History could be made in this weekend’s Six Hours of Shanghai, with Porsche having a chance of locking up the FIA World Endurance Manufacturers’ Championship one race early.
The German manufacturer, on the heels of four consecutive wins, heads into the penultimate round of the season with a 53-point gap over Audi, with a total of 88 manufacturer points up for grabs in the final two rounds.
A win and a fourth place finish, or better, for the pair of Porsche 919 Hybrids on Sunday, no matter where the rival Audis place, would be enough to give Porsche its first World Championship title since its World Sportscar Championship crown in 1986.
Despite the potential historical significance, Porsche LMP1 Vice President Fritz Enzinger has remained humble about their prospects in China, as it seeks its fifth straight victory following a breakout second half of the season.
“It’s a very strong team performance to be able to fight for the world championship title in what is only our second season,” Enzinger said. “We find ourselves in that situation a lot earlier than anyone expected.
“In Fuji we managed the pressure that comes with that very well, and the drivers also proved to be true team players.
“In Shanghai the situation will be even more tense. The circuit doesn’t really favor the Porsche 919 Hybrid’s strengths, and the competition from Audi has got stronger.
“Because there is so much at risk, most importantly we have to stay calm. Our chances will be best when we just keep our heads down and continue working.”
While the Manufacturers’ World Championship is in Porsche’s clear favor, the same can’t be said for the drivers’ title, with only a single point separating drivers from the two LMP1 factory outfits.
Team orders in Fuji saw the No. 17 Porsche of Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley claim victory over the sister entry, enabling the trio to take the lead of the Drivers’ World Championship over Audi’s Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler.
“Up until now we have been the hunters, but now we are the hunted and want to stay in front,” Bernhard said.
“This certainly goes for the manufacturers’ championship, but it has also become the situation in the drivers’ standings. We have to stay focussed and keep working.”
While Porsche has been unmatched on single-lap pace, with the 919 Hybrids locking out the front row in each of the six races this season, Audi has made recent strides with its R18 e-tron quattros.
An updated aero package for the diesel-powered prototypes saw a return to form in Fuji, which could give the four rings a fighting chance this weekend.
But with a deep deficit in the Manufacturers’ Championship, it’s likely to be too little, too late for the once-dominant Audi squad.
“We managed to make a step forwards in the crucial stage of the title race,” said Head of Audi LMP Chris Reinke.
“At Shanghai, we’re again set on presenting ourselves as fierce rivals in order to maintain all our chances up to the end.”