2016 FIA WEC: Six Hours of Silverstone race report
The updated Porsche 919 Hybrid gave Weissach victory in the first round of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship – the Six Hours of Silverstone – but only after the race-winning Audi R18 e-tron was disqualified in post-event scrutineering.
Audi’s technical infringement – the R18’s front skid plate had been found to have worn too much – didn’t take much away from what was a strong performance at the home of British motorsport by the reigning world champions.
Despite losing out on pole position to Audi for the first time since Brazil in 2014, the factory Porsche 919 Hybrids looked in imperious form early in the six-hour race at Silverstone as the no. 1 entry of Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard led the opening stages.
Webber had assumed the lead after battling passed the two Ingolstadt challengers by the end of lap 16, pulling out a comfortable lead before handing over to Hartley – the Kiwi starting a double stint – on lap 27.
Hartley continued to extend the no. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid’s advantage over the chasing Audis until lap 58 when problems for the R18 duo promoted the sister no. 2 Porsche 919 of Marc Lieb, Neel Jani and Romain Dumas into second.
However, Weissach’s one-two didn’t last for long as Hartley collided heavily with the GTE-Am class Gulf Racing Porsche 911 RSR on lap 71, nearly rolling the 919 Hybrid at the super-fast Farm curve just after the pit straight.
The accident put both the 919 and the 911 RSR out of the race on the spot, leaving Lieb – who had just jumped into the no. 2 machine – in the lead ahead of the no. 7 Audi (the no. 8 R18 having stopped out on track).
After a safety car period to retrieve the broken Audi, Lieb and no. 7 R18 e-tron fought wheel-to-wheel in a battle reminiscent of the German’s similar fight at Silverstone last year.
Once again, Lieb had to give second best before handing over to Dumas, the Frenchman taking his second stint at the helm having started the race for the no. 2 Porsche Team crew.
Dumas steadied the gap to the leading Audi during his stint before handing over to Jani (arguably the fastest LMP1 driver of 2015), the Swiss driver getting the Porsche 919 Hybrid right back into the lead battle as the race entered its final hour.
At the final stop, the Porsche crew only opted to take on two tyres, saving time and putting Jani back out in the lead. However, just one lap later, the Swiss racer was back in the box to replace a puncture.
The setback allowed the no. 7 Audi triumph on the road, with Jani bringing the Porsche across the line some 46 seconds in arrears on the road. However, when the Audi’s underside plank was found to have worn too much, the no. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid was in the right place to inherit the win.
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