The #17 Team Porsche 919 Hybrid (Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley) came into the race with the points lead, having won three straight.
The #98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage (Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana, Matthias Lauda) topped GTE Am qualifying. Toni Vilander and Gianmaria Bruni started on GTE Pro pole in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia, followed by the #71 piloted by teammate Davide Rigon. The #26 G-Drive Racing Ligier-Nissan (Roman Rusinov, Julien Canal, Sam Bird) qualified fastest in LMP2. Porsche locked down the front row in LMP1, the #17 besting the #18 (Neel Jani, Marc Lieb, Romain Dumas). Andre Lotterer started the #7 Audi Sport Team Joest R18 e-tron quattro in third and Oliver Jarvis the #8 sister car in fourth.
The race started behind the safety car due to rain for the second-straight event. The green flag flew at 5 hr 48 min remaining, Lieb passing the #17 for the lead. The #18 car got spun later in the lap, punted by Lotterer as he tried to pass between the two Porsches, and was stranded briefly on track. Hartley returned to the lead with Lotterer in P2 and Jarvis P3. The yellow flag came out with the #47 KCMG Oreca-Nissan piloted by Nick Tandy stranded as well. KCMG fell two laps down, damaging its hopes of retaking the LMP2 points lead from the #26 G-Drive.
Vilander led GTE Pro followed by the #92 Porsche Team Manthey 911 with Frederic Makowiecki behind the wheel and the #91 Porsche driven by Richard Lietz. The safety car came out at 5:43. Bird led LMP2 and Lamy GTE Am.
The #17 pitted from the lead at 4:47, Hartley remaining behind the wheel for second stint. Jarvis ran second and Lotterer third. Hartley’s lead was 10 sec. With 4:34 left Bird led LMP2, Rigon GTE Pro, and Emmanuel Collard (#83 AF Corse Ferrari) GTE Am.
Lotterer was able to stay reasonably close to Hartley’s leading Porsche in the opening hour, but the New Zealander extended his lead until handing over to Timo Bernhard in the third hour. Audi pitted and made driver changes on both its cars when a full course yellow came out and Porsche briefly ran 1-2. When the next caution was called, to recover the Toyota TS040 Hybrid driven by Kaz Nakajima from the Turn 16 gravel trap, Porsche changed drivers.
Bernhard emerged from the pits in third place just behind the #7 Audi, now driven by Benoit Treluyer, with the #8 in the lead, piloted by Lucas Di Grassi. Jani ran fourth in the #18. Di Grassi appeared to allow Treluyer through, allowing the Frenchman to build a small lead as the #8 held off the Porsches.
Jani passed Bernhard and then Di Grassi to take second place, with the Top 4 separated by just 3 sec at one point. Bernhard passed Di Grassi for third. Ten minutes before the end of the third hour, Jani passed Treluyer for the lead.
Bird’s pole sitting #26 led through the first pit stops before Alex Brundle, returning to competition for the first time since the Rolex 24 at Daytona following an extended illness, took a turn at the front in the #29 Pegasus Morgan-Nissan. As the race progressed, Brundle traded the lead back and forth with Pipo Derani in the #28 G-Drive Ligier.
Near the end of Hour 2, however, the #28 was penalized for not respecting the full-course caution. With Brundle pitting at about the same time, Ryan Dalziel emerged in the lead in the #30 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier-Honda. Ho-Pin Tung, who took over from Brundle, ran second, with Gustavo Yacaman third in the #28. The #26 G-Drive was running fifth after Julien Canal completed his stint at the wheel. Bird got back in to the cockpit just as the third hour ended.
The two Porsche 911s were in front of GTE Pro at the halfway point, Michael Christensen in the #91 running ahead of Frederic Makowieci in the #92. The two AF Corse Ferraris were P3 and P5, Vilander in the #51 ahead of James Calado in the #71. The #99 Aston Martin driven by Richie Stanaway was slotted between them.
In GTE Am Lauda (#98 Aston) and Francesco Castellacci (#96 Aston) fought for the lead, with Lauda holding the upperhand at the halfway point. The championship-leading #72 SMP Racing Ferrari ran P5 after both a 30-sec stop and go penalty for pitting during the first three laps of the second safety car period and spinning twice.
Dumas spun in Turn 2 during the final hour, dropping the #18 Porsche behind the Audis. The Frenchman put the hammer down, however, emerging from a final fuel-splash pit stop in P2 and holding off Lotterer for the second step on the podium.
Webber, Bernhard, and Hartley’s fourth consecutive victory extended their title lead. The #18 finished 26 sec back, clinching the 2015 FIA World Endurance Manufacturers’ Championship for Porsche. Its 70-point lead in the manufacturers’ standings over Audi cannot be overcome no matter what happens at the final race at Bahrain.
The #36 Signatech Alpine A450b Nissan squad of Nelson Panciatici, Paul-Loup Chatin, and championship newcomer Tom Dillmann, drove to the team’s first WEC victory, Chatin posting an excellent middle portion to build a one-lap advantage on the #26 G-Drive. The 26’s P2 expanded its lead over KCMG to 16 points, with 26 available to the Bahrain winner.
Ricardo Gonzalez beached the second G-Drive entry in the gravel while running third late in the race, KCMG stepping up to take the final podium position.
The two Team Manthey run Porsche 911s had to fight hard with the two AF Corse Ferraris, Lietz and Christensen taking control in the #91 when it mattered, beating Vilander and Bruni’s #51 Ferrari by 45 sec. The #92 Porsche held off a determined challenge from the #71 Ferrari piloted by Rigon and Calado to take the final podium place and deny the Ferrari duo much needed championship points in the race for the drivers' title.
The #83 AF Corse Ferrari driven by Collard, Rui Aguas, and Francois Perrodo read conditions well and made the right call at the right time regarding tires, Aguas moving past the Aston Martins to challenge for the lead. Even a drive through penalty for a pit stop infringement failed to dent the #83’s drive towards its first victory of the year.
The AF Corse Ferrari finished 41 sec ahead of the #98 Aston and 1 lap ahead of the #72 SMP Racing Ferrari of Victor Shaytar, Alexsey Basov, and Andrea Bertolini. The result shrank the SMP Racing Ferrari’s championship lead to19-points over the AF Corse trio.
CLICK HERE for the Results from Round 7 of the FIA World Endurance Championship
CLICK HERE for the championship positions after Round 7
CLICK HERE for the Race Facts
CLICK HERE to watch the video of the post race press conference