Porsche may not have won the penultimate round of the 2017 FIA Word Endurance Championship in Shanghai, China, but second and third on the podium was enough to secure the manufacturers’ title in LMP1. The positions also allowed Brendon Hartley, Earl Bamber and Timo Bernhard to secure drivers’ world championship titles.
The race took place in cool, dry conditions and began with a hitch for the Porsches, when the Jani/Lotterer/Tandy car had some problems early on and lost time in the pits. The rival Toyotas held first and second until lap 174, when the second Toyota was involved in a crash. That car was forced to pit for repairs and Porsche moved into the podium places, eventually claiming enough points to get the job done.
Quotes from the world champion Porsche Works Drivers
“I was second in the car and stayed there for 76 laps,” said incoming F1 Scuderia Toro Rosso driver, Brendon Hartley. “We lost a lot of downforce in the beginning, so the first stint was hard work. At the stop, we changed the nose which improved this issue. We also had one set of tyres less than all the other cars after we lost one in qualifying, so this was a kind of game over for us. But we definitely have had an incredibly year. Taking the World Championship title after winning Le Mans – it might take a while until it all sinks in. I’ve had a busy few weeks but, sharing this moment with Earl and Timo? I will not forget for the rest of my life.”
“World Champion! It just sounds amazing!” said a delighted Earl Bamber. “The team was fighting hard for it all year and now we’ve grabbed the manufacturers’ and drivers’ world championships. I did a double stint at the start of the race. It was okay but it didn’t look like we were on the right tyre. I just tried to manage the tyre as best as I could for the double stint. The tyres held on well, but we didn’t have a chance against the Toyota. The task was to bring it home in third position which ultimately became second. This weekend is super special. I can hardly believe that I won my first championship with Porsche back in 2013, only four years ago.”
Timo Bernhard echoed the thoughts of his team mates. “The second world championship title: this is kind of crazy and difficult to put in words. It is an honour to drive for the Porsche LMP Team and I am relieved that we have secured both titles here. Now we can face Bahrain a little more relaxed. My stint was good, but of course we knew that a third place finish would be enough. I could have pushed harder but it just wasn’t necessary. Instead we slowed the car down a bit for safety. Toyota was not really within reach today, but the car was reliable and the crew did another sensational job. This is what endurance racing is about. Many, many thanks to everyone and of course to Brendon and Earl.”
With both titles secure, I was sort of expecting Porsche to stay home from Bahrain as it has nothing left to accomplish, but it sounds like the 919 will take to the racetrack for one final event in front of the management board. That will be a fitting send-off for this technical tour de force as Porsche shuts down its LMP1 squad to allegedly focus on a secret F1 programme.