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The no2 Porsche 919 hybrid was the quickest car on track in the first 90-minute free practice session at the Nürburgring ahead of this weekend’s fourth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. 

The session was cut short with three minutes remaining after an incident between Marvin Dienst in the LMGTE Am class leading no77 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche and Julian Canal in the fastest LMP2 class entry, the no31 Vaillante Rebellion Oreca, at turn five. The incident brought out the red flags to end Free Practice to recover the two cars.

24 Hours of Le Mans champion Timo Bernhard set the fastest time of 1m41.612, just two tenths faster than the no8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, with Sebastien Buemi posting a 1m41.816s lap around the 5.3km German circuit.

Ferrrari were the quickest of the four LMGTE manufacturers with the no71 AF Corse Ferrari F488 of Davide Rigon out in front by just 0.1 seconds after the Italian set a 1m57.170 lap compared to the 1m57.307 set by Kevin Estre in the no92 Porsche 911.

Bruno Senna was the quickest driver in the LMP2 category, the Brazilian posting a 1m47.717 in the no31 Vaillante Rebellion Oreca-Gibson, ahead of Ben Hanley in the no26 G-Drive Racing Oreca-Gibson, the Briton setting a 1m48.379 on his WEC debut for the Russian team.

Marco Cairoli continues impressive WEC rookie campaign as he topped LMGTE Am class for Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche with a 1m59.208, just 0.138s ahead of the no54 Spirit of Race Ferrari.

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Next week the teams and drivers competing in the FIA World Endurance Championship will be heading to Germany for the fourth and final race of the European part of the world championship.

Twenty nine cars are due to take part in the 6 Hours of Nürburgring on Sunday 16 July.  After the thrills and spills of the 24 Hours of Le Mans last month, the competitors will return to 6-hour format for the remaining six races of the 2017 season.

Added to the WEC schedule in 2015, the 6 Hours of Nürburgring has attracted thousands of fans from all over Europe who flock to the track in the scenic Eifel mountains to be entertained by the best sportscar drivers in the world.   As well as the non-stop entertainment from the WEC, there are races from the World Series Formula V8 3.5, Eurocup Formula Renault and Porsche Motorsport Race Weekend.

LMP1: Porsche Aim to Make It Three Home Wins in a Row

Porsche arrive in the Nürburgring in the lead of the FIA World Endurance Manufacturers Championship after Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley’s win at Le Mans.  The Stuttgart manufacturer is unbeaten at their home race with Hartley and Bernhard taking the chequered flag in 2015 and 2016 alongside Mark Webber.

However with two victories under their belts at Silverstone and Spa, Toyota will be looking to re-balance the points in its favour once again.  While the line up in the no8 TS050 is unchanged, Argentinian José Mariá López re-joins Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi in the no7 Toyota, while the No.4 ByKolles Racing entry will feature Marco Bonanomi once again alongside Oliver Webb and Dominik Kraihamer.

LMGTE Pro:  Ad-Vantage Aston Martin?

Darren Turner, Jonny Adam and Daniel Serra travel to the Nürburgring looking to profit from their incredible last-lap victory at Le Mans in the no97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage.  The British team will be looking to decrease the gap to GT Championship leaders Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell in the no67 Ford GT who finished just 93-seconds behind them after the gruelling 24 hour race at La Sarthe.

Sam Bird is missing from the no71 AF Corse Ferrari and Davide Rigon will be partnered with 2014 FIA WEC GT Driver’s Champion Toni Vilander who brings plenty of experience of both the F488 GTE and the Nürburgring with him.

LMP2: Driver changes up and down the field

While the FIA’s F1, WEC and FE organisers met recently to discuss harmonisation of sporting calendars in the future, unfortunately this year there is a clash which affects several drivers and teams.

Nelson Piquet Jr will be absent from the No.13 Vaillante Rebellion ORECA 07 Gibson and will be replaced by fellow Brazilian Pipo Derani – who finished 2nd in LMGTE Pro at Le Mans.  Nico Prost in the sister No.31 car will be replaced by WEC returnee Filipe Albuquerque, while CEFC Manor TRS Racing welcomes back 2016 WEC competitor Roberto Merhi in the No.24 to replace Jean-Eric Vergne. 

Alex Lynn was not scheduled to take part in this fourth round with the No.26 G-Drive Racing, his seat being taken by Ben Hanley who, together with Roman Rusinov and Pierre Thiriet, will face a challenge for success in Germany as they have to serve a 3-minute stop and go penalty during the race following an incident at Le Mans.

Joining the WEC once again, as it did at the WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, will be the No.34 Tockwith Motorsport Ligier JS P217 Gibson of Nigel Moore and Philip Hanson; this additional entry takes the always competitive and entertaining category to 11.

LMGTE AM: Clearwater Racing Out in Front

Singapore based team Clearwater Racing scored maximum points at Le Mans after Matt Griffin, Keita Sawa and Weng Sun Mok brought the strikingly coloured Ferrari 488 to the chequered flag ahead of their WEC rivals.  The team arrive in Germany with a 14 point advantage in the teams title race and 6 points in the drivers category over Spa-Francorchamps winners in the no98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage.

