After going 1-2-3 in qualifying, Porsche has held off all challengers after three hours of racing at Spa-Francorchamps.
Porsche held a 25 second advantage over Audi after three hours of racing at the second round of the WEC at Spa-Francorchamps.
The opening moments of the race were packed with incident, as the top eight LMP1 cars jostled for position. Marcel Fassler driving the #7 Audi R18 e-tron quattro briefly broke the Porsche 1-2-3, but soon lost momentum.
Prior to this, Nick Tandy in the #19 Porsche 919 Hybrid tangled with Kevin Estre’s Porsche Team Manthey 911 RSR at the Pif-Paf chicane. While Estre continued, Tandy nudged in to the tyre wall and crawled back to the pits for repairs, losing almost three laps. The third Porsche entry lost further time when it stopped temporarily as it came in to pit lane.
Brendon Hartley led the race in the #17 Porsche 919 Hybrid and opened a gap over the #18 car driven by Marc Lieb. On his final lap before the first pit stop, Hartley overshot the final chicane and elected to take an escape road between the wall and a marshals post. It was a decision that would earn the car a 15-second stop/go penalty for abusing track limits and endangering the marshals.
The #17 Porsche's misery was compounded when Timo Bernhard was forced to undertake a lengthy pit stop after a rear suspension problem. Mark Webber took over from Bernhard but had fallen a lap behind the leading protagonists.
This handed the lead to the #18 Porsche now driven by Romain Dumas, but with Andre Lotterer having taken over from Fassler, the battle was on between the two as the gap ebbed and flowed throughout the second and third hours.
Holding third place was the #8 Audi with Lucas Di Grassi at the wheel after earlier stints from Loic Duval and Oliver Jarvis saw the Audi R18 e-tron quattro battle with the sister #7 car for many laps.
One of the most entertaining battles in the second hour was between the #9 Audi driven by Marco Bonanomi and the #2 Toyota TS 040 HYBRID of Alex Wurz. The experienced Austrian put a sensational move on the young Italian at Eau Rouge, causing the Audi run over the inside kerbs at Raidillion.
There was a fierce battle in LMP2 in the first half of the race between the fast starting Jota Sport Gibson 015S of Harry Tincknell and the pole sitting G-Drive Racing Ligier of Sam Bird. However, the start was deemed to be too good for the Nissan LMP1 works driver, and the Jota entry was penalised and given a drive through penalty for jumping the start.
This started a superb recovery drive from Tincknell who was comfortably the fastest LMP2 on track as he scythed his way through back in to second place before handing over to team mate Mitch Evans.
The Kiwi protégé of Mark Webber then set about pressuring the #26 G-Drive Racing Ligier-Nissan, now in the hands of Julien Canal. He made light work of reducing the gap and put a clinical move on the Frenchman at the final chicane.
Aston leads Ferrari in GTE-Pro
The LMGTE classes were an all-Aston Martin affair with the #99 car leading the #51 AF Corse driven by Gianmaria Bruni in the Pro class.
The #95 Aston Martin, started by Stefan Mucke led early on but pitted early as part of a race strategy to not need a late race splash and dash.
This ensured Rees led before handing over to Richie Stanaway, who set about extending the lead of the #95 Aston, now with Darren Turner aboard.
An intense GTE-Am battle
The LMGTE Am class saw a tense battle throughout the first half of the race.
Pedro Lamy took control in the #98 Aston Martin Vantage V8 opening up a small gap to the chasing pack.
After Lamy handed over the steering wheel to Paul Dalla Lana the complexion of the class changed when the Canadian spun at the final chicane and lost time. This let the SMP Racing Ferrari through in to the lead of the class with Victor Shaytar enjoying a brief period at the front of the field.
After the second set of pit stops the flying #50 Larbre Competition Chevrolet Corvette muscled its way to the front with Kristian Poulsen at the wheel. However, the Dane suffered contact with a G-Drive Ligier and spun off the track at the Paul Frere turn just after the 2hrs 30mins mark and suffered rear-end damage but eventually attempted to make it back to the pits for repairs, only to stop again at Blanchimont.
As the clock ticked to 3 hours the #98 Aston was back in the led with Mathias Lauda in the cockpit.