Porsche secured its maiden FIA World Endurance Championship manufacturers’ title with a one-two finish at the 6 Hours Shanghai.
Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard pedaled the #17 Porsche 919 Hybrid to its fourth straight victory, extending their lead in the drivers’ standings to 12 points with one round remaining.
The winning trio finished 26 seconds clear of the sister Porsche, driven by Marc Lieb, Neel Jani and Romain Dumas, with the two Audi R18 e-tron quattros finishing third and fourth.
The race started in wet conditions under the safety car, but once the field was released battles emerged throughout the order. Andre Lotterer managed to split the dueling Porsches early on, although he was assisted by contact with Lieb in the #18 car, which rotated and had to continue from the back of the field.
For much of the race it was a close-fought affair between Audi and Porsche, but as the track started to dry different tyre strategies emerged that would separate the two German marques.
Porsche remained on wet tyres throughout the race, as Audi quickly moved onto a new set of intermediates and then to slicks, but despite Audi’s initial gains the advantage swayed back in Porsche’s direction thanks to an effective double stinting strategy.
A full course yellow near the end of the race did give the #7 Audi a chance to take second position, but Lieb held on in the #18 Porsche to complete the one-two finish behind Webber.
The #8 Audi of Oliver Jarvis, Loic Duval and Lucas di Grassi finished fourth, 50 seconds behind the winning Porsche, while Toyota occupied fifth and sixth after encountering issues during the race. The #1 car of Anthony Davidson, Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi did challenge early on by splitting the Audis on the opening lap, but a spin for Nakajima at the final corner later in the race set the team back.
Rebellion Racing took the LMP1 privateer honours, with the #12 car of Nicolas Prost and Mathias Beche finishing a lap ahead of the Team ByKolles CLM entry, despite Beche crashing heavily just before the end of the race.
In LMP2, Signatech Alpine took its first win of the season by over a lap, with Paul Loup Chatin, Nelson Panciatici and FIA WEC debutant Tom Dillmann controlling the field in the drying conditions.
The #26 G-Drive Racing Ligier JS P2 finished second, which means that Sam Bird, Julien Canal and Roman Rusinov are now the clear favourites to take the LMP2 title at the Bahrain finale after extending their points lead.
KCMG recovered from an early Nick Tandy spin to finish on the podium, a lap ahead of the Team SARD Morand Morgan. Pegasus Racing rounded out the top five despite leading early on; the dryer track playing to the other teams’ advantages.
Porsche added to its overall success with a victorious display in the LMGTE Pro category. Richard Leitz extended his lead at the top of the drivers’ standings with a commanding victory alongside Michael Christensen.
45 seconds adrift was the #51 AF Corse Ferrari of Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander, which split the two Porsche 911s. Vilander attempted to replicate his Fuji heroics with a four hour stint to bring the Ferrari into winning contention, but the dominance of the Lietz/Christensen car was not to be challenged.
French drivers Patrick Pilet and Fred Makowiecki completed the podium, six seconds behind the Ferrari.
While AF Corse fell short in the Pro class, the Italian team’s Am entry claimed its first victory of the season to keep its slim championship hopes alive.
Francois Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Rui Aguas won by 41 seconds, beating the #98 Aston Martin Vantage of Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda and Pedro Lamy.
The SMP Racing Ferrari of Andrea Bertolini, Victor Shaytar and Alexey Basov finished third, and will enter the 6 Hours of Bahrain with a comfortable 19 point lead in the Am championship.