Mark Webber and his Porsche team-mates made it three wins in a row to take the world endurance championship lead at Fuji but only after team orders allowed them to inherit the win from the sister car.
The decision was inevitable given that they are in a straight fight with the Audi of Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer, who are now behind in the drivers’ title standings for the first time this season, by a single point.
At the end of the six hours it was the No18 Porsche of Neel Jani, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb who had largely led the second half of the race and had half a minute on the No17 sister car but, with eight minutes to go they slowed to let the No17 pass and take maximum points. Audi also switched their cars to ensure the championship-contender No7 took third place.
Porsche had locked out the front row again after dominating the season since the Le Mans 24 Hours, which the team won in June. However, after starting behind the safety car which remained on track for 40 minutes due to heavy rain, it was, as expected, the Audis who enjoyed the better running in the wet, with Fässler taking an early lead.
With the track drying the leading Audi was chased down by Dumas in the third hour, with the Porsche’s power advantage in better conditions once again to the fore, an advantage further compounded when Audi took a chance and put slicks on too early, necessitating a further stop to switch back to inters.
An early error by Webber, going off on the first hot lap after the safety car came in, had given the advantage to the sister car from the off and having retaken the lead, the No18 squad made the most of it, retaining a strong advantage even after a drive-through for passing under a yellow flag.
The win was undoubtedly theirs but the championship battle is of more importance, with team orders perfectly legal in the WEC. Webber and his team-mates are in their debt and, with only two races remaining and a point in it, Audi must expect Porsche to maximise their dominant position in this way again.
The Audi No8 of Lucas di Grassi, Loïc Duval and Oliver Jarvis finished in fourth, with the two Toyotas in fifth and sixth. The actor Patrick Dempsey, who competes in the GTE-Am class, took his first WEC class win, running in a 911 Porsche RSR for the Proton Porsche team. Sam Bird, Julien Canal and Roman Rusinov took the win for G-Drive in LMP2, with the AF Corse Ferrari of Toni Vilander and Gianmaria Bruni won in GTE Pro.
This article was written by Giles Richards, for theguardian.com on Sunday 11th October 2015 18.47 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010