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FIA-WEC At The Crossroads

Can Porsche continue their Le Mans success? [Photo by Porsche Motorsport]

Can Porsche continue their Le Mans success? [Photo by Porsche Motorsport]

By Eddie LePine

Well, it’s four races done and five to go in the FIA-WEC series this season.

Porsche pilots Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber sit atop the LMP1H driver’s championship points, with a healthy points lead (108-78) over Toyota drivers Anthony Davidson, Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi.

Can Toyota recover from Le Mans?  [Photo by Toyota Motorsport GmbH]

Can Toyota recover from Le Mans? [Photo by Toyota Motorsport GmbH]

In the manufacturer’s championship, Porsche holds a nice lead over Toyota as well, thanks to their come from behind win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Next up is Mexico, which will be followed by the US round of the championship at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin and then the FIA-WEC travels to Fuji in Japan, then Shanghai in China before finally finishing the season in Bahrain.

The season began with back-to-back victories for Toyota at Silverstone and Spa, but Porsche bounced back with wins at Le Mans and the Nurburgring.

The Le Mans loss for Toyota was especially painful, as they came so close to victory at last year’s race, falling just a single lap short of the prize. This year their race was just as eventful, with all three Toyota entries falling by the wayside and out of contention. Porsche was not without their troubles as well, and a P2 car nearly won Le Mans overall, but Porsche was able to soldier on and finally take the overall victory before time expired.

Of course, since then there has been quite a bit of drama in the FIA-WEC series, as at the end of July Porsche announced their intention to withdraw from the series at the end of this season, following their sister brand Audi, who departed after last season.

So in addition of having this year’s FIA-WEC season at the mid-point, you could accurately say they are at a crossroads as well.

Porsche’s withdraw will leave the FIA-WEC with only one manufacturer in the P1 Hybrid class, Toyota, to go for the 2018 championship and one has to wonder what decision Toyota will make at the end of this year regarding their future. Perhaps another manufacturer is waiting in the wings to challenge them? Unlikely, but time will tell.

In the meantime, there is a lot of racing still ahead in 2017. Obviously, Porsche would like to go out a winner and secure both the driver’s and manufacturer’s world titles, but Toyota has no intention of making that easy for them.

I will be off to Austin to cover the COTA round of the championship and will report on what I find out there regarding the future of this series and what direction it may take going down the road.
In the meantime, see you at the races…

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Eddie has been involved in motorsports for over 30 years as photographer, columnist, and driver. Eddie also is now a retired racer (well, retired unless a good ride pops up).