ World champions for the second year in a row! You’re back where you belong!
Edited by: Glen Smale
Photos by: Porsche & John Mountney