Porsche Team scores one-two triumph via perfect tire strategy
Porsche Team followed up its Le Mans 24 Hours victory in June with a one-two finish after a dramatic race at the 2015 6 Hours of Nürburgring August 30. The N°18 Porsche 919 Hybrid overcame three Stop&Go penalties (of five, thirty and sixty seconds), for excessive fuel consumption, to steal second place from Audi Sport thanks, in part, to the tyre strategy that was adopted for Switzerland’s Neel Jani on Lap 143.
The weekend’s competition got off to a solid start for Porsche Team when it secured the first two places on the grid in Saturday’s qualifying, with the N°18 Porsche 919 Hybrid (Dumas/Jani/Lieb) claiming pole ahead of the N°17 sister car (Bernhard/Webber/Hartley). Audi Sport Team Joest, which had topped Friday’s two free practice sessions, had to settle for the third- and fourth-best qualifying times with the N°8 R18 e-tron quattro (Di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis) and the similar N°7 prototype (Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer).
Sunday’s 6 Hours of Nürburgring started at the stroke of 1pm in sunny weather with the track temperature standing at 37°C. The cars of Michelin’s partners were fitted with ‘high temperature’ tyres.
After the rolling start, there were no changes to the order established in qualifying once the Porsche Team had cars succeeded in shrugging off the Audis’ early threats. The gap gradually widened until Timo Bernhard (N°17 Porsche) picked up damage to a front aerodynamic appendix. On Lap 24, the car pitted for its first refueling halt which was brought forward to change the car’s nose. Audi Sport took advantage of the stop to appear in second place with its N°8 car. The N°7 R18 e-tron quattro, in the hands of Marcel Fässler, stopped at the same time but was nine seconds quicker out of the pits.
The N°18 Porsche 919 Hybrid continued to pull clear at the front while the sister car, now in the hands of Mark Webber, started to challenge the N°7 Audi to recover second place. After applying pressure, the Australian passed Marcel Fässler on Lap 39. At around the one-hour mark, the two Porsches were back in front, split by almost 40 seconds.
At 2:30pm, Race Control announced a five-second Stop&Go penalty for the N°18 car for excessive fuel consumption.
Marc Lieb stopped for the punishment on Lap 54 and, as he re-joined, found himself battling with Mark Webber (N°17) for the lead. The German held on to his advantage but the gap was down to almost zero.
The order then stabilised. As Audi dropped further and further back, it looked as though Porsche was on target for a straightforward one-two finish when the N°18 Porsche was handed another Stop&Go penalty – this time for 30 seconds. When Romain Dumas complied, the lead was snapped up by Brendon Hartley who was driving the N°17 Porsche at that moment. This time, the N°18 car re-joined in fourth spot, which meant that both Audis were now on the provisional podium after two hours of racing.
Dumas did his best to make up the lost ground but, at 3:23pm, the car was dealt another Stop&Go penalty, this time requiring it to remain at a standstill for a whole minute!
With the N°18 Porsche 919 Hybrid running back in fourth spot, it looked as though the Stuttgart firm’s chances of a one-two result had evaporated, but the N°18 car continued to claw back time and home in on the N°8 Audi R18 e-tron quattro. It took advantage of a long stop for the latter (1m 23s)to squeeze past into third place.
At this stage, Neel Jani was in the N°18 Porsche and had Benoît Tréluyer (N°7 Audi) in his sights, albeit some 35 seconds ahead.
A ‘Full Course Yellow’ on Lap 143 enabled the Swiss driver to get closer to its prey while the N°17 Porsche continued to lap with a comfortable lead. When the two Audis stopped for fuel and fresh tyres again – an operation that cost them more than a minute – Janidecided to take advantage of the consistency of his Michelin tyres, which had already completed 14 laps, to take fuel only and re-join on the same rubber. His stop lasted only 36seconds, which meant that the N°7 Audi was now only seven seconds ahead…
Jani then homed in on the N°7 Audi, but the N°8 R18 e-tron quattro was only three seconds behind him and, with an hour remaining, the three cars engaged in a thrilling scrap.
Around 175 laps into the race, the N°8 Porsche 919 Hybrid managed to appear three seconds clear of the two Audis thanks to a quicker final pit stop than that of the two Audis.
After that, Porsche was able to cruise home to a one-two finish, followed over the line by the two Audi Sport Team Joest cars. Once again, the contribution of Michelin’s tyres helped to ensure an exciting show thanks to their longevity and reliability.
“It’s the second time this year that tyre strategy has played a decisive role in the outcome of a round of the FIA WEC,” notes Jérôme Mondain, manager of Michelin’s world endurance programme. “In May, Audi Sport banked on the longevity of its Michelin tyres to run double stints at Spa-Francorchamps before Porsche decided to use the same tactic. That played a big part in the victory of the N°17 Audi R18 e-tron quattro in Belgium. Today, it was Porsche who made the most of its tyres to win the inaugural 6 Hours of Nürburgring. We are particularly pleased with this move because it highlighted the reliability of our tyres around what is a highly demanding track which has a tendency to cause the cars to understeer.”
A one-two for the Porsche 911 RSRs in LM GTE Pro and success for Ferrari in LM GTE Am
Porsche also dominated the LM GTE Pro class at the 6 Hours of Nürburgring where the N°91 and N°92911 RSRs crossed the line ahead of AF Corse’s N°71 Ferrari 458 GTE. The N°91 car (Lietz/Christensen) emerged in front shortly after the N°51 Ferrari of (Bruni/Vilander) was delayed by an early technical problem, but it was only during the fourth hour that the N°92 911 RSR (Pilet/Makowiecki) managed to find a way past the N°71 Ferrari (Rigon/Calado).
The Italian make scooped the top prize in the LM GTE Am class, however, thanks to the N°72 Ferrari of Andrea Bertolini and his team-mates who took the lead thanks to the Italian’s spectacular move past Paul Dalla Lana in the N°98 Aston Martin Vantage GTE. Perrodo, Collard and Aguas (N°83 Ferrari 458) came third in the class.