Porsche wins eventful race at inaugural Six Hours of Mexico
Porsche has claimed its fourth FIA World Endurance Championship victory of the season, in a rain-affected and incident-filled Six Hours of Mexico presented by AT&T.
Timo Bernhard took the No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid across the line 1 minute and 1-second ahead of the No. 7 Audi R18 of Andre Lotterer, in wet conditions, following a second batch of rain that arrived in the final 20 minutes of the race.
The No. 1 Porsche clawed back a nearly 40-second deficit in the fourth hour after a drive-through penalty for crossing the pit entry line, but made good calls on tires, first going for wets before transitioning to intermediates and then to slicks for the final stint.
Bernhard’s lead was consolidated in the final hour when the No. 7 Audi of Lotterer lost more than 30 seconds after locking up his brakes and brushing the wall, following a charge through the field on slicks on the drying track.
The German, however, made up ground again in the closing stages, after opting for intermediates on his final stop with 13 minutes to go and Bernhard losing 20 seconds after hitting a curb and nearly making impact with a barrier with six minutes remaining.
Despite the late-race scare, it marked the second consecutive win for defending World Champions Bernhard, Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley, who have extended Porsche’s lead in the manufacturers title race.
The No. 7 Audi of Lotterer and Marcel Fassler, again without Benoit Treluyer, was second, after battling early grip issues and running out of fuel in the third hour, and losing considerable time before that due to an ill-timed Full Course Yellow.
Stephane Sarrazin, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi completed the podium in third in the No. 6 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, rebounding from an accident on Thursday, subsequent tub change and gearbox issues prior to the race.
Romain Dumas took the No. 2 Porsche to a fourth place result after fading in the late stages after electing to stay longer on wets during the first rain spell. The car also lost time due to a rear deck change after contact from a LMP2 car.
The storylines from Saturday’s inaugural trip to Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, however, were on Audi, which was again unable to capitalize on its performance advantage over Porsche in the race.
The No. 8 car, which led early in the hands of pole-sitter Lucas Di Grassi, dropped out of contention in the fourth hour when a left-front wheel bearing failure sent Oliver Jarvis into the barriers.
It rejoined after a 30-minute repair job but made multiple trips back to the garage and slowed on-track. Jarvis, however, completed the final lap to be classified 27th overall, 7th in class.
Toyota Gazoo Racing’s second car also struck trouble, with the No. 5 Toyota retiring in the second hour with hybrid failure.
RGR Sport claimed a monumental class victory in LMP2, on home soil, for the Mexican squad of Ricardo Gonzalez, Bruno Senna and Filipe Albuquerque.
Audi factory driver on-loan Albuquerque held off a hard-charging Nicolas Lapierre in the No. 36 Signatech Alpine A460 Nissan in wet conditions, with both cars finishing the race on slicks.
It came after a rollercoaster race for the pole-sitting RGR squad, which dropped to third early after Gonzalez was spun out by the No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca 05 Nissan of Roman Rusinov.
The G-Drive car appeared to be en route to its first class victory of the season until a right-front brake fire forced Rene Rast into the garage with 35 minutes to go, costing them five laps.
Coupled with a drive-through penalty for Lapierre, the incidents promoted Albuquerque to the lead and eventual class win, the team’s second of the season.
The No. 31 Tequila Patron ESM Ligier Nissan of Pipo Derani, Ryan Dalziel and Chris Cumming completed the class podium in third after a late-race charge by Derani, following multiple early race setbacks, including contact with the wall.
Rebellion Racing, meanwhile, claimed top class honors in LMP1 Privateer, following issues for the No. 4 ByKolles Racing CLM P1/01 AER, which spent considerable time in the garage with engine issues.
The No. 13 Rebellion R-One AER of Dominik Kraihamer, Alexandre Imperatori and Mathaeo Tuscher finished 5th overall.
Aston Martin Racing took its first GTE-Pro win in over a year, with Darren Turner and Richie Stanaway in the No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage GTE.
The British squad dominated the race throughout, and ran 1-2 for most of the first half, with the No. 95 Aston Martin starting from pole position.
Nicki Thiim was the early leader in class pole-sitting Aston Martin, and along with Marco Sorensen he paced the GTE field for the first four hours, but faded after an accident with two hours to go.
From there, the sister car took over, and survived advances from the AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTEs in the later stages to put an Aston Martin on the top step of the GTE-Pro podium for the first time since Spa-Francorchamps 2015.
Gianmaria Bruni took the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari to second, co-driving with James Calado, after the turbocharged Ferraris and Ford GTs initially struggled.
Third in class went to Thiim and Marco Sorensen, recovering from the crash, which had dropped the No. 95 Aston down the field.
The highest-placed Ford was the No. 67 car in fifth, in a weekend to forget for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing.
It was a worse race for the No. 66 Ford, which ended up last in class and over 20 laps down following a series of incidents and problems.
Abu Dhabi Proton Racing was another team to take its first class win of the season, in the GTE-Am category.
Khaled Al Qubaisi, David Heinemeier Hansson and Patrick Long combined to claim class honors in the No. 88 Porsche, after a race-long battle with AF Corse and KCMG.
A late stop and driver change for the then class-leading No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia handed the lead to Long, who finished one lap ahead of the Ferrari of Francois Perrodo.
The remaining Porsches of KCMG and Gulf Racing came third and fourth. Ben Barker put in an impressive opening stint, taking the Gulf car into the class lead in the opening hour.
Both the No. 98 Aston Martin and Larbre Competition Corvette C7.R had races to forget, with several accidents and issues throughout.
After losing the class pole to a ride height infringement, the GTE-Am class Aston Martin went to the garage mid-race after contact from a Ford that sent Paul Dalla Lana into the wall.
Larbre, meanwhile, lost time as Yutaka Yamagashi spun from a collision with Wolf Henzler. Later with less than ten minutes on the clock, he hit the barrier, severely damaging the No. 50 Corvette.