Hopefully we have not seen the last of the Circuit Hermano Rodriguez, its layout appears to lend itself to great category racing and plenty of inter-category congestion it all made for an exciting race on what was a difficult weekend for the World Endurance Championship. The race exemplified exactly why we enjoy this form of racing, while Porsche dominate (their main rationale for leaving) continues, the categories delivered some spectacular clashes.
In LMP1 the gulf in performance between the Porsche 919 Hybrid and Toyota TS050 Hybrid was very evident with Porsche locking out the front row and quite simply driving away from their competitors. Porsche have made no secret of their application of team orders and whilst at times the #1 car put up a fight, it was left for the #2 to take the overall and LMP1 win. Brendon Hartley showed uncharacteristic decent after being called in for the first pit-stop, and bumble-bee chewing Nick Tandy (seemingly not happy with the tattered season) in the #1 and pushing so hard he incurred a pitlane speed penalty for team-mate Andre Lotterer to serve.
The LMP2 contest was hard fought, and turbulent in equal measure. Rebellion #31 came full of vigour, and were fighting the ever-mighty DC Racing Jota Sport run #38 through the initial phase, the Oliver Jarvis pedalled (#38) Oreca appearing to get the advantage until a clutch issue led to its fall down the running order. The #31 in the hands of Bruno Senna was running well, but challenges came through from both the Signatech-Alpine #36 and the resurgent Manor Racing #24. Indeed the clashes between Nico Lapierre and Ben Hanley respectively in the closing stages led to some of the best race action of the weekend. Senna in the #31 Valiante-Rebellion came out on top which is great news that another team, refugees from LMP1-L has found pace and success in the LMP2 category.
In GTE-Pro the pendulum swung as the altitude impacted on performance. During the initial phases the #95 Aston Martin performed well but seemed to drop away a little, Porsche RSRs and Ford GTs took up the challenge, however a wayward backmarker in the #61 Clearwater Ferrari 488 hit the #92 Porsche RSR whilst being lapped and sent Christensen in to a spin, which effectively put him out of the lead pack. Further clashes between the #51 Ferrari 488 of James Calado and Olivier Pla in the #66 Ford GT led to both of those cars suffering delay, leaving the #71 Ferrari to seemingly win the race. Yet a 10-second penalty was added on to that car’s time, which resulted in much joy back at the Aston Martin Racing #95 Nicki Thiim bringing the car home on the top step. The Porsche RSR #91 of Leitz and Makowiecki ran reliably and picked up a third behind the penalised #71 Ferrari.
GTE-Am was a race long flip-flop of positions between the #77 Proton Racing Porsche RSR, the ever present #98 Aston Martin Vantage of Paul Dalla Lana and crew, with a bit part for the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche. Clearly the Porsche contenders where keen to show pace having both signed deals for 2018 private mid-engined RSRs (as per GTE-Pro 2017). Unfortunately the #98 Aston Martin ventured wide of the track once too many times, and a penalty resulted in the #77 Proton Racing car of Cairoli and Reid to taking a deserved win.
Hopefully this gives a brief insight into an action-packed race. We strongly suggest you catch the highlights package for this one soon as in two-weeks time the next round is destined to make its final appearance at Circuit of the Americas in Austin Texas with its formidable hill, and sweeping ‘Craner’ curves.
It may appear to be the end of an era of at-all-costs technology and bottomless budgets, but the FIA WEC is strong and moving to a more sustainable future. The racing is still great, and whilst the transition seems quite quirky, the same folks that gave us this hey-day have not run for the hills, indeed we at SCG fully expect they will evolve what we have into a great and engaging sporting future!