Porsche's Games Pay Off
Autosport|January 04,2018

Two manufacturers were left to fight it out after Audi’s withdrawal from the WEC. Toyota topped more phases of the year than Porsche,but the German marque took all the glory.

Gary Watkins ​​​​​​​

There were four distinct phases to the 2017 World Endurance Championship, and Toyota had the advantage in three of them. Yet it was Porsche that collected all the big prizes on offer. It claimed the drivers’ title with Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber, and the manufacturers’ crown, as well as Le Mans 24 Hours glory with the same trio. And it was that win in France that provided the foundation to its successful pursuit of the end-of-season silverware.

Porsche won a topsy-turvy Le Mans in which all five of the factory LMP1 prototypes hit problems. It then followed up on its 19th victory in the 24 Hours with a short burst of dominance (phase three) after the arrival of the high downforce version of the 919 Hybrid. Only for the three races after Le Mans was Porsche in the ascendant, but its dominance at the Nurburgring, Mexico City and Austin was enough to put the titles all but out of reach for Toyota, now its only rival in the wake of Audi’s withdrawal from LMP1 at the end of 2016.

For the rest of the year, Le Mans included, the latest version of Toyota’s TS050 HYBRID had the edge. The Japanese manufacturer started the season with back-to-back victories at Silverstone and Spa (phase one) for Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima, and completed an end-of-season hat-trick at Fuji, Shanghai and Bahrain (phase four) with the same trio to outscore Porsche five-four in race victories over the course of the season. But it wasn’t enough to prevent Porsche taking a clean sweep of the all-important trophies.

Toyota was comprehensively outscored by Porsche at Le Mans, the one-race (but incredibly important, given the double points on offer) second phase of the championship. Buemi, Davidson and Nakajima took 16 points as the sixth-placed WEC-registered car, and Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Stephane Sarrazin in the other TS050 claimed a single point courtesy of the Japanese driver’s scintillating pole lap. Porsche racked up 50 points for the win.

Once it became obvious that the high-downforce 919 Hybrid had an edge, Toyota’s chances of taking either championship rapidly faded.Porsche extended its advantage during its post-Le Mans purple patch to such an extent that it was able to seal both titles at Shanghai with a race to go, even though Toyota started winning again.

These distinct phases were a result of the way the two manufacturers went about developing their cars under new regulations that limited the factory LMP1 teams to just two aerodynamic configurations. That really meant one spec of bodywork for Le Mans and one for the rest of the season. Only Porsche chose not to bring out what might be termed its ‘sprint car’ until after Le Mans, preferring to leave its design in the wind tunnel.

It started the season with one hand effectively tied behind its back, particularly around Silverstone’s ultrafast corners. But Porsche’s hierarchy reckoned it was a sacrifice worth making, arguing that it would compromise one or other of its designs if it undertook development in parallel. This was a strategy that had served it well in the past, although the two-specs rule, which came into force at the same time as new aero regulations designed to halt the pace of development, meant Porsche couldn’t rely on its body kit from the end of the previous season in the opening races. But it was clearly a risk worth taking in a year of only two manufacturers in LMP1. The worst its cars were going to finish, given reliable runs, was third and fourth.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM AUTOSPORTView All

Derani Shows Extreme Speed When It Counts

The Brazilian was the hero for the ESM squad as he moved to the front and stretched his late lead with the team’s Onroak-Nissan.

6 mins read
Autosport
March 22,2018

Vergne Masters The Sands Of Time

He was far from the finished Formula E article when he joined the series in 2014, but the Techeetah star drove a defensive masterclass in Uruguay.

8 mins read
Autosport
March 22,2018

The Superstar Racing Junkie

Fernando Alonso’s bid on the Le Mans 24 Hours and WEC with Toyota is about much more than gunning for motorsport’s triple crown. It’s because he’s passionate about racing.

6 mins read
Autosport
March 22,2018

It's Only A Matter Of Time Before It Rises Again

Red Bull won four consecutive world championships in the V8 era but has beena bit-part player since 2014. Can the team deliver on its ambition now?

9 mins read
Autosport
March 22,2018

Why Alonso Fuji date Change had to happen

Why Alonso Fuji date Change had to happen

4 mins read
Autosport
February 15,2018

Under The Skin Of F1 Testing

Pre-season testing is fraught with tension for the Formula 1 teams. Here Gary Anderson explains how they prepare for and carry out the initial running of their new cars – fingers crossed, of course.

9 mins read
Autosport
February 15,2018

Thrown In At The Deep End

Stuart Middleton won a cameo drive in the Daytona 24 Hours with success in the Sunoco Whelen Challenge. It turned into something bigger than anyone expected.

3 mins read
Autosport
February 15,2018

The Big Questions

The latest Formula 1 machines will hit the track in the coming weeks. TV pundit and ex-F1 racer Karun Chandhok tackles the key issues ahead of the new season.

10+ mins read
Autosport
February 15,2018

No Haloes Here: Indycar Aeroscreen Hits Track

No Haloes Here: Indycar Aeroscreen Hits Track

3 mins read
Autosport
February 15,2018

How Do You Run An Old F1 Car?

Some historic racers employ big teams to run their cars, but it is possible for smaller operations to compete in F1 machinery, as Rod Jolley shows.

6 mins read
Autosport
February 15,2018
RELATED STORIES

How Toyota Dodged The Chip Shortage

As rivals shutter plants, the automaker’s close monitoring of its supply chain gives it an edge

5 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
April 12, 2021

2021 SUV OF THE YEAR

Enter the battleground

10+ mins read
Four Wheeler
May 2021

Auto chip shortage may have domino effect in smartphone industry

Auto industry leaders are experiencing disruptions, with estimated production shortfalls in single-digit percentage range in the first quarter of 2021.

1 min read
Industry Leaders
March 2021

Porsche Design Acer Book RS: This stylish, blazingly fast laptop lives up to its name

The detachable display and 360-degree hinge of the original Porsche Design Book One are gone, now replaced by sheer speed.

10+ mins read
PCWorld
March 2021

CHASING SQUIRRELS

“ There is a hole here,” I said, gazing through the lime green tubing as the front passenger tire inched closer to the hole. “Uh-huh,” he replied.

6 mins read
4LOW Offroad Magazine
February/March 2021

BEST OF TIMES, WORST OF TIMES

THAT CRAZY YEAR IN WHICH A SMALLER FIELD MADE THINGS HARDER

10+ mins read
Motor Trend
March 2021

The Top 5: If you're building a 4x4, then these should be the first items on your list

I was listening to my buddies Verne Simons and Trent McGee on a podcast the other day, and one of the hosts asked them, “What’s the best off-road upgrade you’ve made to a 4x4?” I won’t divulge their answers because, in my opinionated opinion, only one of them answered correctly.

2 mins read
Four Wheeler
March 2021

4 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4

I could be blindfolded and tell you I was driving a Porsche

3 mins read
Motor Trend
March 2021

7 Porsche Cayenne Turbo Coupe

Forget physics, Porsche’s uber-SUV is right at home at Best Driver’s Car

3 mins read
Motor Trend
March 2021

5 Chevrolet Corvette Z51

The new mid-engine layout places Chevy in exotic car territory

3 mins read
Motor Trend
March 2021