911 in Motorsport: FIA World Endurance Championship Shanghai report
The factory Porsche team continued their run of good results in the FIA World Endurance Championship, securing another podium with the new-for-2013 GTE-spec 991 RSR.
The penultimate round of the 2013 championship saw the 28-strong field head to the Shanghai International Circuit in China. The 5.45-kilometre track is characterised by a super-long back straight, playing into the higher top speed of the Aston Martins.
Despite their rivals’ advantage in this area, many of the corners on the track required good traction, benefiting the Porsche 911 RSRs. This meant, after a strong qualifying, the number 92 car of Marc Lieb and Richard Lietz would line up third for the six-hour event.
The sister car of Patrick Pilet and Jörg Bergmeister wound up fifth at the end of the grid-deciding session after struggling with a handling imbalance.
“Our car was difficult to drive”, explained Pilet. “The balance wasn’t perfect, so we need to work on this before the race.” Handling also hampered Bergmeister during his two laps. “My two laps were okay, but I had slight oversteer from the very start”, he said.
Come the race, the forecast rain did not materialise, leaving the Weissach cars to take the fight to Aston Martin on a bone-dry track. Coupled with their lack of straighline speed, the Porsche 911 RSRs were loosing half-a-second to their rivals in the fast final sector of the lap.
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In order to minimise its losses, the number 92 car of Lieb and Lietz had to push hard to try and stay in touch. However, over the longer race runs, the Porsche 911 RSR was suffering from high levels of tyre wear.
“Over four, five laps we were able to match the pace of the competition, but then we lost too much ground”, clarified Lietz. “The tyres deteriorated too much. Now we have to see if that was due to the set-up or the high temperatures.”
Entering the round second in the drivers’ standings, the Austo-Hungarian pairing gradually saw their hopes of a world title wither away. Thankfully, while the number 92 car slipped down to sixth position, Pilet and Bergmeister were on a charge in the number 91 machine.
After starting from fifth, the duo were engaged in a race long battle with the AF Corse Ferrari 458 of ex-Formula One driver Kamui Kobayashi and GT ace Toni Villander.
The six hours of gruelling competition finally took its toll on the car from Maranello, having to pit to fix a brake issue. The superior reliability of the number 91 Porsche 911 RSR had provided Pilet and Bergmeister with another podium on what had turned out to be a tough day for the Stuttgart manufacturer.
Bergmeister put the Porsche’s strong race showing down to the increased levels of grip that the Shanghai circuit offered up as the race wore on. “With increasing grip and lower temperatures our car got better. Ultimately, we were able to match the pace of our rivals.”
In the GTE-Am class, the customer Porsche 997 GT3 RSR teams enjoyed a stronger race relative to their rivals, as the IMSA Performance machine took second place.
The car, piloted by Raymond Narac, Jean-Karl Vernay, and Markus Paltalla initially looked set for third place, until the lead Aston Martin was forced into retirement with an electrical fault.
This left the French equipe to take their third podium of the season, ahead of their closest championship rivals, the Stuart Hall/Jamie Campbell-Walter driven Aston Martin.
Heading into Bahrain, the Porsche is just five points behind the Aston Martin, ensuring that the championship will not be decided until the fall of the chequered flag on 30 November.
The GTE-Pro result leaves Pilet and Bergmeister in sixth place in the drivers’ classification, while Lietz and Lieb have dropped to third, 15.5 points adrift of the leading Aston Martin duo of Darren Turner and Stefan Mücke.
The final round of the championship takes place in Bahrain, with the last six-hour race of 2013 running on 20 November. As ever, keep up to date with all the FIA WEC happenings on Total911.com.