THE RETURN OF PORSCHE TO TOP FLIGHT ENDURANCE RACING
The third season of the World Endurance Championship witnessed Porsche’s return to top level endurance racing for the first time in 16 years and Audi’s 13th win in the last 15 years at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The year, however, belonged to Toyota Racing – the Japanese team joyfully winning the Manufacturers World Championship at the final round of the season. Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi lifted the 2014 Drivers’ title after taking their No.8 Toyota TS040 Hybrid to the top step of the podium on four occasions, with their team mates in the No.7 entry also winning in Bahrain.
All three of the manufacturers were victorious in 2014, and Porsche’s inclusion of Mark Webber in its driver line up opened the doors of endurance racing to a whole new audience. The German marque claimed its first victory in the WEC at the final round of the season in São Paulo, while Audi not only won at Le Mans but also at the Lone Star Le Mans event at COTA in the USA.
After an intense three-way battle between Ferrari, Aston Martin and Porsche, the Italian manufacturer claimed the FIA Endurance Cup for GT Manufacturers, its third title in three years. Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander were crowned GT Drivers’ champions after winning four of the season’s eight rounds including the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the No.51 Ferrari 458 Italia.
Rebellion Racing was untouchable in the LMP1 Private Teams category, but the battle in LMP2 kept everyone on the edge of their seats right to the end of the season. The small but very competitive class was won by a very consistent SMP Racing, with Sergey Zlobin lifting the FIA Endurance Trophy for LMP2 drivers alone due to a change of team mates in the No.27 ORECA 03 Nissan at the double points-scoring Le Mans round. G-Drive Racing won four races but fell at the final hurdle, while KCMG also won three times.
Aston Martin Racing reigned supreme in the LMGTE Am class, winning seven times on its way to the FIA Endurance Trophy for LMGTE Am Teams, and it was the Danish duo of David Heinemeier Hansson and Kristian Poulsen in the No.95 Vantage V8 who claimed the drivers’ title race over their team mates in the No.98 Aston Martin Racing entry.
The WEC presented stability in terms of venues visited, and the US-round at Austin, Texas joined Le Mans and Bahrain as a ‘night’ race. The new LMP1 hybrid regulations were fully embraced by the manufacturers who raced faster but more efficiently, with 30% less fossil fuels being used than in previous years. 2014 also witnessed the No.14 Porsche 919 of Romain Dumas and Neel Jani and the No.8 Toyota TS040 of Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi set the exact same qualifying time of 1:48.300 after an average of the four best laps for each car – a feat unlikely to be seen again for quite some time!
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