The last FIA World Endurance Championship race of the 2014 season had a dramatic end, following some very close racing throughout the six hours race in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Porsche secured their maiden win in the FIA WEC with the No. 14 car taking the chequered flag first. They were hotly pursued by the No. 8 Toyota, who had already secured the drivers’ championship in the previous race, and now secured the team title too. Taking the third step on the podium was the No. 1 Audi, securing an emotional farewell to racing for the retiring legend Tom Kristensen.
The race finished in dramatic circumstances, behind the safety car, after a high speed accident involving Mark Webber in the No. 20 Porsche 919, and Matteo Cressoni in the No. 90 8Star Ferrari. The accident occurred as the race entered the last half hour & race control eventually conceded that they could not start the race again. Cressoni was able to walk away from his stricken Ferrari, whilst Webber was stretchered from the scene of his mangled Porsche. Fortunately both drivers were reported OK, following stringent medical assessments.
Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas brought home the No. 14 Porsche 919 Hybrid to score Porsche their first overall win of the season, and crucially, their first since Porsche’s return to the prototype ranks this year. “In the final race of the season we got our first win,” said a triumphant Jani after the race. “We’ve come so close before, and now to get the win is such a relief. It made our mission for the year. A success.”
It was an up and down race across every class. Many on-track battles lasted the entire The No. 20 Porsche dominated the first quarter of the race with Lieb and Webber behind the wheel, but the performance of the car deteriorated towards the end of the race. The 16 second lead they had vanished.
The No. 14 Porsche and the No. 8 Toyota battled for second place overall for hours during the middle portion of the race, with the No. 1 Audi getting involved during the middle portion after double-stinting tyres to save time. This eventually turned into the battle for overall honours, with the No. 14 holding the advantage of pit-stop strategy going into the final hour.
Too many mistakes by the Sebastian Buemi and Anthony Davidson cost them a chance to control the race for Toyota. The newly crowned drivers’ champions followed the lead Porsche home under the safety car, wondering what could have been as the medical team and marshals on site dealt with the cleanup of the race-ending accident.. Their finishing position did give them the manufacturers’ title for Toyota, sparking celebrations in the Toyota garage that may have not yet finished. “It has been difficult, we have tough opposition. Our car wasn’t really up there today, so we are having to over-drive it to keep up,” admitted Buemi.
Tom Kristensen ended his career on another high, finishing third overall after a great race by himself, Loic Duval and Lucas Di Grassi in the No. 1 Audi. The Dane, who announced his retirement prior to the race, was greeted by an emotional Dr Wolfgang Ullrich after getting out of the car at the end of the race – his former teammates Dindo Capello and Allan McNish were also on the scene for his big send off. The man who played a major part in Audi’s dominance of sportscars since the turn of the century has officially hung up his helmet to end an illustrious era for Danish sport and the German marque, he stayed a class act from start to finish.
Rebellion Racing’s No.13 R-One won LMP1 L in a race which saw all three entries spend a lot of time in and out of the garages. It has been a tough season of development for both them and the Lotus crew.
KCMG won the LMP2 class in what turned out to be a rare race of attrition for all four entries. Richard Bradley, Alexander Imperatori and Matt Howson took charge in the class early after a bad start for the G-Drive Ligier. But Howson would have an impact with a barrier from the lead which cost him a lap as the race settled down, which at the time looked like it would hand the win to SMP.
It was no easy ride for the other LMP2 runners though. Olivier Pla had a sizeable accident in the Ligier which cost the G-Drive the team the title after just 90 minutes of running. The Frenchman went flying in to the barriers at turn 1 after a suspected brake issue. “I think there was a problem with a front right brake. It was quite bad. To lose the race like that, it is difficult.” said his teammate Romian Rusinov after the incident.
Both SMP Orecas suffered issues throughout, and handed the lead back to the KCMG crew towards the end. The No.27 would take the LMP2 title though, as all it needed to do was finish. The team held it in the garage to conserve the car in the final stages, and brought it out to cross the line and win the LMP2 championship.
Darren Turner and Stefan Mücke took their second win of the season for Aston Martin after a tough start to the race. The team lost a lot of time early when the full-course yellow was called for by the race director to clean up the debris left by Pla’s Ligier. They spent the remainder of the race playing catch up, but in the end held the lead when the safety car came out at the end, knowing they would need to make one last stop unless the race was interrupted.
Porsche had a much better outing, especially with the No. 92 car of Fred Makoweicki and Patrick Pilet which came home second and led the Pro class for a considerable amount of the race. The No. 99 Vantage of Darryl O’Young, Fernando Rees and Andy McDowell slowly faded away after providing the British team with hope of winning at the start. The trio lost time due to an incident with the other Porsche GT entry of Jorg Bergmiester who tapped the car into a spin at turn one late in the race.
AF Corse had a tough race in both GTE classes, the champion No. 51 458 Italia of Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander never featured and the No.71 of James Colado and Davide Rigon had to settle for third in class after struggling to match the pace of the frontrunners. AF Corse did manage to win the manufacturers title for Ferrari though, as Porsche didn’t quite score enough points.
Aston Martin Racing would do the double, as their domination of the GTE Am class continued at Sao Paulo. The No. 98 Aston Martin of Paul Dalla Lana, Christopher Nygaard and Pedro Lamy ran a perfect race, coming home ahead of the Dane train No. 95 entry which spent much of the race recovering from a spin, puncture and a penalty.
So the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship concluded in Brazil. There were smiles all round. Porsche secured their win (& their star driver survived a big impact), Toyota secured the Championship & will inherit the No. 1 car next year. Audi were also happy to bid farewell to their legendary driver with a place on the podium in Tom Kristensen’s last race.
A special note should also be made for Howden Haynes, the Audi Sport lead race engineer, who also retires after this race. Never one to seek the spotlight, his career has mirrored the success of Audi over the last decade. He moves on to new projects and will be missed on the pit wall next year.
So we move on to the 2015 season where the FIA WEC starts again at Silverstone in April. Those interested in attending the other European rounds at Spa-Francorchamps, Le Mans & the Nurburgring should visit the Travel Destinations website for the best offers available.
Written by Richard Webb
Photos by Dailysportscar