Friday 11 November 2016

FIA WEC: Porsche and Signatech Alpine first champions of 2016 after 6 Hours of Shanghai

Two champions were crowned in Shanghai last week, after the penultimate race of the 2016 World Endurance Championship. Porsche took the honours in the LMP1 manufacturers championship; Signatech Alpine claimed the LMP2 Teams Endurance trophy.

© Porsche

Brendon Hartley, Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard lead almost the whole race in China, taking up their second win in a row after a dominant performance. Behind the Porsche #2, both Toyota's finished on the podium. For a while it seemed like the #5 TS050 of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima seemed to be able to match the Porsches pace and challenge for the win, but 2 punctures early in the race set the team back in the order. Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi finished second in their #6 Toyota, just under a minute behind the Porsche. The second Porsche finished fourth, the drivers championship now to be decided in the final race at Bahrain next week.

© Audi - David Lord

In their penultimate race, both Audi R18's had a weekend to forget in China. The #8 Audi suffering from a fuel rig issue at the second stop, losing them time at every pitstop afterwards. When both Audi's collided in the fourth hour of the race, the #7 R18 damaged its air jack system causing long repairs. The #8 finished in fifth place, 3 laps behind the winning Porsche. The second Audi took sixth place, but 11 laps down on the race winners. Fifth and sixth place wasn't enough for Audi to keep their title ambitions alive.

© Toyota Gazoo Racing

Porsche scored 301 points so far in the Manufacturers' championship, giving them a lead of 79 points over Audi (222 points). Toyota is currently third, 15 points behind Audi. The Japanese team still in contention for second place by the end of the season. The Porsche #2 will have to finish fifth or take pole position and finish sixth to claim the title.

© Porsche

Marc Lieb, Neel Jani and Romain Dumas are still leading the drivers championship in their Porsche #2. With their second place in Shanghai, Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway & Stéphane Sarrazin kept the challenge for the title alive in their #6 Toyota, now 17 points behind the leaders. After their unfortunate race last week, the drivers of the #8 Audi are out of contention for the drivers championship. 

© Gabi Tomescu -

Signatech Alpine clinched the title in the LMP2 class, finishing fourth just behind challengers RGR Sport. With four class victories and 2 more podium finishes in 8 races, the French team impressed over the whole season. After a difficult race, with some setup issues and Menezes having a spin in the third hour, the team finished fourth in class after an intense fight with RGR for the final podium spot. Since RGR didn't have a chance to win the race, all the Signatech Alpine team had to do was stay in control behind the Mexican Ligier.

© G-Drive Racing

G-Drive Racing won the race in China, after another stellar performance by Roman Rusinov, Will Stevens and Alex Brundle, finishing a lap ahead. The #26 Oreca05 quickly got into the lead and got out of reach of the competition. The #30 Extreme Speeds Motorsports Ligier JSP2 finished second with Tom Blomqvist, Sean Galael and Antonio Giovanazzi. BMW works driver Blomqvist impressed in his first outing in an LMP2 car, showing some decent outright speed and consistency. 

With 183 points Signatech Alpine secured the title, 32 points ahead of RGR Sport with only 26 to win in Bahrain. Thanks to their 2 consecutive wins in Fuji and Shanghai, G-Drive is now up into third position with 139 points.

© Ford Performance

Ford dominated GTE Pro again, leading from flag to flag. Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell had a faultless race in the #67 Ford GT. The #66 of Stefan Mücke and Olivier Pla came in second, another clean sweep for Ford after Japan.

© Aston Martin Racing

Behind both Fords, the fight for the championship remains wide open. Aston Martin quickly lost the #97 in the first lap of the race after a collision with the #45 Manor Oreca05. Gianmaria Bruni & James Calado finished third in their #51 AF Corse Ferrari, building up their lead in the manufacturers championship. The #95 Aston Martin of Nicky Thiim and Marco Sorensen was fourth, but with only one car at the finish, the British team lost valuable points in the fight for the title. The #71 AF Corse Ferrari completed the top 5 after a puncture early in the race set them back. 

© Gabi Tomescu -

Ferrari now has 261 points, giving them a 10 point lead over Aston Martin with 251. Ford is a distant third with 221,5 points.  In the drivers championship Marco Sorensen & Nicky Thiim now have 131 points, expanding their lead with 2 points over Davide Rigon and Sam Bird (119 points). Olivier Pla, Stefan Mücke, Gianmaria Bruno and James Calado all share third place with 110 points. In the Teams championship, the #95 Aston Martin leads the pack with 131 points, just 2 ahead of the Ford #67. The #66 Ford is currently third with 121 points, followed by the #71 Af Corse with 119 points.  All is still to play for in this championship.

© Aston Martin Racing

Aston Martin had better luck in the GTE-Am class, the #98 of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy & Mathias Lauda scoring their third consecutive win in class, the fifth this season. The #78 KCMG Porsche 911 of Christian Ried, Wolf Henzler and Joël Camathias was second at the finish line but got a post-race penalty due to contact with the #83 Ferrari at the last lap. This promoted championship leaders François Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Rui Aguas to second and almost securing the 2016 Teams and Endurance trophy. 

© Gabi Tomescu -

The #83 AF Corse Ferrari leads the AM teams trophy and the Endurance trophy for LMGTE Am drivers with 173 points, 25 ahead of the #98 Aston Martin (148 points). With 26 points available in Bahrain, mathematically Aston Martin still can get the title in Bahrain, but they need to win the race and hop for lots of misfortune for the Ferrari. Despite five wins this season, the DNF at Le Mans might lose the championship for the Aston. 

The season finale in Bahrain next week will be an emotional finale of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship. Six titles still have to be decided, but the 6 Hours of Bahrain also mark the end of the Audi era in sportscar racing. Mark Webber will also drive the final race of his career, Rebellion racing waves the LMP1 class goodbye and this will also be the final race of the current LMP2 machinery in the WEC. 

Kristof Vermeulen