Porsche stole the victory on home soil, in a weekend where Toyota Gazoo Racing seemed to have everything under control.
Toyota #7 was leading the race from Pole Position, and quickly made a small gap to Porsche. Porsche however started to reel in their Japanese competitors, and in the second hour they went past, and never looked back.
The Toyota TS050 Hybrid number 8 was never a factor in the race. It came to a stop on the formation lap, and Sebastien Buemi had to drive the rest of the lap on emergency programme. The car had a problem with the fuel pump and it took the team the time of four racing laps to repair it – four laps that they never got back again.
Instead Porsche could dominate the race to the flag, and even had time to switch the two cars, so Porsche #2 with Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley won the race ahead of #1 with Andre Lotterer, Neel Jani and Nick Tandy.
Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 with Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez and Mike Conway finished the race in third, but with more than a minute after the winning Porsche. The team sent out a press release afterwards, explaning that the aero on the car had been influenced, and we saw quite a bit of tire debries sticking to the car. If you look at the laptimes, Kobayashi did the fastest lap overall of the race, but that was 1,5 seconds faster than Lopez and Conway, who were both slower than all the six Porsche drivers.
Bykolles Racing Team #4 completed the race, but was once again way off the other LMP1 cars, and with times only matching the middle of the LMP2 field. The fastest lap of Oliver Webb was 8,5 slower than the fastest LMP1, and 1,3 seconds slower than the fastest LMP2 car. Dominik Kraihamer was 0,5 seconds slower, while Marco Bonanomi was a further 0,8 behind, with just five LMP2 drivers slower than him! It’s a shame to see a LMP1 car in so big troubles, but it appears to be the final time of the year, that we have seen the team. There has been talks of them skipping all the overseas races, and instead start preparing for 2018. If they go for the five races, they would only get their car back in the workshop in January, leaving them only two months to prepare for the new season.
Jackie Chan DC Racing #38 won in the LMP2 category ahead of Vaillante Rebellion #31 and Signatech Alpine Matmut #36. The other Vaillante Rebellion #13 finished fourth, only six seconds from #36. #38 with Oliver Jarvis, Thomas Laurent and Ho-Pin Tung was all quicker than Filipe Albuerquerque and Julien Canal in #31 while Bruno Senna as the last driver in that team, was close at matching the time of Jarvis – but was still a bit slower.
The only two cars not to complete the race, were two LMP2 cars. Signatech Alpine Matmut #35 got gearbox issues around two hours into the race, while Tockwith Motorsports #34 had clutch issues through a big part of the race, and had to retire with just 12 minutes left of the race. The were already last at that point, having spend a total of 2 hours and 15 minutes in the pits.
The GTE Pro we saw a great fight between all four manufacturers – at least during the first hour of the race. Porsche #92 with Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre had started from Pole Position, but Michael made a driver error into turn one, and dropped all the way down to fourth. That made Aston Martin Racing #95 with another Dane, Marco Sørensen, take the lead, and leading a train of all 8 GTE Pro cars. But when Porsche #91 made it to the front, everything started to spread out. From that point onwards, the AMR #95 only wet backwards. Somehow neither of the AMR cars could keep up the pace with Ferrari nor Porsche.
Instead it was AF Corse Ferrari #51 with James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi, who took the victory ahead of Porsche #91 and Porsche #92. Just like in LMP1, Porsche did a tactical switch between the two cars, since Porsche #92 was actually the fastest car in this days GTE Pro. But with constant laptimes for Ferrari #51, they could take a victory of 50 seconds. AMR#95 finished fourth, around 3 minutes after the winning Ferrari. So it was that much that the laptimes dropped of for #95.
Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK didn’t have the pace at all for this round. They only finished in fifth and sixth places. They were around the top during the first hour, just like AMR did, but then dropped in laptimes and finished one lap behind the winning Ferrari.
In GTE Am we saw a great battle between four of the five competitors. Only Gulf Racing UK Porsche #86 somehow didn’t have the pace to follow the other four cars. There were battles bumper to bumper through almost all 6 hours – sometimes the bumpers even came into contact with each other, like when Clearwater Racing #61 overtook Spirit of Race #54. That gave a warning to the #54. Aston Martin Racing #98 had led the race from the go, and then the lead was taken over by Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77 for a few laps. From that point to the chequered flag it was flowing back and forth, before the #77 could take victory. One of the main reasons behind that was Matteo Cairoli, who constant did 2:00.xxx during the whole of his final stint – except for 7 of the 30 laps in that stint, where he did 1:59.xxx! During the same period of the race, Pedro Lamy in the #98 did laptimes between 1:59.xxx and 2:03.xxx. So that was a very clear indication on why the victory went the Porsche way.
In LMP1 we had Porsche #2 building on their advantage on Toyota #8 with Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima, who are currently second. There are 30 points between those two cars now, which isn’t much with five rounds remaining.
Jackie Chan DC Racing #38 extended their lead on Vaillante Rebellion #31 while Signatech Alpine Matmut #36 still sits 3rd.
In GTE Pro we still have Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK #67 leading, even though they only claimed a few points this time, while Porsche #91 is second and AMR #97 dropping back to third, after only scoring six points today. At the top of the manufacturers standings, Ford and Ferrari have exactly the same points, followed by Aston Martin and Porsche – all within 29 points.
Dempsey-Proton Racing #77 and Clearwater Racing #61 are equal on points in the top of GTE Am, while AMR #98 is just two points behind them. Spirit of Race #54 and Gulf Racing UK #86 also have exactly the same points.
Now everything will be put into container ships and sailed to Mexico, where the next round will be run on September 3rd.