Sunday, 16 July 2017

FIA WEC - 6 Hours of the Nürburgring: Race report

The subject of discussion this morning was not so much the 6 Hours of Nürburgring but predictions about the future of Porsche in LMP1. We have had heard many rumours since Le Mans but now Porsche have announced that they will be making a statement about it within the next two weeks. If the speculation is true it will be a bombshell for the LMP1-H class.

Our morning drive to the track was grey and drizzly and just as we were getting set-up for the main event there was an entertaining Porsche GT3 race on a wet track which had its share of thrills and spills due mostly to over-enthusiasm and 'optimistic' passing attempts in the wet. By the time the Eurocup Formula Renault race was finished, the rain had stopped and the track was drying out, although the sky was still overcast and the forecast was for more showers.

In case you missed it... in the wake of the excitement of G-Drive Racing's LMP2 pole yesterday, the team had their qualifying time deleted as a result of a technical infringement found in post session scrutineering.. The #26 Oreca 07 Gibson was found to have "the front part of its skid block deflecting more than 5mm, in breach of article 3.5.6 d of the LMP2 Technical Regulations." As a result the car started the race from the back of the grid.

There was drama even before race start as Buemi in the #8 Toyota crawled around the formation lap. Because of the stricken Toyota a 2nd formation lap was announced to allow #8 to make it back to pit lane. Panciatici in the #35 Alpine had a spin on lap 1 and lost ground. Pole sitting #92 Porsche slipped to 4th by 2nd lap and #95 Aston led the early GTE Pro order. In LMP2 the pole sitting  #38 Jackie Chan DC racing Oreca slipped back to 3rd behind the two Valliante Rebellion cars 31 and 13.

In the early part of the race there was great dice in GTE Pro between Sorensen in #95 Aston Martin who fought off Fred Mako' in the #91 Porsche from opening laps until 13:47 when Mako' finally made his way past the Aston in front of the Mercedes Arena and immediately pulled away a healthy gap.

Jani in Porsche #1 took 2nd place briefly from team-mate Porsche #2 after the first round of pit stops but let Hartley by again in #2 after a couple of laps. Jarvis in #38 passes Senna on track in #31 for P2 lead at 14:11. After the first routine stops in GTE Am the #98 Aston led #54 Ferrari and #61 Ferrari. In GTE Pro #92 Porsche led from #67 Ford with #91 Porsche in 3rd.

At 14:11 Jackie Chan DC Racing #38 of Jarvis took the lead of P2 from Senna in the #31 Rebellion, then at 14:17 Hartley passed Lopez on pit straight to put #2 Porsche into lead. A couple of laps later Lopez in #7 Toyota was passed by Jani in Porsche #1. This was to be the defining moment of the race for Toyota as Lopez struggled with tyre degradation for the entire stint.

At 14:43  Dienst in Porsche #77 passed Flohr in Ferrari #54 for 2nd in GTE Am, meanwhile the Tockwith Motorsport Ligier #34 was pushed into pit garage with clutch problem leaking oil into cockpit. It was game over for Tockwith even though the car did reappear after repairs. A few minutes later at 14:51 the sun finally came out and there was no further sign of rain. At 15:00 the #35 Alpine was pushed into its pit garage. It was the beinning of the end for the #35. A minute later the Jani in the #1 Porsche passed Hartley in the #2 on pit straight.

After 2 hours in GTE Am #98 Aston led #77 Porsche with #54 Ferrari in third. In P2 #38 DC Racing Oreca led #31 Rebellion Oreca and #37 DC Racing of Gommendy third. In LMP1 Porsche #2 led Porsche #1 with #7 Toyota in third. By 15:33 the delayed #8 Toyota had made its way back up to 4th overall About 16:00 there was a 6 minute pit stop with gearbox compressor problem for Ferrari #71 putting it 5 laps down on leader of GTE Pro.

At half distance after 3 hours in GTE Am the #77 Proton Porsche led by 7 secs from #98 Aston with #54 Ferrari 5 secs further back in 3rd. In GTE Pro #92 Porsche led by 2 secs from #51 Ferrari with #91 Porsche 17 secs further back in 3rd. In LMP2 the #38 DC Racing Oreca led by 59 secs from team-mate #37 with #36 Alpine 3 secs further back in 3rd. In LMP1 #1 Porsche led #2 Porsche by 3 secs with #7 Toyota 30 secs further back in 3rd.

