Porsche heads into this weekend’s Six Hours of Shanghai on the brink of locking up the Manufacturers’ World Championship, with Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas also holding a mathematical chance of clinching the drivers’ title one race early.
Following the closest race of the season at Fuji, which saw cars from all three LMP1 manufacturers finish within 18 seconds, the penultimate round of the FIA World Endurance Championship could see another hard-fought battle between Porsche, Audi and Toyota.
With a 59-point lead over German rival Audi, a double podium finish for the pair of Porsche 919 Hybrids would be enough to take claim the manufacturers’ title for the second year in a row.
Porsche also clinched the Manufacturers’ World Championship one race early in Shanghai last year, although the drivers’ title went down to the wire in a dramatic season finale.
“At the final race in Bahrain in 2015, it was the drivers’ title that seemed fairly easy to get,” said Porsche LMP1 Vice President Fritz Enzinger.
“We had a dominant car and needed no more than P4 for the trophy. But this title win was a nerve-wracking thriller, and we finished P5 because we had technical issues. Back then it only worked out because the sister car successfully fought for the race win.
“The lesson is: in a six-hour race everything can happen – be it in the first corner after the start or in the final minutes, like this year in Le Mans. The key challenge is always to complete the distance with no problems.”
Romain Dumas, Marc Lieb and Neel Jani hold a 23-point lead over Toyota’s Stephane Sarrazin, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi, who are coming off victory in Fuji, with the No. 8 Audi trio of Loic Duval, Lucas Di Grassi and Oliver Jarvis a further 5.5 points behind in third.
All three could still mathimatically take the drivers’ title, although Dumas, Lieb and Jani can clinch it if they leave China with a 26-point gap.
“The circuit layout in Shanghai tends to suit the 919’s characteristics better than that of the Fuji Speedway where we were most recently,” said team principal Andreas Seidl. “But a huge amount of factors matter and in the two recent races we have seen that the competition is at least on the same level as us.
“In Austin, as well as in Fuji, we had problems with our No. 2 car, because the front picked up a lot of tyre rubber from the track, and that disturbed the car’s balance until we changed the front bodywork.
“In Shanghai we want to fight for top positions again with our proven, very reliable 919 Hybrid and another error free team effort.”
Titles in two other classes could also be locked up this weekend, with Signatech-Alpine’s Nico Lapierre, Gustavo Menezes and Stephane Richelimi holding a 38-point lead in LMP2 and the GTE-Am class-leading No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari trio of Emmanuel Collard, Francois Perrodo and Rui Aguas 33 points up on the competition in class.