Of the five German drivers in the race, two are racing in the No.77 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR; both Christian Ried and Marvin Dienst – together with young Italian Porsche junior driver Matteo Cairoli - will be hoping for another strong performance to delight their home crowd and close the gap in the points.

The final change see Spain’s Miguel Molina returning to the No.54 Spirit of Race Ferrari alongside Thomas Flohr and Francesco Castellacci. 

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Thursday at a FIA WEC weekend at the Nürburgring consists of technical checks, administration checks and an opportunity for the drivers to walk the 5.1km before track action gets underway on Friday with two 90-minute Free Practice sessions.

The 2017 6 Hours of Nurburgring is the third edition of the German race after the event was added to the schedule in 2015.  Porsche are unbeaten on their home circuit and travel to the Nurburgring on the back of a hard fought win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.  However Toyota have won the first two races of the season and the Cologne based Japanese team will want to close the gap to Porsche in the  FIA World Endurance Manufacturers Championship.

Porsche to Run New 2017 High Downforce Kit

Porsche’s high downforce front bodywork was spotted today at the Nurburgring.  This weekend will be the first time that the German manufacturer will have run the second permitted bodywork option after running the low downforce Le Mans kit at Silverstone and Spa. The new kit features smaller lighting units and different dive planes.

Rookie Serra Still Learning the WEC

Brazil’s Daniel Serra will not change his approach to his debut FIA World Endurance Championship season, in spite of his victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans for Aston Martin alongside Darren Turner and Jonny Adam.

 “For me it’s a learning season as I never did a FIA WEC race before and I’d never been to any of the tracks that the series goes to – it is all completely new,” said the 33-year-old Serra. “Le Mans is the race that every driver wants to win and to win as a rookie was great. But since our first test, my target is to help the team to achieve their objectives and I’m happy that it’s working. Everything else is just an added bonus.”

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The 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans ended with drama and excitement all the way to the chequered flag.  The no2 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Earl Bamber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard fought back from 54th place after the front axle had to be replaced early in the race. 

The no1 Porsche was leading the race with 3 hours and 45 minutes remaining when the car dramatically slowed and stopped on track. Andre Lotterer was forced to abandon the car and the LMP2 class no38 Jackie Chan DC Racing was leading the 24 Hours of Le Mans overall.

However the crew of the no2 Porsche never gave and pushed hard.  With just over an hour remaining on the clock they passed the leading car to take the lead in one of the most dramatic comebacks in the history of Le Mans. In his role as Grand Marshal, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard’s former teammate and fellow FIA World Champion Mark Webber presented the team with their trophies on the podium.

The no8 Toyota Gazoo Racing was the only other LMP1 class car to take the chequered flag, Sebastien Buemi  finshing in 9th overall after the front motor had to be replaced during the night and dropping the car too far down to get onto the overall podium. Buemi crossed the line 9 laps behind the lead Porsche.  The Swiss driver had the consolation of setting the fastest lap of the race with a 3m18.604 but still short of the official lap record of 3m17.475.

It was drama all the way in the LMGTE Pro category as the race was decided on the final lap of the race. 

The no63 Chevrolet Corvette of Jordan Taylor was leading by less than two seconds from Jonny Adam in the no63 Aston Martin Racing.  Taylor was struggling with grip and had gone off the track at the second chicane, skidding across the gravel trap but he managed to maintain his lead as he collected it up. Adam pressed the American and as they came across the line the Aston Martin hit the front as they began their final lap.

At the chequered flag it was the no97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage that crossed the line with the no67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GT of Harry Tincknell, Andy Priaulx and Pipo Derani in second place, with Taylor bringing the Corvette home in third place.  The podium belonged to Aston Martin as Jonny Adam, Darren Turner and Daniel Serra celebrated in true motor sport style.

Two LMP2 class competitors stood on the overall podium at Le Mans with the no38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca07-Gibson of Ho Pin Tung, Oliver Jarvis and Thomas Laurent taking second overall and first in LMP2 ahead of the no13 Vaillant Rebellion crew of Nelson Piquet Jr, David Heinemeier-Hansson and Mathias Beche finishing in second place two laps behind the lead LMP2 car. 

It was a double podium for the Jackie Chan DC Racing as the no37 crew of Alex Brundle, David Cheng and Tristan Gommendy finished fourth overall and third in LMP2 three laps behind their teammates.

The LMGTE Am finished as a 1-2-3 for Ferrari with the no84 JMW Motorsport F488 of Dries Vanthoor, Rob Smith and Will Stevens took the win 1 lap ahead of the  no55 Spirit of Race Ferrari of Marco Cioci, Duncan Cameron and Aaron Scott.  The win for JMW Motorsport was extremely sweet as this was the first run for the team’s new F488 on the back of winning the European Le Mans Series race at Monza last month in the old Ferrari 458 Italia.  The no62 Scuderia Corsa F488 took the final podium place on the LMGTE Podium.

Round 4 of the FIA World Endurance Championship will be in Germany at the Nurburgring on Sunday 16th July.