The LMP1 class of the 2015 FIA WEC has seen sportscar racing technology skyrocket. But until the Asian flyaways we hadn’t seen what the most technologically advanced racecars in the world could do in the wet – Japan and China gave us a double opportunity to see just that!
Rain is a great leveller and Toyota hoped that the wet conditions at Fuji International raceway might just get them in amongst the Audis and Porsches and from the off they did just that, albeit briefly!
Porsche continued their qualifying whitewash but after 40 minutes under the safety car on a sopping wet track a frantic first few green flag laps saw Mark Webber run way wide, lose ground and then Romain Dumas tangled with Alex Wurz, formation spins saw both rejoin but only after Audi had profited from their competitors misadventures, they ran 1,2.
They fended off the Porsches into the second hour too, Dumas dealing with a fine attack from Nakajima in the #1 Toyota and Webber still fighting back from his early delay.
From there on in it was a matter of the pendulum swinging gradually back to Porsche, and as the track looked set to dry i was Audi that were on the back foot and looking for an edge, an early change to intermediates for the #7 R18 was a disaster, the car losing a full lap on pace as track conditions not only didn’t improve, but worsened again.
At the flag it was a third win on the bounce for the #17 Porsche, a fine fightback, but in reality a late race shuffle under team orders swapped the Porsches around for maximum effect in the Drivers Championship, the Porsche boys taking the lead in that order for the first time in the season.
Audi too shuffled their pair at the end, to restrict the points damage but by the end of the day in Japan it was clear that nothing short of disaster in China would prevent Porsche from taking the all important Manufacturers title.
China had a sense of deja vu about it, Porsche again on pole and the weather on race day again wet, and as in Japan the weather hung around, and worsened, despite forecasting to the contrary!
After just a couple of laps behind the Safety Car the #18 car got away the better of the two 919s.
Within a lap though there was drama as Marc Lieb and Andre Lotterer tangled when the Porsche man gave the team car some racing room. That left the #18 to fight back from the very back of the field as Lotterer tried and failed to get onto terms with Brendon Hartley.
All the weather forecasts had predicted a drying track after an hour, it took WAY longer than that and the race became a tale of when to change rubber and to what.
Audi had to make the braver calls and it almost paid off more than once, a slower drying track than everyone thought though meant that Marcel Fassler simply couldn’t exploit his intermediates vs the Porsche’s full wets sufficiently to close the gap.
Again the Porsches seemed to hold at least three of the Aces, and with the delayed #18 back in the mix after a great fightback.
Audi’s move to slicks briefly again looked like it might make an impact but the Porsche squad’s ability to maintain pace on their worn wets, then an inspired tactical move to get the #18 back on track ahead of both of the Audis at the final stop proved the killer punch, Porsche 1,2 and the #17 crew a 12 point advantage in the driver’s standings to take to the season finale at Bahrain.
More than that though there was history – Porsche claiming the World Manufacturers Championship with a race to spare.
There was a Championship confirmed too in the Privateer stakes as the #12 Rebellion crew of Mathias Beche and Nico Prost fended off the challenge of their team-mates in the #13 R-One and the improving ByKolles CLM.
Written by Graham Goodwin