Porsche has concluded the FIA World Endurance Championship in Bahrain by taking the sixth consecutive race win and the second title this year. For Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard fifth place in the six-hour race was enough to win the Drivers’ World Championship. Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb took their long-awaited first race win this season with the second Porsche 919 Hybrid.
The eighth and final WEC round was a thriller, and this also applied to the Drivers’ Championship battle. Bernhard, Hartley and Webber had started with a 13-point lead ahead of the best placed Audi trio. Given the great season Porsche had had so far with the Le Mans victory and the early win of the Manufacturers’ title, it looked possible to win the Drivers’ title in Bahrain. But half an hour into the race the number 17 car had to come into the pits for a long repair stop. After that, the trio had to go flat out to catch up from the very back of the pack, and eventually they finished fifth. It was the sister car that took the lead and the crucial points away from the charging Audi’s.
Audi dominated the action in the early stage. Initially, Lucas di Grassi in the number ‘8’ Audi R18 e-tron quattro led the race, trailed in second place by the sister car. In these positions, Audi was heading for the title, as Porsche had lost ground. However, when Loïc Duval in the number ‘8’ Audi lost eight laps due to a brake disc defect, the tide turned in Porsche’s favor.
Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer battled up to the end of the race and saw the checkered flag in second place, while Timo Bernhard/Brendon Hartley/Mark Webber only needed fifth place for Porsche to win the title. Lucas di Grassi/Loïc Duval/Oliver Jarvis achieved sixth place.
Audi was strong in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) finale, but not strong enough as Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer became world championship runners-up for the third time in succession. In the end, the Audi driver trio came up short by only five points of clinching its second World Championship title after 2012. Toyota finally recorded a podium after a disastrous season that has seen the program’s TS040s two steps behind the Audis and Porsches. It marked the first top-three result for the team since the year’s season-opening race at Silverstone, and for a retiring Alex Wurz, represents a moment of triumph in what has otherwise been a disappointing final season of racing.
“Sincere congratulations to Porsche on their victory and to their driver trio on winning the title,” said Dieter Gass, Deputy Head of Audi Motorsport. “We delivered a thrilling season to the fans in endurance racing, in which Audi was leading the championship until the fifth race and battling for the title up to the last lap in the finale. The team’s performance this season was impressive but, unfortunately, in the end it wasn’t quite enough for the title.”
2015 could not have gone better for Porsche’s factory racing programs, since the Le Mans win, their dominance in three of the most competitive sports car classes in the world has been simply unquestioned.
Timo Bernhard: “I had a super start and was able create a gap between myself and the rest of the field. But about half way through the first stint the engine wouldn’t go on throttle anymore. The mechanics did a great job in repairing this so quickly, many thanks for that! I was able to catch up and it went quite well. After the repair it was all about staying cool and keeping fighting. We knew we had the speed. It was an intense race to wrap up an intense season.”
Brendon Hartley: “I drove two clean stints driving flat out and trying to catch the two Toyotas, and at that moment we knew every second could be crucial. The boys in the pits did a fantastic job to get us out again and, of course, it was absolutely crucial that our sister number 18 car stayed in the lead. A true team effort! Incredible!”
Mark Webber: “Today clearly shows the qualities of the team. We have had some very smooth days this year, but we executed the victories with clinical precision. Today was about fighting as hard as possible. You saw the spirit of the mechanics; you saw the spirit of the drivers. I cannot thank the mechanics enough. The pit stops we had in the garage were extremely stressful. It’s amazing that we were able to win the World Championship under pressure like this. I am so proud to be World Champion with Timo and Brendon and with Porsche. It was 1986 when Derek Bell managed this the last time. It was a massive day for the team!
Romain Dumas: “I was in the car for the first two hours and it was very, very difficult. We had issues with the brake performance and struggled a lot for various reasons. But I was hoping it would get better in cooler temperatures later in the race.”
Neel Jani: “For us three this race win was overdue. We have been in P1 so often, but didn’t get the victory laurels for various reasons. It was a great relief to finally get it today. I was able to manage my speed and get home safely in the lead without taking risks.”
Marc Lieb: “On my first stint the car wasn’t as good as I had hoped it would be. The tyres were on the limit, and I also lost some time on the first laps when the traffic was really heavy. But once I found my rhythm it was all okay, and my second stint was great with the car performing very well. The battle with the Audi was tough but good fun. He was on new tyres, and I was on old ones. That’s why the opportunities were not great, but then my car improved and his got worse, so I was able to pass him and take the lead.”
The 2016 season of the FIA World Endurance Championship, should again be another exciting affair with a retooled version of Toyota’s TS040 that should be more competitive with the Porsche 919 Hybrids as well as the return of Nissan’s front wheel drive GT-R LM and an all new Audi. Mark Silverstone in your calendar as the season starts in April and is only five short months away.
Race result 6 hours of Sakhir (BAH) LMP1:
1 Dumas/Jani/Lieb (Porsche) 199 laps
2 Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) +1m 25.310s
3 Conway/Sarrazin/Wurz (Toyota) –3 laps
4 Buemi/Davidson/Nakajima (Toyota) –3 laps
5 Bernhard/Hartley/Webber (Porsche) –9 laps
6 Di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) –11 laps
7 Bird/Canal/Rusinov (Ligier-Nissan) –16 laps
8 Bradley/Howson/Tandy (Oreca-Nissan) –16 laps
9 Derani/Gonzalez/Yacaman (Ligier-Nissan) –17 laps
10 Chatin/Dillmann/Panciatici (Alpine-Nissan) –17 laps
FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), points after 8 of 8 rounds,
1. Bernhard/Hartley/Webber (DE/NZ/AUS), Porsche 166
2. Lotterer/Tréluyer/Fässler (DE/FR/CH), Audi, 161
3. Dumas/Jani/Lieb (FR/CH/DE), Porsche, 138,5
4. Di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis (BR/FR/GB), Audi, 99
5. Davidson/Buemi (GB/CH), Toyota, 79
6. Wurz/Sarrazin/Conway (AT/FR/GB), Toyota, 79
7. Nakajima (JP), Toyota, 75
6. Tandy (GB), Porsche & Oreca, 70,5
7. Bamber/Hülkenberg (NZ/DE), Porsche, 58