Drama until the final minute in the season finale

The final round of this years FIA World Endurance Championship was just as dramatic, as we are used to, time after time. The race was the FIA WEC race number 50, since the Championship started in the 2012. It was however a very different thing grabbing the headlines.

The race was the final race for Porsche in LMP1, and their car #1 was in Pole Position ahead of the Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 and Porsche #2.

Porsche got off to the best start and out-tricked Toyota #8. GTE Am saw a massive shake-up, with polesetting AMR #98 dropping to last. Mathias Lauda was trying to drive back up the field, while Clearwater Racing Ferrari #61 led that category.

The Safety Car had to be deployed after only 5 minutes of racing, when a corner bollard was hit and rolled around in the middle of the track. The marshals were fast to get it solved, so the race could be resumed only two laps later.

It was a very hectic restart with Toyota #8 taking second in an outbraking manouvre going into Turn 1. In the LMP2 category the war between Jackie Chan DC Racing #38, Vaillante Rebellion #31, and CEFC Manor TRS Racing #25 saw the cars side by side through many corners.

Photo: JJ Media

Timo Bernhard in the Porsche #2 had problems picking up the pace followed the Safety Car. A slow-motion showed the previous bollard being stuck under the car, disturbing the aerodynamic on the car. That resulted in an early pitstop for them, with a refueling and a nose change on the car – as well as removing the plastic cone from the car.

Mathias Lauda in the AMR #98 and Christian Ried in the Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77 had a great battle, and even though Lauda was faster down the straights, Ried was better on the brakes. Lauda actually made it past, but he outbraked himself two corners later. So the two drivers had an amazing battle through the first 30 minutes of the race.

The race was hotting up again after 35 minutes. CEFC Manor TRS Racing #25 with Vitaly Petrov took the lead from Signatech Alpine Matmut #36 in LMP2, while Toyota #8 took the LMP1 lead from Porsche #1. Toyota #7 was past the #1 too, but had to back the place again. But Sebastien Buemi in #8 was able to pull away from the chasers. A few laps later, Mike Conway in the Toyota #7 grabbed second from Neel Jani in the Porsche #1.

AF Corse Ferrari #51
Photo: JJ Media

Marco Sørensen in AMR #95 and David Heinemeier Hansson in Vaillante Rebellion #13 made contact 55 minutes into the race, when the latter tried to lap his country man by a lap. It cost nothing more than a spin for Hansson, before he was back on the track again.

Toyota #8 pitted for a fuel-only stop, while Mike Conway swapped to Jose Maria Lopez in the #7 while they changed the ties.

One hour and five minutes into the race there was a contact between Jean-Eric Vergne in CEFC Manor TRS Racing #24 and Bruno Senna in Vaillante Rebellion #31. At first Vergne pushed off the Brazilian off the track, but a few corners, Senna passed the French driver in a great outbraking manoeuvre around the outside. The stewards however weren’t too pleased about the move and awarded Senna a 5-seconds penalty to be taken at their upcoming pitstop.

Alex Brundle in the Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 got a drive-through penalty for overtaking during Safety Car.

Vaillante Rebellion #31
Photo: JJ Media

Spirit of Race Ferrari #54 had jumped ahead of Clearwater Racing Ferrari #61 and AMR #98 in the GTE Am. GTE Pro had AF Corse #71 leading well and truly, followed by Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK #67, and AF Corse #51 only a few seconds further down.

AMR #98 shortly thereafter grabbed second in the GTE Am and was then able to pull away.

Jackie Chan DC Racing #38 took the LMP2 lead 90 minutes into the race, when Ho-Pin Tung overtook the Signatech Alpine Matmut #36. Nico Lapierre in #36 fell back through the field like a stone, driving 4 seconds per lap slower than the competitors due to old fading tires.

Just shy of the two-hours mark, Andy Priaulx in the Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK #67 took the lead of GTE Pro, when he overtook Sam Bird in the AF Corse Ferrari #71. One lap later, Porsche #92 followed through as well, with #51 jumping past too. So going from P1 to P4 in just one and a half laps. But just like Lapierre, Bird was on old tires too.

Lapierre dropped all the way to 8th in the LMP2 category, so he had gone from the lead to second last in class.

Gulf Racing UK #86
Photo: JJ Media

Two hours into the race saw Kevin Estre in Porsche #92 taking the lead in GTE Pro, when he overtook Andy Priaulx in Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK #67.

Tristan Gommendy in Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 clearly had problems with the tires, so it was his turn to drop back in the field. Two hours and twenty minutes into the race, he had just been overtaken by Matthieu Vaxiviere in the TDS Racing #28, when he without any apparent reason hit the back of his country man. That resulted in a damaged rear light to the #28, which they had to change during their next pitstop. Gommendy received a Drive-through penalty for the contact, since he managed to have a slight contract with the Clearwater Racing Ferrari #61 too.

