Porsche pilots face catch-up race in title fight
In the qualifying for the six-hour race in Bahrain – the season finale of the Sports Car World Endurance Championship WEC – Richard Lietz and Frédéric Makowiecki clocked the sixth fastest time in the strongly represented GTE-Pro class. Neel Jani and Nick Tandy have achieved the Porsche 919 Hybrid’s 20th pole position in what was the Le Mans Prototype’s last qualifying.
However, with a pursuit race at the wheel of their Porsche 911 RSR (#91), which Porsche Motorsport in Weissach developed from scratch for this season, the pair could still win the drivers’ classification on Saturday. The safest way to take home the title is to win on the 5.407-kilometre Grand Prix circuit southwest of Manama, the capital of the Kingdom on the Persian Gulf. They can also claim the crown with second or third place, provided they finish in front of their title contenders from Ferrari and Ford. In the second (#92) 911 RSR fielded by the Porsche GT Team, Michael Christensen (Denmark) and Kévin Estre (France) occupied seventh place.
Quotes after qualifying
Marco Ujhasi, Director GT Factory Motorsports: “This is certainly not an ideal starting position for the race. With our number 91 contender, we focused entirely on the race during qualifying and we only used one set of tyres. I hope that pays off for us. It hasn’t been an easy weekend so far, but I believe that we’ll definitely be closer to the fastest competitors over the distance compared to the qualifying session. Our plan for the race is clear: full-on attack.”
Richard Lietz (911 RSR #91): “This, of course, isn’t what we’d hoped for. I still regard this qualifying in a positive light, because we now have a well set-up 911 RSR for the race. Prior to the qualifying we made a few changes to the setup, which had a positive effect.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (911 RSR #91): “The team set up the 911 RSR well for this qualifying. We had minor problems in free practice, but our car was never as good in qualifying as it was today. Richard turned a great lap on used tyres and this makes us confident that we’ll be consistently fast over the distance.”
Michael Christensen (911 RSR #92): “This qualifying didn’t go as well as we’d anticipated. Our car is good, but obviously not fast enough over a lap. However, we face a long race tomorrow and a lot can happen.”
Kévin Estre (911 RSR #92): “My warm-up lap was good, but I made two small mistakes so that I had to abandon my fast lap. This circuit is very tough on the tyres. The second fast lap was flawless but it wasn’t good enough to qualify further up the field.”
The 911 RSR
1. Rigon/Bird (I/GB), Ferrari 488 GTE, 1:56.033 minutes
2. Turner/Adam (GB/GB), Aston Martin, + 0.339 seconds
3. Priaulx/Tincknell (GB/GB), Ford GT, + 0.430
4. Calado/Pier Guidi (I/I), Ferrari 488 GTE, + 0.848
5. Thiim/Soerensen (DK/DK), Aston Martin, + 0.986
6. Lietz/Makowiecki (A/F), Porsche 911 RSR, + 1.483
7. Christensen/Estre (DK/F), Porsche 911 RSR, + 1.489
8. Mücke/Pla (D/F), Ford GT, + 1.551
1. Dalla Lana/Lamy/Lauda (CAN/P/A), Aston Martin, 2:00.111 minutes
2. Mok/Sawa/Griffin (MYS/J/IRL), Ferrari 488 GTE, + 0.174 seconds
3. Ried/Cairoli/Dienst (D/I/D), Porsche 911 RSR, + 0.284
4. Flohr/Castellacci/Molina (CH/I/E), Ferrari 488 GTE, + 1.241
5. Barker/Foster/Wainwright (GB/AUS/GB), Porsche 911 RSR, DNS
Neel Jani (CH) and Nick Tandy (GB) have achieved the Porsche 919 Hybrid’s 20th pole position in what was the Le Mans Prototype’s last qualifying. Together with André Lotterer (DE), they will head into the final round of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) on Saturday in Bahrain. Earl Bamber (NZ), Timo Bernhard (DE) and Brendon Hartley (NZ) – the trio that was crowned as new driver world champions two weeks ago in Shanghai – qualified third for the Porsche 919 Hybrid’s farewell race.
