The second-round of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) at the famous Spa-Francorchamps track in Belgium didn’t go according to plan for Mark Webber and his team-mates in the number 1 Porsche 919-Hybrid on Saturday, writes James Beckett.
Fastest in qualifying, Webber and his driving partners Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard were all looking for a strong performance in the race around the Ardennes forest track after the disappointment of retiring from the opening event of the year at Silverstone last month.
Starting from pole, Hartley took the lead as the pack of cars headed towards La Source, and during his opening stint, he managed to pull out a commanding advantage over his nearest rivals.
At the end of the opening stint, the car was taken over by Timo Bernhard, although the lead of the race was gained by the number 5 Toyota. The two manufacturer cars then battled furiously around the track, until a puncture on the Porsche sent Bernhard heading towards the pits.
The damaged tyre caused considerable bodywork damage to the number 1 Porsche 919-Hybrid, and the car had to have its nose replaced before Aston Clinton’s Webber was able to drive it back onto the track.
However, on lap 45, the tyre suffered further problems and damage to the gearbox meant a long stop.
With the unscheduled pit visits, the opportunity for Webber and his team to feature in the race’s major point-scoring positions was over, and at the end of the six hours, the car crossed the line 27th overall and fifth in class .
Webber said afterwards: “The guys did a great job in getting the car back on track after we suffered the problems.
“Again we learnt a lot, but it was a tough day for our car crew. For the team it’s great what car number 2 has achieved despite their problems, and for all of us we now have to work towards the next race which is the Le Mans 24-Hours. That is the big one!”
The race was won by the Audi R18 of Lucas di Grassi, Loic Duval and Olly Jarvis. The Audi finished two laps ahead of the number 2 Porsche 919-Hybrid of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb.
After the opening two rounds of the WEC, the crew of the number 2 Porsche lead the standings with 43 points. Webber’s Porsche are 14th.