AMR #98 had sneaked into the lead of GTE Am, while Clearwater Racing Ferrari #61 and Spirit of Race Ferrari #54 were fighting over second in class.

Michael Christensen in Porsche #92 and Kamui Kobayashi in Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 collided at the halfway point of the race. The latter tried to overtake the slower GTE Pro car but made heavy contact. The race was over for Christensen on the spot, while Kobayashi was able to limp the car back to the garage. The resulted in a Full Course Yellow, to get the Porsche 911 RSR dragged out of the gravel. The stewards came to the conclusion that Kobayashi had been the one responsible for the collision and gave #7 a Stop & Go penalty.

After the first 3 hours of the race we had Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 leading LMP1, Jackie Chan DC Racing #38 in LMP2, AF Corse Ferrari #51 in GTE Pro, and Aston Martin Racing #98 on top in GTE Am.

Toyota Gazoo Racing #8
Photo: JJ Media

The next hour of the race ran without any drama, and hadn’t Leo Roussel had a solo-spin in the G-Drive Racing #26, the period would have lasted even longer.

Only few minutes later, the Porsche #1 of Nick Tandy and Gulf Racing UK Porsche #86 driven by Nick Foster made heavy contact. In Turn One the two cars collided and it resulted in a puncture for #1 and a broken front suspension for #86. The stewards gave #1 a Stop & Go penalty for that incident and lost a lot of time to both Toyota #8 and Porsche #2.

AF Corse Ferrari #71 and Porsche #91 were battling through several laps, before #91 made it into the second position in the GTE Pro. It was however still the Championship leading AF Corse Ferrari #51 leading with 90 minutes to go, and after winning the Manufacturers Title in Shanghai two weeks ago, they had a hand on the drivers title trophy too.

Vaillante Rebellion #13 took second in the LMP2 category with 80 minutes left of the race, so it was a Rebellion 1-2 in the race. With that move, the chances for Jackie Chan DC Racing #38 was slowly diminishing, since they at least had to beat #31 to win the Championship.

The final hour of this years FIA WEC started with Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 leading LMP1, Vaillante Rebellion #31 leading LMP2 and on the way towards the title, AF Corse Ferrari #51 in front of GTE Pro and on the way towards the title, and AMR #98 leading and on the way towards the title in GTE Am.

Porsche #92 & Clearwater Racing #61
Photo: JJ Media

The LMP2 Championship suddenly got a twist again with 50 minutes left of the race. Bruno Senna in Vaillante Rebellion #31 reported back to the pits that his power steering wasbroken. There was plenty of communication between Senna and the pit, trying to reset the system and solve the problem. He lost several seconds per lap to the competitors, but he had a gap of almost 40 seconds to the closest Championship rivals in the shape of Jackie Chan DC Racing #38.

Both Jackie Chan DC Racing #38 and Vaillante Rebellion #13 had made their last pitstops with 26 minutes to go, separated by only a few seconds, with #38 ahead.

5 minutes before the checkered flag, the two AF Corse cars switched positions, so #71 led the GTE Pro category ahead of #51, with Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK #67 in third.

Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 with Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson, and Kazuki Nakajima won the race ahead of Porsche #2 and Porsche #1. The collision and the penalty cost dearly for #7, resulting them of losing all hopes of a podium.

Bruno Senna, Julien Canal, and Nico Prost in the Vaillante Rebellion #31 took the LMP2 victory, ahead of Jackie Chan DC Racing #38 and Vaillante Rebellion #13.

Davide Rigon and Sam Bird in AF Corse Ferrari #71 won GTE Pro, ahead of AF Corse #51, and Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK #67.

Aston Martin Racing #98 with Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy, and Mathias Lauda grabbed the GTE Am victory ahead of Clearwater Racing Ferrari #61 and Spirit of Race Ferrari #54.

Porsche #2
Photo: JJ Media

Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard, and Earl Bamber in Porsche #2 won the LMP Drivers Championship, while Porsche won the Manufacturers Championship.

Vaillante Rebellion #31 with Bruno Senna and Julien Canal won the LMP2 Championship.

Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado in AF Corse #51 won the GTE Pro Championship for both drivers and teams, while Ferrari took the Manufacturers Title.

Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy, and Mathias Lauda in Aston Martin Racing #98 won the GTE Am Championship for both drivers and teams.

That was the end of the FIA World Endurance Championship 2017. After 72 hours of racing, most of the Championships were decided in the very final minutes of the season.

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