WEC: Sao Paulo race review

The 2014 6 Hours Of Sao Paulo saw Neel Jani, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb taking the Porsche #14 to victory, securing Porsche’s first victory since it’s return to the pinnacle of World Championship Sportscar racing at the start of the 2014 FIA WEC season. The race was also unfortunately the site of a major accident between Mark Webber (Porsche #20 LMP1) and Matteo Cressoni (Ferrari 458 Italia GTE AM #90 8 Star motorsports) in the closing stages, which led to the race ending under safety car.

I hope both are well and recover quickly. The latest official statement available from the FIA WEC is “Both drivers were taken to the circuit’s Medical Centre and, after initial examination, to the local Hospital Bandeirantes for further checks but their condition has been reported as satisfactory”

The race itself otherwise was a thriller, with intense action throughout the field. Toyota pushed the #14 Porsche incredibly hard, the championship winning #8 Toyota finishing just 14.8 seconds behind Porsche, when the safety car was deployed, with mere seconds between them for the majority of the race. Toyota’s race overall was strong, unfortunately the #7 car received a penalty for contact which removed it somewhat from the equation late in the race.

Audi meanwhile rounded off the podium with the #1 car driven by Tom Kristensen, Loic Duval and Lucas Di Grassi, giving Tom his final podium in his last ever WEC race, to bring to an end a glorious career. Farewell Tom.

Audi in Brazil had a much more competitive car than we have seen from them throughout much of the season, particularly the last few races. The deficit in terms of top line speed was far less apparent here, combined with the turbocharged unit, and the characteristics of the circuit, even at one point challenging both Toyota and Porsche for victory. It wasn’t all plain sailing for Audi Sport Team Joest, The #2 car off the start had an issue, which lost the car power, and pushed it back into the field. The car would eventually recover to finish fifth, however the overwhelming story from Audi Sport this weekend was Kristensen’s last race, as well as that of race engineer, Howden ‘H’ Haynes.

In terms of LMP2, KCMG would come home first in class, despite a few incidents. The championship meanwhile, was still on the line and in the cruellest of ways, did not go the way of G-drive racing Ligier JS-P2 who had hoped to secure the championship in Brazil.

Olivier Pla unfortunately had brake failure early in the race, which resulted in the car hitting the tech pro barrier hard on the entry to turn 1, ending any chance of repairing the car. It must be said that Olivier Pla is also ok this evening.

This left championship rivals SMP racing to go for the championship; the Oreca O3R’s having a less than ideal race. The #37 car having punctures and mechanical failures, whilst it’s championship challenging sister #27 had punctures but was able to ultimately get home to claim the LMP2 teams championship and drivers championship.

GT wise, Ferrari claim the manufacturers title, whilst Aston Martin would go home at the end of the season with both a class win in GTE Pro and GTE Am today. It wasn’t an easy race for any of the GT runners with multiple spins and collisions, including two of the Aston Martin’s getting together at one point. In GTE Am, Emerson Fittipaldi return wasn’t without fault, the car grinding to a halt twice whilst ‘Emmo’ was at the wheel, the car eventually ending up coming home last of the classified runners.

Overall, despite the highly unfortunate way, in which the race concluded, the 2014 FIA WEC Six Hours of Sao Paulo was a great motor race, with action throughout and in my honest opinion, non-withstanding Le Mans, arguably the best FIA WEC race from a pure racing point of view, this season. Three LMP1 manufacturers fighting today up front, tooth and nail for that victory was something to behold.

Overall the season has produced strong racing and an improved popularity of the FIA WEC, evident by crowd sizes at circuits in the majority of countries, the series has visited. We aren’t talking F1 numbers, but for the niche area that Sportscar racing sits within, it is highly positive. The series has improvements to make, like every series does, however large amounts of optimism and excitement exists, around the series particularly with Nissan joining, and the number of factory cars planned for Le Mans next season.

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