At 16:15 the Vaillante Rebellion #31 Of Albuquerque made 2 places up to take 2nd place in P2 & Rao took 3rd in #36 Alpine. Cheng in #37 DC Racing slipped down to 4th after all 3 cars had a rather untidy lap. Calado in Ferrari #51 took the lead of GTE Pro just before Porsche #92 dived into pit entry. The troubled Tockwith Ligier #34 was back out at 16:19 after an 81 minute stop to fix a clutch problem but was back in pitlane again at 16:28 a few minutes later. At this point Conway in 3rd placed Toyota #7 was over 40 seconds behind leading Porsche #2. With two and a half hours remaining Ferrari #51 led GTE Pro by 9 secs from Porsche #92 & 25 secs from Porsche #91. At 16:35 there was a fright for Tandy in the #1 Porsche when there was contact with the Ford GT #67 in the hands of Tincknell at Turn 12 back straight sending the Ford into a short visit to a gravel trap.

At 17:02 Tandy in Porsche #1 took back the lead from Bamber in Porsche #2 as he was impeded by the spin of #24 Manor Oreca at T14-15 chicane. Conway in 3rd placed Toyota #7 was over 65 seconds behind leading Porsche #1. Dalla Lana in #98 Aston passed Ried in the #77 Porsche to take GTE Am lead but after pit stop and driver change, Dienst in Porsche #77 regained the GTE Am class lead after 6 second quicker pit stop than Lauda in #98 Aston Martin. At 17:30 Pla in #66 Ford passed Serra in #97 Aston in the short-cut of the chicane but was instructed by the Race Director to give the place up. In doing so he also let by Priaulx in sister car #67 Ford GT. A few minutes later both Ford GTs had managed to pass the #97 to take 5th and 6th in GTE Am class.

Just before the last hour, at the penultimate round of regular LMP1 pit stops there was an untidy one for the #1 Porsche as Lotterer took over which lost them some time but maintaned a five second lead from sister car #2 Porsche. Kobayashi in the #7 Toyota was at a relaively distant 74 seconds off the lead. In LMP2 the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca led by 71 secs from the #31 Vaillante Rebellion Oreca with sister car Vaillante Rebellion #13 10 secs further back in 3rd. In GTE Pro the #51 Ferrari led by 39 seconds from Porsche #91 with Porsche #92 another second further back in 3rd. In GTE Am the #77 Proton Porsche led by 12 seconds from #98 Aston with #54 Ferrari 7 seconds further back.

As we entered the final hour the sun broke through again and any risk of the promised rain was over. The #26 G-Drive Oreca moved up to 7th place in LMP2 after starting from back of grid and serving 3 minute penalty. There was another entertaining Aston Martin vs Ford duel with 30 minutes to go between Tincknell in #67 attempting to pass Adam in the #97 Aston Martin for 5th in class. With 15 minutes on the clock, Harry Tincknell finally found a way around the Aston Martin.

After a final visit to the pits for a splash of fuel for LMP1-H cars with about 13 minutes to go, the order changed with the #2 Porsche leading the #1 Porsche after a 36 second stop against 56 seconds for Porsche #1. At the chequered flag it was Porsche #2 by 1.606 secs from Porsche #1 with Toyota #7 in third place.

In LMP2 #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca won by a lap from the #31 Vaillante Rebellion Oreca with #36 Signatech Alpine 28.610 secs behind in 3rd. In GTE Pro it was the #51 AF Corse Ferrari by 50.076s from #91 Porsche with #92 Porsche further 8.760 secs behind in third. It was the first win for Alessandro Pier Guidi as a factory driver. In GTE Am #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche won by 4.607 secs from the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari with #98 Aston Martin a lap behind in third place.

There were 27 classified finishers out of 29 cars on the grid. The #35 Signatech Alpine retired and the #34 Tockwith Ligier was not classified as it did not complete 70% of the class winners distance. The winning #2 Porsche completed 204 laps beating the record of 203 laps in 2015.

Text: Dave Davies
Pictures : Kristof Vermeulen
Podium pictures courtesy of Racing International Pictures.

FIA WEC 2017 - 6 Hours of the Nürburgring: Saturday gallery

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Saturday, 15 July 2017

FIA WEC - 6 Hours of the Nürburgring: Saturday FP3 & Qualifying

Blue skies, a few clouds and a crisp 14.3° C air temperature this morning for the final free practice session ahead of the 6 Hours of the Nürburgring tomorrow.

Toyota was fastest this session, sweeping the first two places on the timetable ahead of both Porsches. Jose Maria Lopez had a small excursion in the gravel in the opening few minutes, clearly pushing hard before putting the #7 Toyota to the top of the session timing screen with a lap of 1:38.969 which remained quickest of the session up to the chequered flag.

