Another year, another sweep of the WEC LMP1 World Championships for Porsche LMP Team. After six hours of hard-fought racing in China, the drivers and manufacturers title races in LMP1 are over, with the No. 2 crew of Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber (pictured left to right, above) headlining the achievement, winning it all for the German brand with a second-place finish in Shanghai.
The past few years have been remarkable for Porsche and its 919 Hybrid, winning six WEC titles and three Le Mans 24 Hours on the bounce since 2015 against strong competition from Toyota Gazoo Racing and until this year, Audi Sport.
For Hartley and Bernhard, this is their second drivers title, after winning it with Mark Webber back in 2015. The duo has been involved in the Porsche LMP1 effort since its inaugural season in 2014, winning 12 races along the way, and now, another world championship. It leaves them with one more race in LMP1 machinery in Bahrain, with the pressure off.
“Congrats to the No. 8 Toyota crew, they deserved the win today,” Hartley said. “But for the titles, it hasn’t sunk in yet. It’s been quite a busy few weeks for me! To share a second world championship with Timo and a first with Earl, who I grew up racing with and grew up on a farm with, makes this an incredible story. It’s amazing to finish it here and be world champions again.
“Big thanks to Porsche too, they really stepped up after Le Mans. We had really strong results.”
“It’s an honor to go racing with these two gents, and Porsche, competing in the highest level of motorsport in my career,” added Bernhard, who was one of the two original Porsche LMP1 drivers chosen for the program, the other being 2016 WEC world champion Romain Dumas.
“It’s been an incredible season. This is the maximum we could have achieved. After Le Mans, we turned the car’s pace around. It was amazing. Today P2 was the maximum we could do, but that doesn’t mean we won’t strike back for Bahrain.
“It will be emotional, because the program will come to an end, and with all those emotions it will be an amazing and sad event. I’ve spent five years on this program. Having clinched the titles early is a relief; now we can enjoy the final race.”
For Bamber, this is a particularly special occasion: His first world championship was earned in a season which saw him and his teammates win the Le Mans 24 Hours, and the three further races in a row to create an insurmountable lead in the standings.
“It’s fantastic to be driver’s world champion, and to help clinch Porsche manufacturer’s honors here in Shanghai!” he said. “It’s been a fantastic season, I couldn’t wish for anyone else in the car, TB and Brendon have been fantastic all year. Everyone has worked so hard, especially everyone back at the factory who helped us take control after bringing in the high-downforce package during the season. It was a turning point for us pace-wise. To do it in Shanghai, where I started racing with Porsche in Carrera Cup Asia, is special.
“It was difficult in the race today, made tougher due to the set of tires I destroyed in qualifying. We managed to do the whole race on three sets of tires. We just had to stay clean, because we didn’t have the pure pace.
“We’re going to push hard in Bahrain as we don’t want Toyota to finish with more victories than us this year.”
Also jubilant after the race was Andreas Seidl, head of Porsche’s LMP1 program, who explained that winning the titles a race early has come as a relief for those involved.
“Congratulations to Toyota for a stunning performance today, but congratulations to the three gentlemen who won the drivers championship. It’s been a huge relief today, not just for me, but for the entire team, to get it done one race before the end.
“It wasn’t easy for everyone to stay focused since the announcement was made that we’d be stopping at the end of the year. I’m really happy with what we achieved today – a big thank you to those at home in Weissach, they did sensational work again this year, we made such a big turn after Le Mans.
“A big thanks to the race team here too, delivering with the pressure around them. And also, our six drivers this year have been a great team – there’s been stunning performances, they haven’t made any mistakes.”