Kiwis make it a double triumph
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BRENDON HARTLEY AND RICHIE STANAWAY ON THE PODIUM
There was double Kiwi success in Mexico City at the weekend with factory endurance drivers Brendon Hartley and Richie Stanaway both atop the podium at the fifth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Hartley and teammates Mark Webber (Australia) and Timo Bernhard (Germany) won an eventful inaugural 6 Hours of Mexico, scoring their second victory of the 2016 WEC season and pushing Porsche further ahead in the manufacturers' championship.
In a race where all of the LMP1 Hybrid cars experienced some delays and several heavy showers made conditions challenging, it was the Porsche 919 Hybrid number 1 crew of Hartley, Webber and Bernhard who took the fight to a strong Audi challenge at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
The delays for the number 1 Porsche included a stop-go penalty — issued as a result of Bernhard aborting a planned pit stop at the last moment and crossing the pit entry blend line as he remained on track.
And there was last-gasp drama when Bernhard nosed the leading car off the road with only five minutes remaining. He was able to continue to bring the car home in heavy rain with a margin of 1m 01s over Audi's Andre Lotterer (Germany) and Marcel Fassler (Switzerland).
After 6 Hours of Mexico the top-four LMP1 cars were separated by 90 seconds with the Toyota TS050 of Stephane Sarrazin (France), Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) and Mike Conway (GB) finishing third ahead of the number 2 Porsche of Romain Dumas (France), Marc Lieb (Germany) and Neel Jani (Switzerland).
The result in Mexico moves Porsche further ahead in the manufacturers' championship with 201 points from Audi with 158 and Toyota 112. It's the Porsche squad of Lieb, Jani and Dumas who lead the drivers' standings with 118 points from Kobayashi, Conway and Sarrazin on 77.
Meanwhile Stanaway played a key role in a commanding performance by Aston Martin Racing in the GTE-Pro category.
It was the strongest showing of the season for the Aston Martin Vantage V8 with the Danish duo of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen qualifying on pole position just ahead of Stanaway and British racer Darren Turner.
One of the Aston Martin duo led the GTE-Pro category for the entire race with Stanaway working to the lead during his second stint behind the wheel.
Having built a commanding lead at the three-hour mark, the team could take a lower risk strategy in the fast-changing conditions and lead to the finish. The result leaves Turner leading the GT Drivers' Championship on 86 points.
"I think the turning point was Richie's stint in the wet when he was running on slicks," said Turner.
"That really put us in a great position and broke the back of the race for us. It was a great result for everyone in the team and especially for Dunlop to get their first win in GTE Pro with us.
"This helps hugely with the manufacturer's championship points and I think we can go forward for the rest of the flyaway rounds with the confidence that we're in good shape to take on the title fight."
Turner took the chequered flag 9.4s ahead of the AF Corse Ferrari 488 of Gianmaria Bruni (Italy) and James Calado (GB).
"Luckily when the rain hit we'd given ourselves a buffer and we were able to use that to cope with the changeable conditions," Stanaway said. "Dunlop have made some great ground and the tyre was good all weekend and I'm happy for Aston Martin Racing. It's our first win of the season and I'm glad Darren and I were able to get this result for them."
Teammates Thiim and Sorensen finished third despite requiring bodywork repairs to their V8 Vantage GTE after contacting a wall on the four hour mark.
The result has moved Aston Martin Racing to the lead in the GT Manufacturers' title standings on 179 from Ferrari on 176.
The FIA World Endurance Championship moves to the US with the 6 Hours of the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas on September 17. Stanaway will be replaced for the Texas race by Brazilian Fernando Rees. The Kiwi makes his Aussie Supercars debut the same weekend at the Sandown 500, teamed with Chris Pither for Super Black Racing.