It was good to see the #31 Vailliante Rebellion back on track after missing FP2 yesterday due to damage sustained after a collision in the first session of the day. Despite missing a session yesterday, Bruno Senna topped the times in the LMP2 class with a 1.46.017, ahead of the #35 Alpine and the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing. The second Alpine again showing a very strong performance in class after their previous races in Spa and Le Mans.

Just before the chequered flag, there was what looked like a worrying development for Vilander in the #71 AF Corse Ferrari when it was seen going slowly on track before stopping completely at T6-T7 bringing out a local yellow flag. It later turned out that he had missed pit entry on the previous lap and had run out of fuel.

Olivier Pla was the fastest GT driver of the morning in his #66 Ford GT. His lap of 1.54.875 put him ahead of both AF Corse Ferrari's. In GTE Am, Matteo Cairoli was quickest with his #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche in 1.56.882, outpacing the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari and the #98 Aston Martin.


FP3 LMP1 1st #7 Toyota with 1:38.969 from #8 Toyota & #2 Porsche
FP3 LMP2 1st  #31 Rebellion Oreca with 1:46.017 from #35 Signatech Alpine & #38 DC Racing OrecaSent 
FP3 GTE Pro 1st #66 Ford with 1:54.875 from 2nd #71 AF Corse Ferrari & #51 AF Corse Ferrari
FP3 GTE Am 1st #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche with 1:56.882 from #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari & #98 Aston Martin

LMP Qualifying

Toyota #8 was first on track for LMP qualifying at 15:25. On the first flying laps there was a close call between Alpine #36 and Toyota #8 that came very close to a collision. Following the incident, Panciaticci who was at the wheel of the Alpine, has been handed a 30 second stop and go penalty for tomorrows race.

There followed a major scrap for LMP2 times and a confusing number of deleted laps due to track limits infringements, including what would have been a pole time for the #13 Rebellion. Meanwhile Lopez in Toyota #7 set a clean lap time of 1:38.083 which combined with Kobayashi's lap of 1:38.153 was enough to secure pole position in LMP1.  The Fastest individual lap in LMP1 Qualifying was 1:37.886 for André Lotterer in the #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid.

Ben Hanley didn't miss his debut with the #26 G-Drive Oreca, scoring pole position together with Pierre Thiriet in a combined time of 1.44.331. They will face a 3 minute stop & hold penalty in the race though as a result of Roman Rusinov being judged at fault in his accident with the #88 Proton Porsche of Khaled Al Qubaisi  at Le Mans last month. Second fastest were Oliver Jarvis and Thomas Laurent in the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing ahead of the #31 Vaillante Rebellion.

LMP1 Qualifying 1st #Toyota #7 with 1:38.118 average 2nd #2 Porsche 3rd #1 Porsche
LMP2 Qualifying 1st #26 G-Drive Oreca with 1:45.001, 2nd #38 DC Racing Oreca 3rd #31 Rebellion Oreca 

UPDATE 19:30 G-Drive Racing has lost its LMP2 class pole position for the Six Hours of Nürburgrin
g, as a result of a technical infringement found in scrutineering after Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session. The No. 26 Oreca 07 Gibson was found to have the front part of its skid block deflecting more than 5mm, in breach of article 3.5.6 d of the LMP2 Technical Regulations.  The car will now start tomorrow’s race from the back of the grid.

GTE Qualifying 

Matt Griffin in the #61 Clearwater Ferrari was the firs GTE driver to get out in the session as the green flag for GTE qualifying at 14:55.  Pedro Lamy in the #98 Aston Martin set an early time of 1:55.686 which was sufficient with a respectable bronze time of 1:57.756 from Paul Dalla Lana to take their 8th consecutive pole for #98 in GTE Am since Mexico in 2016Dempsey Proton Racing (#77) and Spirit of Race (#54) completed the trop 3 in the Am class.

Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen scored the first pole position in the FIA WEC for the new Porsche 911 RSR.  Their combined time of 1.54.007 was fast enough to put the #92 on the first row of the GTE class. Reigning champions Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen were second fastest in 1.54.352 in the #95 Aston Martin Vantage, ahead of the second Porsche RSR.

GTE Pro Qualifying 1st #92 Porsche with 1:54.007 2nd #95 Aston 3rd #91 Porsche 
GTE Am Qualifying 1st #98 Aston 1:56.721 2nd #77 Proton Porsche 3rd #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari

Text: Dave Davies/Kristof Vermeulen
Pictures: Kristof Vermeulen/Erik Junius

FIA WEC - 6 Hours of the Nürburgring: Friday gallery

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