As a model of team harmony and driver comradeship, Porsche’s FIA World Endurance Championship effort takes some beating, as the German marque’s manufacturers’ title – won in style with a round to spare in Shanghai yesterday – attests.
Porsche’s #17 919 Hybrid, crewed by Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard, took its fourth straight victory of the season and, with just the eighth and final round in Bahrain in three weeks remaining, the trio holds a healthy 12-point advantage over Audi rivals Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer. It’s enough to mean that they can afford to finish third in the finale, even if the R18 e-tron Quattro wins the race.
Four straight wins by the same crew is a first in the four seasons of the WEC, a series that represents a rebirth of the World Sportscar Championship that ran, under various different names, between 1953 and 1992. In fact, former Red Bull Grand Prix winner and Festival of Speed star Webber, single-seater convert Hartley and ex-Audi Le Mans winner Bernhard were the first to do three on the bounce, too.
With the second Porsche of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb finishing second in three of those four races, the all-important manufacturers’ crown has gone to Stuttgart in just year two of the LMP1 programme. That’s a stunningly quick return on investment for Porsche – against Audi and Toyota, which had a headstart on the hybrid technology now de rigueur in the top prototype class. And, don’t forget, the car also won the blue-riband Le Mans 24 Hours in June, marking a record-extending 17th success in the French endurance classic.
Not since the glory days of the Group C era of the World Championship (1982-’92) has Porsche enjoyed such dominance. Its factory-run Rothmans 956 and 962 variants cleaned up in the mid-1980s, taking Le Mans victory in the first six years of the Group C era, and the firm secured its final manufacturers’ gong 30 years ago, courtesy of the Rothmans-branded machines of Derek Bell/Hans Stuck and Jacky Ickx/Jochen Mass.
With manufacturer commitment, top-class drivers and great racing throughout all four classes, the WEC is in a great place right now. A final 2015 hurrah for Porsche and endurance-racing fans, particularly those from these shores, would be news that Briton Nick Tandy, who anchored the Le Mans-winning 919 in the summer, had landed a full-time ride in the 2016 WEC.
That way, he can have a shot at emulating fellow Brits Allan McNish and Anthony Davidson, who’ve won the title for Audi and Toyota respectively, thereby adding his name to the list of British motorsporting World Champions.
Photography courtesy of Porsche AG