2015 FIA WEC: Six Hours of Silverstone race report
Porsche Team Manthey had to settle for second in the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship season opener at the Six Hours of Silverstone after falling just 10 seconds short of overhauling the GTE-Pro class-winning AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia.
Qualifying at the 3.66-mile circuit saw the factory Aston Martin V8 Vantages lock out first, second and third on the grid, with the best works Porsche 911 RSR – the no. 91 car of Michael Christensen and Richard Lietz – lining up in fourth.
The no. 92 Porsche 911 RSR of Frédéric Makowiecki and Patrick Pilet could only manage an average lap time good enough for sixth, split from its sister car by the no. 51 Ferrari 458 of 2014 world champions, Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander.
At midday on Sunday, the 29-strong field was let loose, with the lead Ferrari immediately dropping to the back of the GTE-Pro field after having to avoid a spinning LMP2 car.
As the Aston Martins initially streaked away at the head of the class, the two factory Porsche 911 RSRs ran almost nose-to-tail in fourth and fifth, with Pilet heading the Weissach charge in the no. 92 machine.
Through the first hour, Pilet hunted down the Aston Martins, picking them off one by one as the British cars couldn’t maintain their impressive qualifying pace under race conditions.
By the race’s halfway mark, the no. 92 RSR had built up a comfortable lead after a strong stint from Makowiecki had left their teammates to contest the remaining podium positions with the resurgent AF Corse Ferraris.
However, with three hours remaining (and with Pilet back at the wheel) the lead Porsche 911 RSR was forced into the garage to replace a broken suspension damper, dropping the French duo two laps down. They would eventually finish seventh in the GTE-Pro class.
With the Aston Martins dropping away to fill the minor places, Lietz and Christensen were engaged in a thrilling dice with the two Ferraris as the no. 91 Porsche fought to uphold Team Manthey’s honour.
Having to dropped behind the Prancing Horse duo, Lietz started to close the gap to second during the fourth hour of the 2015 FIA WEC season opener. His hard work saw Christensen take the RSR’s reins with the Ferraris firmly in sight.
The Danish racer, now in his second year as a factory driver, reeled in the red machines in the final hour, passing the no. 71 car of Davide Rigon and James Calado before setting off after the leading no. 51 car.
As the clock ticked down, so did the gap between the Porsche 911 RSR and the Ferrari 458 Italia. However, as the chequered flag was unfurled at six o’clock, the Ferrari had done just enough to take the first GTE-Pro victory of the season, a mere 10.6 seconds ahead of Lietz and Christensen’s Porsche.
“It was good start to the season,” enthused Christensen. “We had a very well set-up car and we were within striking distance to the top at all times. In an ideal situation, more would certainly have been possible. We tried everything to win.”
Porsche Motorsport boss, Dr Frank-Steffan Walliser was similarly upbeat: “That was a perfect race for our number 91 car. The drivers, pit crew and engineers did a superb job.”
“We’ll analyse the shock absorber problem and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he added, referring to the no. 92’s problem. Porsche won’t have much time for an investigation though, with the Six Hours of Spa now just 19 days away.
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