In the short 20 minute WEC qualifying session it is the average time of the two fastest laps of two drivers that counts. Jani/Tandy (1:39.383 minutes) and Bernhard/Hartley (1:40.011 minutes) were on duty at the Persian Gulf for the final qualifying. The overall fastest lap was achieved by Jani in 1:39.084 minutes. The 919 Hybrid’s impressive tally since its debut back in 2014 reads: 20 pole positions from 34 races with 13 front row lock-outs. Remarkably in the 2015 season when three manufacturers competed in LMP1, only the 919s made it on to the front row.
In the third free practice session on Friday morning in Bahrain, Timo Bernhard topped the time sheets with a lap of 1:42.438 minutes when he was doing a qualifying simulation on used tyres. The sister car, in the hands of Neel Jani and Nick Tandy was second fastest. The respective third drivers of each car, Earl Bamber and André Lotterer, didn’t drive today.
The six-hour race into the Arabian night will start at 16:00 hrs local time on Saturday. Stable ambient conditions of around 25 degrees Celsius are expected to continue.
Quotes after qualifying
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1: “Achieving a 20th pole-position in our 34th race is simply amazing. I’m overwhelmed just how perfect the team is preparing for the last race with the highest rate of concentration and motivation, despite the fact that we have secured both world championship titles already in Shanghai. Due to the predicted high temperatures for tomorrow, we still have the possibility to finish the last WEC round at the end of our fourth season successfully. Thanks to everybody, I’m very much looking forward to the race.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: “Congratulations to the number 1 car crew for pole position. Given how free practice went, we didn’t really expect to be on pole. But Neel got the hammer down on his lap. Everything was spot on and then Nick also managed to improve. For four years we have never had to retire a car in qualifying and achieved really good results. That’s quite a strong team effort. Today we are really pleased with pole position but tomorrow we expect a tough race. The Toyotas were really strong on their long runs. We will fight until the 919 Hybrid’s very last lap.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid car number 1:
Neel Jani (33, Switzerland): “I thought to myself, this is the last ever qualifying session for the 919 Hybrid and I have to use everything I’ve learned over the past four years . . . and obviously this was successful. I’m mega happy that we got pole-position here. Nick’s lap in his second attempt was good too. I’ve taken quite a lot of poles with the 919, like the very first one together with Marc Lieb at Spa in 2014 and now the very last one. So far this part of the 919’s story is full circle for me. But tomorrow we want to bring the last win home as well!”
Nick Tandy (33, Great Britain): “To claim pole position for the 919’s final race is fantastic and great for the Porsche team’s morale. We put everything in to the qualifying session. We did one more run than we’d planned but it was necessary and was ultimately a good strategy. It’s a super feeling being on pole!”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid car number 2
Timo Bernhard (36, Germany): “A tough qualifying. The balance was different to what we had in Free Practice and not 100% perfect. P3 seemed to be the maximum we could achieve today. But congratulations to our ‘sister’ car, it was an awesome lap from Neel. Now we look forward to the race – the battle is on.”
Brendon Hartley (28, New Zealand): “We started quite well and I was half a second up on the ‘sister’ car despite the balance being completely wrong on my first lap. After Timo’s run, we decided to save our tyres for the race. It should be a good fight tomorrow.”
TV and live streaming
The official WEC App can be downloaded free of charge with an extended (not free of charge) version available which includes full live streaming and full timing. The live stream is voiced by the FIA WEC TV team including live interviews from the pits.
The WEC races can be followed on various international TV channels in Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, North and South America as well as in the Middle East and Africa. Here is the full TV distribution list.
Social media campaign for the farewell: #919tribute
The nicest farewell wishes from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter that use the hashtag #919tribute will be published on the official Porsche homepage http://porsche.com/919tribute and in the LED strip light at the Porsche Museum in Zuffenhausen.