Porsche Team targets LMP1 crown in Shanghai

This weekend’s 6 Hours of Shanghai is the penultimate race for the successful Porsche 919 LMP1 hybrids. It will be Porsche’s second-last race in the premier league of endurance racing.

Current championship leaders, Earl Bamber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley have scored 172 championship points while second-placed Toyota drivers, Nakajima and Buemi, are on 133. Should the Toyota (Nak/Buemi and our hero, Ant Davidson) take maximum points in China and score 26 points, the Porsche trio need to finish the race in at least third position for them to clinch the drivers’ world championship title.

In theory, this should not be difficult. There are only four LMP1 cars taking part, so even if the leaders are running last and Toyota is running first and second, Porsche could apply team orders and move the 919 in front of the sister car. But that assumes they reach the finish, and as we all know, nothing is certain in racing.

Brendon Hartley odds-on for F1 drive

Well, that may not be quite true, as it seems Brendon Hartley is 99% certain to clinch the Toro Rosso drive in 2018.  Team boss Franz Tost has been open about Gasly and Hartley as his top picks for next year in press conferences so it’s likely to happen. This is great news for Brendon and a well deserved drive in F1. A final WEC championship title would keep him warm while he battles with the Scuderia’s incoming Honda power unit next year, so we’re all wishing him well with that.

How Hartley might jump from a Toro Rosso drive into the full Red Bull team will also be interesting. Red Bull has Ricciardo and Sainz under contract for the next year or two, and Max is signed up for another three years, so Hartley’s path is not clear cut. Who cares for now: as long as he’s racing in decent cars and on my TV that is all I’m really bothered about. It is clear that Porsche was not getting the sort of spectator engagement in WEC that teams get in F1, so I am still putting money on an F1 entry after the new engine rules are announced.

Porsche wants third WEC crown

“After three consecutive Le Mans overall wins, we also want to get both world championship titles for the third time,” said Fritz Enzinger, Porsche’s LMP chief. “This would be the crown of our LMP1 programme and this is what we are aiming for. At the most recent six-hour race in Japan, we had our first match point but we didn’t succeed. Instead we lost ground to our competitor Toyota. In Shanghai we’ve got our next chance, so staying fully focussed remains our priority.”

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