Porsche claims maiden Hypercar win despite late drama

Laurens Vanthoor, Kevin Estre and Andre Lotterer took top honours in the Qatar 1812Km despite Estre having to make an unscheduled pitstop with fewer than 10 laps to go due to a missing number panel on the left-hand side of the factory #6 Penske 963 LMDh. 

It marked the German manufacturer’s first overall victory in the WEC since Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber triumphed in the six-hour fixture at Austin in 2017 with the LMP1-spec Porsche 919 Hybrid.

The #6 Porsche was in the control of the race from the middle of the second hour, when a mistake from the #93 Peugeot 9X8 of Nico Muller at Turn 1 promoted Vanthoor to the lead.

The gap between the two cars fluctuated as the race progressed, with Muller bringing Porsche’s lead to under 10 seconds at the beginning of hour six after returning to the wheel of the Peugeot.

However, Vanthoor was able to rebuild his advantage out front after sunset in Doha, putting the Porsche well out of reach as the race descended into a procession.

A minor contact with a Lexus GT3 car at Turn 3 in the penultimate hour for Estre seemed like the only blip in an otherwise faultless performance from the Porsche Penske Motorsport team until the team was forced to call in Estre into the pits in the final 15 minutes of the race to stick a new number panel on the car.

Despite losing 20 seconds in the process, Estre still crossed the finish line with over 30 seconds in hand over the #12 Jota Porsche to claim a historic win for the German marque in the WEC season-opener.

Peugeot seemed set for its best-ever finish in the WEC until Vergne suddenly lost power with just two laps to go while running in second, promoting the #12 Jota 963 of Callum Ilott, Will Stevens and Norman Nato to second at the finish.

Ilott was able to hold off the #5 factory 963 of Matt Campbell in the final laps, with the two cars ending up just 1s adrift at the finish as Porsche cars swept the podium positions.

The polesitting #5 963 of Campbell, Michael Christensen and Frederic Makoweicki had to make two early pitstops due to tyre-related vibrations, meaning it wasn’t able to contend with the sister car for victory.

The Chip Ganassi Cadillac was lucky to finish fourth after sustaining heavy damage to the left-front side of the car in a Turn 1 crash with the #94 Peugeot of Paul di Resta, which was triggered by contact between Alex Lynn and Hanson’s Jota Porsche.

The #2 Cadillac shared by Lynn, Sebastien Bourdais and Earl Bamber also picked up a 10-second time penalty for contact with the #31 WRT BMW GT3 car of Sean Gelael.

The customer #83 AF Corse Ferrari was classified as the highest-placed car from the Italian marque, with Yifei Ye, Robert Kubica and Robert Shwartzman finishing a strong fifth, albeit a lap off the lead.

Toyota endured its worst-ever competitive outing in the WEC in recent memory, with both GR010 HYBRIDs lacking the pace to run anywhere close to the front in both daytime and night conditions in Qatar.

Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and new recruit Nyck de Vries finished a lap down in sixth in the #7 Toyota, with the sister car of Sebastien Buemi, Ryo Hirakawa and Brendon Hartley claiming the final point in 10th a poor launch from Buemi at the start of the race.

The #93 Peugeot shared by Vergne, Muller and Mikkel Jensen was provisionally classified seventh after its late mechanical troubles, but is being investigated for not being able to return to parc ferme on its own power.

#93 Peugeot Totalenergies Peugeot 9X8: Mikkel Jensen, Nico Muller, Jean-Eric Vergne

#93 Peugeot Totalenergies Peugeot 9X8: Mikkel Jensen, Nico Muller, Jean-Eric Vergne

Photo by: Shameem Fahath

The #50 Ferrari of Nicklas Nielsen, Miguel Molina and Antonio Fuoco recovered from an early drive-through penalty picked up by Nielsen for crossing the white line on pit entry to end up eighth.

Alpine finished as the best of the newcomers in the Hypercar class, with Charles Milesi, Ferdinand Habsburg and Paul-Loup Chatin bagging points in ninth in the #35 A424.

Proton missed out on the final points-scoring position, as Julien Andlauer, Neel Jani and Harry Tincknell ended up 11th in the #99 Porsche 963, just behind the #8 Toyota.

Sheldon van der Linde, Robin Frijns and Rene Rast finished 12th in the top BMW, the #20 M Hybrid V8, four places ahead of the sister car crewed by Dries Vanthoor, Raffaele Marciello and Marco Wittmann.

Factory Ferrari driver James Calado suffered a bizarre incident in the second hour when the entire tail-end of the #51 499P fell off following contact with the #59 United Autosports McLaren 720S GT3.

Having already lost close to two laps in the pits in getting replacement bodywork, Calado also picked up a drive-through penalty for forcing Andlauer’s Proton Porsche close to the wall on the start/finish straight.

Lamborghini’s first factory prototype programme got off to a difficult start in Qatar, with Mirko Bortolotti, Daniil Kvyat and Edoardo Mortara finishing five laps off the lead in 15th place.

The best lap of the #63 Lamborghini SC63, a 1m42.296s flier set by Mortara during the afternoon, was 2.5 seconds slower than Campbell’s best effort in the #5 Porsche.

Boutique manufacturer Isotta Fraschini retired from its first Hypercar race, with Antonio Serravalle bringing the #11 Tipo 6 Competizione to the garage just short of the six-hour mark.

Porsche doubles up with LMGT3 win

#92 Manthey Purerxcing Porsche 911 GT3 R LMGT3: Aliaksandr Malykhin, Joel Sturm, Klaus Bachler

#92 Manthey Purerxcing Porsche 911 GT3 R LMGT3: Aliaksandr Malykhin, Joel Sturm, Klaus Bachler

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

It was a double win for Porsche in Qatar, with the Manthey Pure Rxcing squad taking top honours in the new-for-2024 LMGT3 class.

Klaus Bachler, Joel Sturm and Aliaksandr Malykhin led the majority of the race in the #92 Porsche 911 GT3, eventually taking the chequered flag 4.8s clear of the #27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 of Ian James, Alex Riberas and Daniel Mancinelli.

Malykhin took the lead after just 15 minutes of racing from the polesitting #81 TF Sport Corvette Z06. GT3 of Tom van Rompuy, building a lead of over 30 seconds in the early hours of the race.

The HoR Aston was able to rise from fifth on the grid to take the lead in the sixth hour, but Riberas suffered a spin soon after to hand the top spot back to the #92 Porsche.

The final spot on the podium went to the other Aston Martin entered by D’station following a charging final stint from factory driver Marco Sorensen in the last hour of the race.

MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi finished fourth on his WEC debut in the #46 BMW he shared with Maxime Martin and Amhad Al Marthy.

The #81 TF Sport Corvette crewed by van Rompuy, Rui Andrade and Charlie Eastwood was retired from the race after 177 laps due to electrical issues.

The #78 ASP Lexus RC GT3 of Arnold Robin, Kelvin van der Linde and Timur Boguslavskiy was the only other car not to make to the finish in the LMGT3 class.

2024 Qatar 1812Km

Source link