Porsche have the best opportunity to date to complete their 2014 Mission with a race win this weekend in Sao Paulo. After the first 3 hours, it is clearly not un-folding into a Group C style Porsche walk over.
The race began in typical WEC style. The cars thunderd into the Senna chicane jostling for Position. Timo Bernhard managed to hold onto the lead and increase is gap through out the stint. Audi had a confusing start after the #2 car slowed on the exit of turn 3 for reasons unknown to the German squad. Sebastian Buemi did a sterling job to split the two Porsche’s by the end of lap one.
G-Drive fell to the back of LMP2 fight through turn one. It looked like a tactical move from the Russian team to keep out of trouble in an attempt to nurse the car to the end of the race right from the start. Pla was clearly not pushing for a move and just trying to save the car. SMP had issues, both cars having right front punctures and the #37 having a steering wheel change as well. Ahead of the Championship fight it was the KCMG that lead the class.
The whole time the #14 was catching the #18 Toyota. On lap 22 Buemi went deep into the first corner and wisping a slight lock up. Lieb searched for a way past the Japanese car but masterful defending by the Swiss World Champion kept the Toyota ahead. The battle continued right up until the pit stops. This also gave the #1 Audi of the local hero, Lucas Di Grassi the opportunity to close up.
The #1 was in turn the first car in to the pit lane in LMP1, 1 lap after the LMP2 leading KCMG. The battle between the #8 and #14 continued into the pit lane line astern. Both cars changing tyres and drivers as well as re-fueling in a straight race. The Toyota gaining ever so slightly, but still all to play for. The leading Porsche pitted on lap 38, one lap later than the second place battle, also taking a full service, Mark Webber taking the wheal.
As the field settled down after the pit stops disaster struck the G-Drive team. The car went straight on after a massive lock up into turn 1, just on the turn of the hour. The car went into the barriers head on at very high speed, slashing all of G-Drives hopes for the LMP2 Drivers Championship and bringing out a full course yellow (FCY). Despite Pla’s best efforts to get the car back to the pit lane it was to be an impossible task. SMP now have the ball in their court to take both the teams and drivers’ titles.
After the FCY had been withdrawn the drama continued for fourth in class in the GTE-PRO catagory, Toni Vilander tagging Darren turner into turn 5 75 minuets into the race. All eyes stayed fixated on GTE-PRO for the lead battle. The #99 car being piloted by Darryl O’young led but with the #71 AF Corse Ferrari trying to snatch the lead from the Aston Martin in a battle as fierce as the Toyota Porsche battle in the first hour. Rigon even tried to get around the outside at turn 5 and 6 but the Aston Martin managed to fend off the Italian effort.
After the stops the for-mentioned Porsche Toyota battle continued to rage on. Neel Jani and Anthony Davidson took control of the Porsche and Toyota’s respectively at the end of the first stint and provided excitement on the same level as the earlier fight between the same two cars. Jani made it through into second place for about 3 seconds at turn one at the 1 and a half hour mark, but Davidson wasted no time getting back past the Porsche. The Porsche tried again with much success to get past the #8 car but the Porsche then slowed on the exit of turn 4, once again allowing the Toyota back through.
In GTE-AM the #95 Aston Martin uncured a penalty after an earlier lock up, while racing against their #98 sister Aston Martin into turn 1. The Dane Train went off the circuit and was deemed to have gained an advantage.
Toyota finally lost the position to the #14 Porsche after the #8 car was turned around by the #75 Prospeed Porsche at the last corner on lap 78. Audi managed to gain out of a pit stop gamble. The decision not to change tyres on the Audi’s meant that with three and three quarter hours to go in the race the #1 Audi is just six seconds behind the all dominant #20 Porsche.
Just before going onto their 100th lap, the #47 KCMG car went off the road at turn 6, making solid contact with the barrier. The damage forced the car to have to vist the pit lane and lost the lead, allowing the #37 SMP Racing ORECA to take the lead in the LMP2 class.
On lap 114, Sebastien Buemi caught up to and passed the #20 Porsche into turn four. The Toyota however relinquished the lead almost immediately as it was time for Buemi to get out the car for Davidson to take over the car.
After the #20 Porsche dropping off the pace ever so slightly it is the #14 Porsche leading the way at the half way stage of the race ahead of the #8 Toyota by 15 seconds. The struggling Porsche is in third place but dropping fast. The #1 Audi is in fourth is closing on the third place car.
In LMP2 the #37 SMP Racing ORECA is leading from the rest of the troubled class. The previous leading KCMG is in second place with the champions elect, #27 SMP ORECA placed third in class.
GTE-PRO is too close to call with the lead battle still raging on. The #92 Porsche leads by half a second too the second placed #99 Aston Martin of home favorite, Fernando Rees. James Calado in in third spot with his Ferrari, making it 3 manufactures in the top 3 positions.
GTE-AM is currently lead by the #98 Aston Martin by a large margin to the Prospeed Porsche in Second spot in class. The #95 Aston has dropped to third in class after it served its penalty for its off track trip earlier in the race.
Images: FIA WEC