Kiwi Brendon Hartley wins in Shanghai
Hartley, Webber, Bernhard win again with the driver's title in sight
New Zealander Brendon Hartley is now one step closer to winning a maiden World Endurance Championship (WEC) driver's title for Porsche, after he and co-drivers Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard took victory on a treacherous Shanghai circuit in their Porsche 919 Hybrid.
“I think all three of us today, and the team, made the perfect calls,” said Hartley after the win.
“We kept it on the road — not a scratch on the car. I’m so proud to be part of this project, and to take the constructors title in the second year, [and] completely honoured to be sitting here with the team.”
Photo / Porsche
It is the trio’s fourth WEC win in a row, after topping the podium at the Nürburgring, the Circuit of the Americas, and Fuji in Japan. The victory helped seal the 2015 constructor’s title for Porsche, in only their second year since returning to the category.
The opening segment of the six-hour race was action packed, with several cars involved in incidents in the slippery wet conditions. This included the number 18 Porsche shared by Neel Jani, Marb Lieb, and Romain Dumas — turned around by one of the leading factory Audi R18 e-tron Quattros.
But the 18 Porsche eventually recovered, fighting through the field to take back the lead of the race as half-distance ticked over. However, a determined drive from Germany’s Timo Bernhard through the middle portion of the race saw the Porsche shared by Hartley regain the lead on lap 100, with just over two hours remaining. From there, they would not let the lead go — eventually winning by 26 seconds over the number 18 Porsche.
“It was smooth sailing through the stints. It was quite tricky after the second full-course yellow — a lot of water came down, [and] conditions were on the limit I would say, with a lot of cars going off on cold tyres,” said Hartley.
“It’s just incredible; to come in at this level and have the results they’ve had this year. It’s really hard to produce these types of cars and this type of performance, week in week out,” added Australian teammate and former Formula One ace Mark Webber.
Photo / Porsche
Hartley, Webber, and Bernhard now also hold a 12-point lead in the driver’s standings heading into the final round of the series in Bahrain on November 21. But with 25 points available to the winning car at Bahrain, the driver's championship is still within reach for the second-placed number seven Audi shared between Marcel Fassler, André Lotterer, and Benoît Tréluyer.
“Nothing is sealed yet [in the driver’s championship]. We’ve extended our points lead, which was the goal here for us. But there’s still six hours to race, so everything’s still open,” said Bernhard.
“We’ll keep our heads down and keep working, because it’s one of the top level racing series in the world. You get no gifts around here, so you have to work for it hard — and that’s what we’ll keep on doing.”