Porsche sweeps World Endurance Championship as Audi bows out

Porsche 919 Hybrid
As rival and fellow Volkswagen Group property Audi bows out, Porsche is celebrating winning both the manufacturers’ and drivers’ titles in the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). This is the second year in a row that Porsche has won both titles.

At the season finale in Bahrain, the drivers of the number 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid — Romain Dumas, Marc Lieb, and Neel Jani (because of the long races, each car gets multiple drivers) — were named drivers’ champions. Their car actually finished sixth, but the competing Toyota drivers failed to finish high enough to secure the championship. Porsche secured the manufacturers’ title at the previous race, in Shanghai.

It was a dramatic end to a dramatic WEC season. The Bahrain race marked the end of Audi’s 18 years in endurance racing, which gave it a tally of 24 Hours of Le Mans wins second only to Porsche. While it failed to win either title this year, Audi did win the final race, with teammates Lucas Di Grassi, Loïc Duval, and Oliver Jarvis finishing second in the drivers’ championship. Audi itself also finished second in the manufacturers’ standings, ahead of Toyota.

Audi announced last month that it will pull out of the WEC and focus on Formula E, a race series for electric cars, instead. The emphasis on electric cars over the diesel hybrids Audi currently races in the WEC makes sense in the context of the ongoing Volkswagen diesel scandal (which Audi is implicated in), and the less impressive performance of the Audi WEC team in recent years. Formula E will likely be used to promote the electric SUV Audi plans to launch in 2018.

The WEC finale wasn’t all good news for Porsche. In addition to losing the last race to Audi, Porsche lost star driver Mark Webber, who is officially retiring from racing. The ex-Formula One driver has been instrumental in Porsche’s recent WEC success. Along with teammates Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley, Webber finished third in Bahrain, and fourth in the drivers’ standings.

The 2016 season was a heartbreaker for Toyota, the third manufacturer competing in the top tier of the WEC. It nearly won Le Mans, only to have victory snatched away by a mechanical failure in the final minutes of the 24-hour race. With Audi gone, the Japanese automaker will only have Porsche to compete with next year, perhaps improving its chances of a championship win.

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