Porsche takes first win in thrilling FIA WEC season finale at Interlagos
Porsche has claimed its first overall victory in the FIA World Endurance Championship following an action-packed and incident-filled Six Hours of Sao Paulo.
Neel Jani took the No. 14 Porsche 919 Hybrid to the monumental win, in a race that ended under safety car conditions following a heavy crash by teammate Mark Webber in the final 30 minutes of the race.
Webber escaped serious injury in the high-speed impact, which also collected a GTE-Am class Ferrari, although the track was unable to be fully cleaned for the race to restart.
Aside from the late-race crash, Porsche enjoyed a breakout race, with the No. 20 car of Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard leading the opening hours.
However, an intense battle for the lead developed between all six of the factory LMP1-H entries through the middle stages, with Toyota and Audi also enjoying time out front.
The key, however, came with the No. 14 Porsche’s ability to double stint tires, which helped put Jani and co-drivers Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb marginally ahead of the others, despite getting off sequence on stops early due to a puncture.
Jani held a 14-second gap over the No. 8 Toyota TS040 Hybrid of Anthony Davidson prior to the race-ending safety car with 28 minutes remaining on the clock.
It marked Porsche’s first overall win in a long distance sports car race since 1989 and the first outright victory for the German manufacturer since the RS Spyder in the American Le Mans Series.
Ironically, Dumas was part of the winning lineup for the RS Spyder’s first overall win at Mid-Ohio in 2006.
Newly crowned drivers’ FIA WEC World Champions Davidson and Sebastien Buemi came home second, which was enough for Toyota to claim the Manufacturer’s World Championship for the first time.
The No. 1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of Loic Duval, Lucas di Grassi and Tom Kristensen, in his final race, completed the overall podium in third, following a memorable closing double stint for the nine-time Le Mans winner.
Kristensen closed out his storied career with his 54th career podium in an Audi, fifteen years after giving the automaker its first race victory at Sebring in 2000.
The No. 7 Toyota and No. 2 Audi completed the top five overall and in class, following one of the most intense races in recent history, which saw four of the six LMP1-H cars lead at one stage and often all separated by less than one minute.
Rebellion Racing, meanwhile, took LMP1-L honors with its No. 13 Rebellion R-One Toyota of Dominik Kraihamer, Andrea Belicchi and Fabio Leimer.
It came after issues for the sister No. 12 entry, which made a trip to the garage early. The No. 9 Lotus CLM P1/01 AER battled gearbox issues.
While KCMG scored a dominant class win, SMP Racing and Sergey Zlobin have been crowned World Champions in LMP2.
Zlobin and co-drivers Nicolas Minassian and Maurizio Mediani wheeled their No. 27 Oreca 03R Nissan to a delayed runner-up finish in the cost-capped prototype class, after the championship-leading G-Drive Racing entry crashed out early.
Olivier Pla was at the wheel of the No. 26 Ligier JS P2 Nissan when it suffered brake failure and made heavy contact with the Turn 1 barriers early in the second hour.
It was day done for Pla and co-drivers Roman Rusinov and Julien Canal, which entered the race with an nine-point lead over Zlobin and the fellow Russian-backed squad.
Pla’s accident handed the race lead to the No. 47 KCMG Oreca 03R Nissan until it lost three laps due to a minor crash by Matt Howson, giving way for the No. 37 SMP entry to take over point.
However, the all-Russian entry ground to a halt on track with two hours and 30 minutes to go, giving the race lead back to the KCMG Oreca-Nissan of Howson, Alexandre Imperatori and Richard Bradley, which cruised to a commanding 18-lap class victory.
It marked the Hong Kong-based squad’s third class win of the year and the only team to deny G-Drive of wins in a regular-season FIA WEC race this year.
Remarkably, the SMP squad earned both the drivers’ and teams’ title without scoring a single class win, but aided by Zlobin scoring maximum points at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, a race that saw G-Drive also fail to finish.
It was also Le Mans where Zlobin and his regular season co-drivers were split between the two cars, therefore giving the title solely to the Russian driver.
It marked SMP’s third major sports car racing championship of the year after taking titles in both the GTE and GTC classes of the European Le Mans Series.
Aston Martin Racing scored a double class victory, with the British manufacturer taking both GTE-Pro and GTE-Am honors.
Stefan Muecke piloted the No. 97 Vantage GTE to its second class victory of the season, thanks in part due to the race-ending safety car period that ensured class victory for the German and co-driver Darren Turner.
Muecke held a 46-second gap over the No. 92 Porsche Team Manthey Porsche 911 RSR of Fred Makowiecki prior to the yellow, but would have needed an additional fuel stop if the race had gone green again.
Makowiecki and co-driver Patrick Pilet came home in second, with the No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia of Davide Rigon and James Calado completing the GTE-Pro podium in third, which helped clinch the GTE Manufacturers Cup for Ferrari.
GTE-Pro champions Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander came home in fourth after an incident-filled race, which was also the case for the No. 99 Aston Martin, which suffered late-race contact with the No. 91 Porsche but still managed to complete the top-five in class.
Aston Martin’s No. 98 entry of Pedro Lamy, Christoffer Nygaard and Canadian Paul Dalla Lana, meanwhile, picked up GTE-Am honors for the third time this season following a flawless run for the championship runner-ups.
It came following an intense early race battle with the sister title-winning No. 95 car of Nicki Thiim, but faced multiple setbacks, including a collision with Vilander that led to a puncture.
Thiim and co-drivers David Heinemeier Hansson and Kristian Poulsen, however, managed to rebound to finish second, maintaining their record of either first or second place finishes in all eight races this year.
The No. 81 AF Corse Ferrari of Michele Rugolo, Andrea Bertolini and Steve Wyatt completed the podium in third.
8Star’s Matteo Cressoni, who was collected in Mark Webber’s race-ending accident, also escaped serious injury but was taken to the circuit medical center for further evaluation.