Porsche drivers Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber followed up their 24 Hours of Le Mans victory last month with another World Endurance Championship win at the Nürburgring in Germany Sunday. Bernhard and his teammates triumphed in a hard-fought battle with the sister Porsche 919 Hybrid driven by Andre Lotterer, Neel Jani and Nick Tandy during which the two cars were rarely separated by more than 10 seconds.
The two Porsches, racing in high-downforce configuration for the first time this season, swapped positions multiple times over the course of the six hours.Lotterer appeared to have the victory over the final hour with a 12-second gap on Bernhard until the two cars made splash-and-dash fuel stops in the final 10 minutes. Bernhard was stationary for 20 fewer seconds in the championship-leading Porsche, which allowed it to take the victory in what was clearly an orchestrated move.
Bamber explained that the battle between the two Porsches had seesawed as both experienced grip problems caused by spent racing rubber being picked up on the aerodynamic surfaces.
“Our car was stronger on new tires and the other car came on stronger later, but it was also about aero degradation; one minute we’d have the problem, and then they would have it,” he explained.
Toyota briefly took the fight to Porsche with the pole-winning TS050 Hybrid.
Kamui Kobayashi led to the first round of pit stops before handing over to José María López.
The No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid driven by Andre Lotterer, Neel Jani and Nick Tandy finished second.
The Argentine driver was quickly passed by Hartley and then Jani, but remained in touch until the second fuel stops. Lopez was unable to match the Porsches on his second stint on the tires and dropped 20 seconds before handing over the car to Conway.
Toyota believed that the loss of time was caused not by tire degradation but by an aero imbalance probably resulting from the same pick-up problem that had affected the Porsches.
The best of the Toyotas ended up more than a minute down at the checkered flag due to its drop-off in performance.
Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima, winners of the opening two rounds of the WEC, finished a distant fourth after losing five laps right at the start of the race. Fuel pump failure meant the team had to complete the formation lap on electric power before pitting for a replacement.
Jackie Chan DC Racing trio Oliver Jarvis, Ho-Pin Tung and Thomas Laurent took its third LMP2 victory of the season in dominant fashion aboard their Jota-run ORECA-Gibson 07. Jarvis battled with Bruno Senna in the best of the Rebellion ORECAs, but the Le Mans-winning car took control of the race in the second hour and Senna, Julien Canal and Filipe Albuqueque ended up a lap down at the finish.
The Signatech Alpine team got past the second Rebellion team for the final spot on the class podium. Its Alpine-badged ORECA shared by Nicolas Lapierre, Gustavo Menezes and Matt Rao sealed the spot ahead of Mathias Beche, David Heinemeier Hansson and Pipo Derani during the final hour.
James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi overcame early leaders Porsche to claim GTE Pro honours for Ferrari. Calado established the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE in the lead during the fourth hour and went on to claim the victory by 50s.
Frederic Makowiecki and Richard Lietz took second in their factory Porsche 911 RSR by just 8.7s from the sister car shared by Micheal Christensen and Kevin Estre.
GTE Am honors went to the Dempsey-Proton Porsche driven by Matteo Cairoli, Christian Ried and Marvin Dienst.
Jackie Chan DC Racing trio Oliver Jarvis, Ho-Pin Tung and Thomas Laurent took its third LMP2 victory of the season.