WEC turning points: Toyota punctures lose 2016 title impetus in 6H Shanghai
17/02/2017 - 10h58
A first win since 2014 in Fuji gave Toyota a lift in spirits heading to the penultimate round of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship in Shanghai, but two punctures for the No. 6 crew and a classy drive from the defending champions in the No. 1 Porsche meant Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas would head to Bahrain in the box seat for the championship.
With just 3.5 points to show for the opening three rounds of the season, Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Mark Webber’s title defence was effectively over by the time the WEC reconvened after the summer break for the 6 Hours of Nürburgring. With Porsche’s focus switching to the championship-leading No. 2 919 Hybrid of Jani, Lieb and Dumas – a winner at Silverstone and Le Mans – the No. 1 car’s role would become that of spoiler, taking points away from Toyota and Audi wherever possible.
It was a role they took on with relish. Consecutive victories at the Nürburgring, Mexico and COTA proved they hadn’t lost their winning touch, but Kamui Kobayashi, Stéphane Sarrazin and Mike Conway’s breakthrough at Fuji was a timely reminder that Porsche would not have it all its own way. With the resurgent No. 6 Toyota crew just 23 points off the championship lead, Porsche was under pressure in Shanghai and even more so after Sébastien Buemi in the No. 5 TS050 Hybrid got the jump on Hartley into turn one.
Toyota’s lead was short-lived however, as Hartley retook the position just before the Safety Car came out. Buemi had slipped to fifth by the end of hour 1, but persistent problems with Audi’s refuelling rig meant the podium battle would be a two-horse race between Porsche and Toyota.
Once the track was fully rubbered-in, Kobayashi took up the challenge in hour three and repeatedly exchanged second position with Lieb before finally making the move stick into the turn 14 hairpin.
At this stage, the race was wide open. Though Conway suffered a setback when his left-rear tyre deflated with two hours to go, it could yet have proven a blessing in disguise in the event of a late safety car, since Toyota could now reach the finish with only one more stop while the No. 1 Porsche would need two.
However, before Toyota could get its hopes up, another left-rear puncture 17 laps later brought Conway back to the pits ahead of schedule, his potential strategic advantage eliminated.
It just was the break Porsche needed, as the No. 1 crew’s fourth win of the year – and Webber’s final victory in the WEC – ensured the No. 2 car would head to Bahrain with 17 points in hand instead of 10. The result also wrapped up the Manufacturers title for Porsche.
Though Toyota was never in contention to capitalise on more problems for the No. 2 car in Bahrain, the psychological significance of the result in China – and the contribution of the defending champions to Porsche’s 2016 success – should not be underestimated.
- 6 Hours of Silverstone6 Hours of SilverstoneCountry : United KingdomDate : 16/04/2017All informations about 6 Hours of SilverstoneCircuit’s websiteTicket
- WEC 6 Hours of Spa-FrancorchampsWEC 6 Hours of Spa-FrancorchampsCountry : BelgiumDate : 06/05/2017All informations about WEC 6 Hours of Spa-FrancorchampsCircuit’s websiteTicket
- 24 Hours of Le Mans24 Hours of Le MansCountry : FranceDate : 17/06/2017All informations about 24 Hours of Le MansCircuit’s website
- 6 Hours of Nurburgring6 Hours of NurburgringCountry : GermanyDate : 16/07/2017All informations about 6 Hours of NurburgringCircuit’s website
- 6 Hours of Mexico6 Hours of MexicoCountry : MexicoDate : 03/09/2017All informations about 6 Hours of MexicoCircuit’s website
- 6 Hours of Austin6 Hours of AustinCountry : United StatesDate : 16/09/2017All informations about 6 Hours of AustinCircuit’s website
- 6 Hours of Fuji6 Hours of FujiCountry : JapanDate : 15/10/2017All informations about 6 Hours of FujiCircuit’s website
- 6 Hours of Shanghai6 Hours of ShanghaiCountry : ChinaDate : 05/11/2017All informations about 6 Hours of ShanghaiCircuit’s website
- 6 Hours of Bahrain6 Hours of BahrainCountry : BahrainDate : 18/11/2017All informations about 6 Hours of BahrainCircuit’s website