The reigning world champions Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber won a thrilling six-hour race in Mexico City on 4 September 2016 in the #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid. By winning the fifth of nine rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship, the 919 Hybrid Porsche further extended its lead in the manufacturers’ standings. The trio of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb came fourth in the #2 Porsche, extending their lead in the drivers’ world championship. Brendon Hartley recorded the fastest race lap on the 4.304km track, achieving a time of 1:25.880 minutes on lap 114.
In total this is the 11th victory for the Porsche 919 Hybrid prototype since its debut in 2014. In the current season the 919 has won four races, including the Le Mans 24 Hours. For Bernhard/Hartley/Webber it is their sixth WEC success. Porsche now leads the manufacturers’ standings with 201 points ahead of Audi (158) and Toyota (112). In the drivers’ standings, Dumas/Jani/Lieb lead by 41 points.
Although Brendon Hartley started from fourth place on the grid in the #1 Porsche, he overtook his team mate Marc Lieb in turn one and settled in behind the two Audis. On lap 21 he passed the # 7 Audi of André Lotterer for second place. After 35 laps Hartley used a Full Course Yellow for an early pit stop, handing over to Mark Webber who was able, just after the re-start, to pass the #8 Audi of Lucas Di Grassi for the lead. The Porsche and Audi pitted at the same time, but Bernhard in the Porsche got back on track just before the Audi, and was able to retain the lead. Due to an infringement when Bernhard crossed the white line at the pit lane entrance, Hartley was called in for a stop/go penalty and lost the lead in the process. The Porsche was able to regain the lead and when the #8 Audi left the track on lap 140, it was a Porsche 1-2. A strong stint by Lotterer saw the #7 Audi in the lead but after the final pit stop for tyres for both Porsche and Audi, it was the #1 Porsche of Bernhard, Webber and Hartley who took the chequered flag.
From second place on the grid, Marc Lieb in the #2 Porsche slipped back into fourth place at the start. Having moved up to third, the first pit stop after 35 laps saw the Porsche lose some additional time due to both cars pitting at the same time, pushing the #2 car back to fourth place. Neel Jani then engaged in battle with the #5 Toyota which saw the Porsche coming out on top. Dumas took over the wheel on lap 75 at which stage the #2 Porsche was lying third. The Frenchman handed the car over to Marc Lieb after 110 laps but once again the cars pitted at the same time causing some delays. On lap 148 the #2 car is touched by an LMP2 car causing part of the rear bodywork to come off but after 154 laps, and on instructions from race control, Lieb has to pit for a new rear end, dropping him back to third. His rain tyres are a handicap on the now drying track, so on lap 166 the number 6 Toyota (Stéphane Sarrazin) gets past him as well. After 169 laps Lieb hands over to Jani, who continues on intermediate tyres. Because the Porsche pit crew did a faster stop than the Toyota team, Jani improves to third and on lap 178 he was able to pass the Toyota again. After lap 194 Jani pitted again to change from intermediates to slicks and Dumas completed the final stint, bringing the car home in P4.
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1, said “This was one of the most thrilling races I have ever seen – because of the enormous competition and also due to the changing track conditions. First and fourth means we scored another race win plus extending the lead in both the manufacturers’ and the drivers’ world championship. Many thanks to everybody! Now we return home to Weissach to make in-depth preparations for the coming race in Austin. In two weeks we want to push our mission further to defend both titles.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: “What a race – once again all three manufacturers were on the podium. We managed to extend our lead in both championships, which means another step on the way to our mission of defending both World Championship titles. Congratulations to the entire team for this challenging weekend and race.”
Timo Bernhard (#1 Porsche): “Sports car racing couldn’t be any better! I was third in the car and opened a good gap on the #8 Audi. During my second stint in the last third of the race, the final 20 minutes especially turned out to be very difficult. In sector three, as it was suddenly wetter than the lap before and I made a small mistake. Luckily I didn’t touch anything and was able to continue. It was outstanding how the team prepared the 919 Hybrid for these special conditions, the new track and the altitude.”
Brendon Hartley (#1 Porsche): “What a race, I’m very happy about this race win. It was a good start and I was able to overtake Marc in turn one for P3. You could see the Audis were struggling a bit but I was unlucky with traffic, and so Di Grassi was able to make a gap of ten seconds. The stop-and-go penalty threw me back to third for a while, but the car was feeling mega and the boys did fantastic pit stops.”
Mark Webber (#1 Porsche): “Another race win for Porsche and the number 1 crew. During my stint in the first third of the race I had a great battle with Lucas Di Grassi, and he was hunting me down for almost the entire stint. The call of the day was to manage traffic and find a rhythm. The track was pretty changeable, not only when it rained, but also earlier. Sunshine was not what we wanted today because we had set the car up in a way that it would become better the cooler the track became.”
Romain Dumas (#2 Porsche): “I did the third stint in our car and managed to make up a few seconds. However, some of that was lost again at the pit stop because we stopped with both cars at the same time and, therefore, I had to be pushed back. Again in the final stint of the race I did my best and managed to catch up.”
Neel Jani (#2 Porsche): “Unfortunately, because of weather forecasts not becoming reality, we were on the wrong tyres for the conditions more than once. Today we could have gained more than 12 points in the drivers’ championship because our strongest rival dropped back. It is a missed chance.”
Marc Lieb (#2 Porsche): “Having started in second, finishing fourth is not what we had hoped for. The start wasn’t easy, the Audis played very well together and I was surprised by Brendon. On my first stint especially I had difficult situations in traffic and later in the race, when we had rain, our tyre choice wasn’t right. For us there was more within reach today and we feel a bit disappointed.”
Edited by: Glen Smale
Images by: Porsche