The #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard overcome some setbacks to take their second win of the 2016 season at the fifth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship in Mexico.
The WEC’s inaugural visit to Mexico provided us with a stunning six hour race packed with drama and excitement not least from the weather where two periods of rain forced all of the teams to adjust their strategy to cope with the changing conditions.
The #1 Porsche trio took the chequered flag 1m 01.442 ahead of the of a hard charging André Lotterer in the #7 Audi R18. Despite being handed a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact, third place was a welcome return to the podium for the #6 Toyota TS050 of Mike Conway, Stéphane Sarrazin and Kamui Kobayashi, 8.267s behind Lotterer’s Audi. Despite the seemingly poor performance of the Toyotas this season today’s result elevates the #6 drivers to second in the drivers’ World Championship.
During the first half of the race, the pole-sitting #8 Audi R18 of Lucas di Grassi, Loïc Duval & Oliver Jarvis looked strong to convert their pole position into a victory. However, when Duval handed the car over to Oliver Jarvis for the third stint a technical defect occurred on his first lap; left front wheel bearing failed punting Jarvis into the tyre barrier under breaking. The subsequent repairs cost the squad more than 30 minutes and ended any podium hopes for the #8 car.
In the LMP1 Privateer category Rebellion Racing somewhat unsurprisingly converted their pole position into a win (fifth place overall) while the ByKolles CLM had another unreliable race-day to finish up 21st overall some 19 laps behind the Rebellion.
In the LMP2 category the #26 Oreca 05 Nissan of G-Drive Racing looked on course for its first LMP2 victory of the season until misfortune struck 35 minutes from the end of the race. Rene Rast, who shared the car with Alex Brundle and Roman Rusinov, had a lead over of just over 40 seconds when front-right brake failure sent him off the track and then straight into the pits. Although the team got the car back on the track in 8 minutes the repairs dropped the Jota-run car to eighth in class at the chequered flag.
With the loss of the G-Drive car the P2 class turned was a straight fight between the RGR Sport Ligier-Nissan JSP2 and the championship-leading Signatech Alpine ORECA. Nicolas Lapierre in the ORECA dropped behind Filipe Albuquerque in the RGR Ligier in the final hour and despite a blisteringly fast pitstop by the French team Albuquerque was able hang on to claim not only their first victory together with Bruno Senna and Ricardo Gonzalez since the season opener at Silverstone in April, but victory at the team’s ‘home’ race. Lapierre held on for a hard-earned second place and the #31 Extreme Speed Motorsports LIGIER JS P2 Nissan rounded out the LMP2 Podium.
Richie Stanaway and Darren Turner in the #97 car claimed a 9 second victory for Aston Martin Racing in GTE Pro. The team’s brace of V8 Vantage GTEs that had qualified one-two dominated until the rain came and saw the #95 ‘Dane Train’ car struggle to hold off the AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE of Gianmaria Bruni and James Calado whoe eventually finished second.
The GTs of Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK suffered a poor race and appeared to struggle with power issues caused by the high altitude finishing fifth (#67) and seventh (#66). “For the second consecutive weekend I’m leaving a track frustrated and reflecting on ‘what might have been’ in a race.” said Harry Tincknell.
In GTE Am Patrick Long, Khaled Al Qubaisi and David Heinemeier Hansson claimed victory for the Proton Porsche team with the #83 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia taking second and KCMG’s #78 Porsche 911 RSR closing out the podium. Following their demotion from class pole to back of the grid for a 1mm ride height infringement, Aston Martin Racing’s woes continued in Am with the #98 car of Pedro Lamy, Mathiaus Lauda and Paul Dalla Lana scoring a DNF by completing only 192 laps.
Full race results are available here.