2015 WEC - Michelin’s complete endurance racing range tire in action at Fuji
The 2015 6 Hours of Fuji produced a one-two finish for Porsche Team and a fourth straight victory that has put the German make’s N°17 919 Hybrid (Bernhard/Webber/Hartley) at the top of the championship standings.
The Stuttgart firm dominated Saturday’s qualifying with its N°17 919 Hybrid which claimed Porsche’s tenth pole position since its return to world class prototype racing in 2014 after beating the fastest lap for Fuji Speedway several times. The quickest lap of the meeting was eventually posted by Mark Webber (1m22.639s) who, along with Timo Bernhard, contributed to an average of 1m22.763s for the car. The dying moments of the session saw the N°18 sister car of Dumas/Lieb/Jani steal second place on the grid from the N°7 Audi R18 e-tron quattro (Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer) by 0.011s to make it an all-Porsche Team front row for today’s race.
While Saturday’s qualifying took place in ideal dry conditions, with the temperature standing at 20°C, there was rain for the start of the 2015 6 Hours of Fuji and the field was only green flagged away after some 40 minutes behind the Safety Car. There was still heavy rain and several LM GTE Pro and Am drivers immediately pitted to fit MICHELIN Full Wet tires. It was the first time this year that the weather has necessitated this type of tire which is capable of clearing up to 180 litres of water per second at high speed.
Meanwhile, the Audis appeared to revel in the conditions and started to ease clear, leaving the Porsches to fight for position with the Toyotas.
The rain eventually ceased and, towards the end of the race’s first half, as the track gradually started to dry, the cars switched to the MICHELIN Hybrid tire. That is when the Porsches began to close on and, eventually, pass the Audis. Towards the end, the track surface was dry and, now running on dry weather slicks, the Porsches succeeded in pulling out a gap over the Audis to claim first and second places at the flag.
“We used the complete range of Michelin endurance racing tires available for the 6 Hours of Fuji!” says Jérôme Mondain, manager of Michelin’s FIA WEC programme. “After initially fitting rain tires, then the MICHELIN Hybrid tire, the LM P1 teams switched to soft low tire temperature and soft high temperature slicks depending on their respective strategies".
“I would also like to underline that the LM GTE Pro’s Ferrari 458 Italias [AF Corse] and Porsche 911 RSRs [Porsche Team Manthey] triple stinted on the same rain tires at the height of their battle. The Porsches even ran them for three stints and 12 laps! During this sequence of the race, the performance of these cars was very consistent and that’s quite remarkable because their technical characteristics are very different.”
Victory for Ferrari/AF Corse in the LM GTE Pro class and for Dempsey-Proton Racing in LM GTE Am
AF Corse clinched first place on the grid on Saturday when the N°71 Ferrari 458 Italia (Calado/Rigon) scored its first pole position thanks to a 1m38.145s (James Calado) which put it ahead of similar N°51 458 Italia of Bruni/Vilander.
After the race’s early jostling in the rain, the LM GTE Pro class produced a thrilling battle for supremacy between Ferrari and Porsche, this time led by the N°51 car and the N°91 Porsche 911 RSR (Lietz/Christensen). The Italian car succeeded in pulling clear once the conditions dried.
During the race’s second half, the N°92 Porsche of Makowiecki/Pilet found a way past the N°71 Ferrari to clinch second spot at the flag.
The LM GTE Am class was won by the N°77 Porsche of Dempsey-Proton Racing.
The next round of the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship will take teams to Shanghai, China, on November 1, when the season’s different world titles could be settled.