Porsche has extended its lead in the FIA World Endurance Championship with a hard-fought victory in Sunday’s Six Hours of Nürburgring, overcoming a strong challenge from Audi.
Timo Bernhard took the No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid to its first win of the season, bouncing back from a slow puncture early in the race that initially put them off-strategy, but capitalized on contact and a penalty for the championship-leading No. 2 car in the closing stages.
Neel Jani was forced to relinquish his lead with with less than 90 minutes to go to serve a drive-through penalty for a collision with the No. 88 Abu Dhabi Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR, which brought out a Full Course Yellow and damaged the nose of the 919 Hybrid.
The incident ultimately dropped the Swiss driver to third, and then faded to fourth after a fierce duel with Andre Lotterer in the No. 7 Audi R18, which led to the Porsche’s rear legality panel getting damaged and an additional stop for repairs.
The battle between Lotterer and Jani, which saw the two LMP1 hybrids make contact several times, gave clear sailing up front to Bernhard, who cruised to a 53.787-second win over the No. 8 Audi of Loic Duval.
It marked Porsche’s third win in four WEC races this season, but the first of the year for defending World Champions Bernhard, Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley.
Porsche benefitted from a series of FCYs that played into their hands throughout the race, with both 919 Hybrids able to pit and leapfrog ahead of the No. 8 Audi, which led early in the hands of Oliver Jarvis.
The No. 7 Audi of Lotterer and Marcel Fassler completed the podium in third, followed by the No. 2 Porsche, which lost ground after multiple incidents in final 90 minutes.
Toyota was unable to challenge either of the German manufacturers, with the No. 5 Toyota TS050 Hybrid finishing two laps behind in fifth, while engine issues delayed the No. 6 entry in the fourth hour, en route to sixth.
For the first time this season, all six LMP1 hybrids were classified at the finish, with relatively few mechanical issues, unlike the opening rounds.
Signatech Alpine claimed its third LMP2 class victory in a row, following another commanding run by Nicolas Lapierre, Stephane Richelmi and American Gustavo Menezes in the No. 36 Alpine A460 Nissan.
Lapierre crossed the line 16.478 seconds ahead of the No. 43 RGR Sport Ligier JS P2 Nissan of Bruno Senna in second, having held the French squad close in toe in the closing hour.
The Signatech squad took over the lead early in the fourth hour when the class pole-sitting No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca 05 Nissan of Alex Brundle retired with gearbox failure.
Lapierre, Richelmi and Menezes extend their lead in the championship, ahead over the RGR Sport squad of Senna, Filipe Albuquerque and Ricardo Gonzalez, who now move into second, thanks to G-Drive’s retirement.
A final lap duel between Ryan Dalziel and Jonny Kane ended with Tequila Patron ESM’s Dalziel, Pipo Derani and Chris Cumming claiming their class podium of the season, with Dalziel coming out just 0.071 seconds ahead of the Strakka Racing driver at the line.
LMP1 Privateer honors, meanwhile, went to the No. 13 Rebellion R-One AER of Alexandre Imperatori, Matheo Tuscher and Dominik Kraihamer, after the sister No. 12 car hit engine trouble and the ByKolles CLM P1/01 AER caught fire again.
RESULTS: Six Hours of Nürburgring