WEC 2016 - Michelin secures 2016 Manufacturers’ world endurance title with Porsche
The 6 Hours of Shanghai was dominated from start to finish by Michelin’s partner Porsche whose victory settled the fight for the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship’s Manufacturers’ crown in its favour.
After posting the fastest lap during Saturday’s qualifying session, Porsche Team got away to a flying start in Sunday’s race and its two prototypes were running at the top of the order early on.
The N°1 Porsche 919 Hybrid (Bernhard/Webber/Hartley) led practically from lights out to the chequered flag. However, about two-and-a-half hours into the season’s penultimate clash, the German make’s supremacy was challenged by Toyota Gazoo Racing when the N°6 Toyota TS050-Hybrid of Sarrazin/Conway/Kobayashi – with Kamui Kobayashi at the wheel – started to put pressure on the N°2 Porsche (Jani/Dumas/Lieb) which was in the hands of Neel Jani.
After some fine overtaking manoeuvres, the Japanese driver came out on top thanks to his car’s superior speed through the twisty part of the Chinese track.
Moments later, the other Toyota of Buemi/Nakajima/Davidson was looking for a way past the N°2 Porsche, as well. It ended up finding a way through but then fell back to fourth after the next round of pit stops during which the Porsches were quicker.
The leaderboard then stabilised for the ensuing hour, with Porsche running first and third, and the Toyotas in second and fourth places.
Meanwhile, Audi Sport’s two cars recovered from a slower start only to tangle later in the race. The incident forced the N°7 Audi R18 (Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer) to pit for repairs.
Two hours from the end, positions changed again when the N°6 Toyota TS050-Hybrid was forced to pit from second place due to a puncture. The Japanese car was consequently relegated to fourth, leaving the two Porsches at the front of the field once more.
However, Toyota Gazoo Racing hadn’t said its final word. While the N°5 TS050-Hybrid was running extremely close to the N°2 Porsche in the battle for second place, the twin Toyota N°6, with Sébastien Buemi first, then Kamui Kobayashi, came back in contention thanks to a series of fast times.
With 45 minutes remaining, Kobayashi founding himself dicing again with Jani. Just as he had done two hours previously, he managed to steal past to appear in second spot. Immediately afterwards, the German car pitted, allowing the other Toyota to recover third place.
The two Toyotas pitted for the final time with 20 minutes to go but, unlike their opponents, who had opted for fresh rubber, they stayed on the same tires. This strategy, which was made possible thanks to the consistency of MICHELIN’s tires, allowed them to further increase their respective cushions over the N°2 Porsche by 20 seconds.
Meanwhile, the win ended up in Porsche’s hands thanks to the N°1 919 Hybrid which, as a result, sewed up the 2016 FIA WEC Manufacturers’ crown in favour of the German carmaker, as Toyota held on to secure the other two places on the podium.
Hostilities will now resume in two weeks’ time in Bahrain where the crews of the N°2 Porsche and the N°6 Toyota will settle the fight for the 2016 Drivers’ title once and for all.
The 2016 6 Hours of Shanghai saw Porsche Team and Toyota Gazoo Racing run the ‘Hot Weather’ version of the MICHELIN SOFT tire, while Audi Sport opted for the ‘Hot Weather Plus’ variant.