2016 FIA WEC: Six Hours of Mexico preview
It’s been 25 year since the FIA World Endurance Championship (then known as the World Sportscar Championship) last visited the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez. On that final occasion in Mexico, a Joest-run Porsche 962C finished third behind the dominant Peugeots.
This weekend, Porsche will be hoping its latest top class prototype – the 919 Hybrid – will perform better as it looks to consolidate Weissach’s place at the top of the LMP1 standings.
After the no. 1 car of Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard took a dramatic home win last time out at the Nürburgring, Porsche went into the FIA WEC’s summer break with a 35-point advantage over Audi in the manufacturers’ battle.
The revised Autódromo Hermanos Rodríquez in Mexico City will provide one of the toughest tests of the season for the FIA WEC circus thanks in part to the high ambient temperatures and very dirty track surface.
However, the biggest challenge for the teams will be operating at high altitude, the circuit being located over 2,200 metres above sea level. The thin air will not only affect the power output of the internal combustion engines but it will also result in less downforce.
Should Porsche come out on top in the six-hour race on Saturday, it will continue a long history of successes in Mexico for the manufacturer that can be traced all the way back to Hans Hermann’s triumph in the 1954 Carrera Panamericana, a victory that lead to the iconic ‘Carrera’ badge.
The first sector of the 2.67-mile circuit is dominated by the long 0.75-mile front straight that puts an emphasis on top speed. The second sector features a number of medium and high-speed turns before a technical, low-speed sector through a baseball stadium rounds off the lap.
Times between the LMP1 competitors have been very close in free practice with the two Porsche 919 Hybrids (led by the no. 1 entry) just a few tenths of a second slower than the pace setting Audi R18 e-tron quattros in the first session.
Porsche struck back in the second practice session however, with the championship-leading no. 2 919 Hybrid of Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas (winners at Le Mans this year) setting the fastest lap of the day, Jani’s time of 1m25.810s ending up 0.248s faster than the sister car.
In the GTE ranks, Porsche – champions in GTE-Pro last year – has yet to win a WEC race in 2016 with the 911 RSR. That looks unlikely to change in the Pro class as the sole entry Dempsey-Proton entry for Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen struggled to keep pace with the new turbocharged cars in practice.
The GTE-Am class looks set to be an altogether happier affair for Weissach though as the no. 86 Gulf Racing Porsche 911 RSR topped both FP1 and FP2 with Adam Carroll and Ben Barker at the helm respectively.
Setting the fastest GTE-Am time of the day, Barker (a Total 911 columnist) has taken another step forward in 2016 with his performance, his lap of 1m42.321s outpacing factory driver, Patrick Long in the no. 88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing 911 RSR by 0.241s.
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