At the halfway point in the 2018/2019 WEC Super Season, Porsche leads the field in the GT Manufacturers title by a healthy margin. This position was undoubtedly helped by the huge points haul following the momentous 1-2 result in the Le Mans 24 Hour race back in June. But the broader picture also shows that Porsche’s two cars have combined well, both finishing higher at each race than the other teams. The WEC though, is seldom without drama of some kind, and news of a twist in the championship broke after the Fuji race (see below). Porsche’s weekend victory haul of a win in the WEC Fuji 6 Hours was preceded by a win for the factory team in the final round of the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the Petit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta on Saturday.
Petit Le Mans, Road Atlanta
Qualifying for the ten-hour race at Braselton, Georgia on Saturday, the field was well mixed with the top three places in the field being filled by three different manufacturers. The #24 BMW was on pole followed by the #3 Corvette and the #912 Porsche, with the #911 Porsche down in fifth place in class.
With consistent lap times and well executed pit stops by the #911 Porsche, the trio of Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy and Frédéric Makowiecki worked their way up through the field during the race. With approximately three hours left on the clock, Makowiecki moved into the lead and successfully defended his position which left Tandy with the task of bringing the car over the finish line in first place. Frédéric Makowiecki said after the race, “Victory at Sebring, at the Nürburgring and now here – amazing! It shows just how well Patrick, Nick and I work as a team. Again today, we always believed we could do it and we stayed calm even in difficult situations.”
For 71 laps, the #912 sister car driven by Laurens Vanthoor, Earl Bamber and Mathieu Jaminet was also on course for victory, despite a puncture early on in the ten-hour race. A drive-through penalty, however, threw the trio down the field. Bamber, Vanthoor and Jaminet tried everything to catch up. However, the fierce competition in the GTLM prevented them from making up lost ground. The #912 vehicle crossed the finish line in sixth place in class. And after the race, Earl Bamber commented, “We definitely had a winning car today. That’s why it was extremely disappointing to receive a drive-through penalty. It ruined our chances of winning.” Laurens Vanthoor added, “This race actually went like the second half of the season: We had every chance to win, but we walked away empty handed. Congratulations to our teammates in the #911. It was a tremendous achievement for Patrick, Nick and Fred.”
In the GTD class, the Porsche customer team, Wright Motorsports, finished the final race of the season in fourth place. Works driver Patrick Long, Christina Nielsen and Robert Renauer put in a strong drive in the #58 Porsche 911 GT3 R. However, a drive-through penalty also cost them a possible class win. Unfortunately, the #73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R driven by Wolf Henzler, Timothy Pappas and Spencer Pumpelly had to retire early from the race.
After a very eventful season in 2018, the three top places in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (GTLM and GTD) are as follows
WEC Fuji 6 Hours
While the 2018 IMSA season was wrapped up this last weekend in Atlanta, the 2018/2019 WEC Super Season has just reached its halfway mark, with four races done and four to go. At the Fuji race circuit, it was the driver combination of Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen who crossed the finish line in first place in the GTE-Pro category in the #92 Porsche. Their team mates, Richard Lietz and Gianmaria Bruni finished the race in fifth place in the #91 Porsche.
Light rain fell during the first hour of the race, but after this the track slowly dried during a 30-minute safety car phase. Following an early switch to slicks, Estre and Christensen (#92) concentrated on working their way up through the field and thanks to an optimal setup and a clever pit stop strategy, the pair systematically reeled in the frontrunners. With about ninety minutes to go, Christensen swept into the lead. The final pit stop with a driver change was carried out swiftly, allowing Estre to maintain position and take the chequered flag in first place. Coming home in fifth place was Lietz and Bruni. The sister car struggled with a less than perfect pit stop and deteriorating tyres towards the end, but #91 Porsche nevertheless earned vital points for the team in the process.
The newcomer team Project 1 (GTE-Am) with Porsche works driver Jörg Bergmeister, Patrick Lindsey and Egidio Perfetti secured its maiden victory in the WEC. Jörg Bergmeister (Porsche 911 RSR #56) said, “At first the race ran like the entire weekend – not so satisfactorily. We had contact, a spin and had to change the door. But midway through the race the tide turned in our favour and we brought home a pleasing victory. It’s the first WEC win for me and also for Project 1. That’s a great step for us in terms of collecting points. We’re all happy with this and it’s going in the right direction.”
But this is where it all gets a little muddy. The #88 Porsche driven by Hoshino/Roda/Cairoli was second at the chequered flag, but they were later penalised 76 seconds by the stewards which dropped them to fifth. In a nutshell, in post-race scrutineering, the car failed the required 45 seconds refuelling time, instead completing its refuelling in just 42.3 seconds. The stewards considered this to be in breach of the regulations and calculated the penalty to be a saving of 2.7 seconds at each pit stop (seven pit stops) totalling 18.9 seconds. The stewards then decided to multiply this penalty by four, equalling 76 seconds (FIA Endurance Committee Decision No. 25). In respect of car #77, the refuelling time of 43.8 seconds amounted to a time saving of 1.3 seconds per pit stop, and over six stops this amounted to 7.8 seconds, times four, giving a 31 second penalty. The competitor, in this case Dempsey-Proton Racing, did not contest the results of these findings.
The problem was compounded however, when further investigations appeared to show that the sensors used to measure refuelling time were allegedly sending incorrect information to the data logger (FIA Endurance Committee Decision No. 27). This led to yet further investigations which appeared to show that two seconds were allegedly added to the signal for each refuelling time sent to the data logger. The data logger has now been sealed by the FIA delegates who will require that the issue be investigated before the next race. A similar problem was allegedly found to be the case with the #77 Porsche car. It is important to note that Decisions No. 26 (relating to car #77) and No. 27 (relating to car #88) remain alleged infractions, until further investigations have taken place.
As a result of the above, the amended GTE-Am results from the Fuji race are as follows
At the halfway mark in the 2018/2019 WEC Super Season, the GTE-Pro and Am team’s points standings are as follows
|2||GTE-AM||#56||Team Project 1||66|
Porsche Road & Race will bring you news of any developments on the above matters as and when further information becomes available.
Round five of the FIA WEC World Sports Car Championship takes place in Shanghai, China on 16 November.
Written & edited by: Glen Smale
Images by: Porsche Werkfoto