Analysis: Who should have won in Mexico?

posted in: Analysis, General, Review, WEC-Magazin | 0

So the Six Hours of Mex­i­co has just fin­ished, and I can’t help but keep think­ing about the ifs, buts, could have, should have, would haves of the race. There was plen­ty of them!

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I start­ed the sec­ond half report on WEC-Mag­a­zin by say­ing that there was not a car that did not deserve to win in Mex­i­co. In fair­ness, bar­ing the #5 Toy­ota which retired ear­ly on, all of the LMP1 fin­ish­ers, includ­ing the ill fat­ed #8 Audi can stake a claim to being cheat­ed win­ners.

Lets start with the #6 Toy­ota. An incred­i­ble effort con­sid­er­ing the car was writ­ten off on Thurs­day and missed FP1 and FP2 as a con­se­quence. Dur­ing the rain, just after Lotterer’s lock up Sar­razin was the fastest dri­ver on the track and only a mat­ter of sec­onds off the lead, which got me think­ing. If Mike Con­way did not pick up that dri­ve though for con­tact with the Extreme Speed Ligi­er ear­li­er on, would it be out in front and set­ting the pace? Maybe it would have been a push, but Toy­ota cer­tain­ly sur­prised with their pace, and that penal­ty cer­tain­ly cost them sec­ond place come the end at least. This race how­ev­er prob­a­bly feel less like a loss for Toy­ota though. Com­ing back from such a tough week with a podi­um was a great effort.

Next is the #2 Porsche. Inter­est­ing­ly the Le Mans win­ning trio did not have the same pace they have dis­played before in their 919 Hybrid. How­ev­er they did loose a lot of time when the #36 Alpine stole their rear body work towards the mid way point. Arguably that car could have con­tin­ued, but the rule is the legal­i­ty pan­el must be in place. So though no fault of it’s own, the #2 car effec­tive­ly lost a lap.

19Over in the even­tu­al win­ners camp, I think they got away with a lot dur­ing the 6 hours. Timo Bern­hard was behind the wheel dur­ing both of the ques­tion­able moments for the #1 Porsche. First­ly, it was a slop­py call from who­ev­er decid­ed to bail out of the pit lane. Even if it was the pit walls call to bail out, Bern­hard should have just sat though the pit lane there and then. Yes it would have been a mas­sive set back for mak­ing the wrong call, but in the long run it would have saved the team time, as they picked up a stop and go for their actions in the end.

Sec­ond­ly there was what can only be described as a heart in mouth moment for Bern­hard with five min­utes remain­ing. It was very good car con­trol to keep that car point­ing in a straight line and to get it stopped before the wall, but if that moment hap­pened the tini­est bit faster, Bern­hard would have lost the lead to Lot­ter­er.

Which leads us on to the Bel­gian dri­ver who set a blis­ter­ing pace dur­ing the wet phase of the race. Audi on the whole were far supe­ri­or to Porsche in every way dur­ing the race. They were both tac­ti­cal­ly sound and faster on track than their rivals from Stuttgart, and Lot­ter­er almost pulled a win out the bag for them.

Lotterer set a blistering pace for Audi
Lot­ter­er set a blis­ter­ing pace for Audi

With Lot­ter­er tak­ing around five sec­onds a lap at times out of Porsche’s lead it seemed inevitable he would catch them. This is already after the #7 Audi had been vir­tu­al­ly writ­ten off after it was 1. Unlucky to get a dud set of Miche­lins, and 2. Unlucky for the full course yel­low to fall when it did and for it to have it’s con­se­quences. All this is before you even begin to con­sid­er how much time Audi lost in the traf­fic in rela­tion to Porsche.

Lot­ter­er did make his mis­take though into the sta­di­um sec­tion which real­ly was the final blow. In effect he was very unlucky in rela­tion to what hap­pened to Bern­hard when he had a sim­i­lar moment. Lotterer’s tyres got flat spots, Bern­hards didn’t. This forced Audi to pit the #7 car at a very awk­ward time, which meant they were the only team that need­ed the splash and dash at the end of the race. Had Lot­ter­er have not locked up, or even done it nine or ten laps lat­er, the race may have been a dif­fer­ent sto­ry.

A tip of the hat must go to Audi for their tac­ti­cal risk at the end of the race putting Lot­ter­er on the inter­me­di­ates in one last role of the dice. It showed their true deter­mi­na­tion to try every­thing to win the race. In the end the rain came 10 min­utes too late for it to make the dif­fer­ence. 10 min­utes ear­li­er on the final flur­ry of rain, and maybe I’d be writ­ing about how Audi pulled off a stun­ning come back.

Though all of that though, the major if’s and but’s come from the oth­er side of the Audi garage. They were in that lead bat­tle when the first lot of rain came and made the bold move to go on the slick-inter, rather than the wets like Porsche and Toy­ota did. Had that left front wheel bear­ing not failed, they would have stormed into a com­mand­ing lead with ease.

72But maybe it was real­ly just not meant to be. Lat­er on the same car suf­fered hydraulic fail­ure which put it fur­ther out of con­tention. It is a mys­tery whether or not that would have hap­pened with­out the crash caused by their wheel bear­ing fail­ure, but it was cer­tain­ly the final nail in the cof­fin for the #8 car this week­end. A real shame as they were Porsche’s main chal­lengers in the cham­pi­onship race.

Over­all, I think it was one that got away from Audi. Whether you think it was the #7 or the #8’s race that got away is yours to decide. Which ever way you look at it, it’s all if’s and buts, and frus­trat­ing­ly for Audi, it is what it is. The cer­tain­ty is that Audi will be back with fire in their bel­lies in a fortnight’s time at the Cir­cuit of the Amer­i­c­as.

Images — James Clarke (WEC-Mag­a­zin)