WEC: Podium Finish At Hybrid’s Final Race
Porsche’s LMP1 919 Hybrid bid farewell to the World Endurance Championship in Bahrain, the setting for the final round of the 2017 championship. Earl Bamber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley were crowned world champions two weeks ago, but there was still plenty to play for as the WEC circus headed to the night race at Sakhir. The race marked the end of one of the most successful chapters of Porsche’s motorsport history. Since its debut in 2014 Porsche’s LMP Team clinched three consecutive Le Mans victories and three successive manufacturers’ world championship titles, Porsche drivers won the drivers’ world championship titles three times, accruing 17 wins, seven of them being one-two victories. Furthermore, 20 pole positions and 13 fastest race laps were achieved.
Qualifying for the 919 Hybrid’s final race went well, with Neel Jani, André Lotterer and Nick Tandy starting from pole position in the No1 919 Hybrid. Jani managed to stay ahead of the Toyotas at the start and also at the restart after a safety car period at the end of lap 5. Bernhard in the sister car improved from third to second at the start but on lap three he ran over a bollard that got stuck underneath the car. At the end of lap seven he pitted to get the bollard removed and to change the car’s nose, taking on fuel as well, he lost almost one lap. By lap 19 Jani couldn’t hold off the No8 Toyota anymore, on lap 20 he was also passed by its sister car – the No7 Toyota.
For the No1 Porsche the race ebbed and flowed as it and the No7 Toyota traded places as they each made pit stops for fuel, tyres and driver changes. A decisive moment came on lap 130 with a collision while lapping a slower car caused a front left puncture. Tandy limped to the car back to the pits to have its front end changed, Lotterer jumped in, later serving a stop-and-go penalty for Tandy’s collision. For the sister car, No2, things were progressing slightly better, it improved from P4 to P3 following a collision for the No7 Toyota, causing it to pit for repairs.
The No2 car refuelled for the last time after 177 laps, Bernhard, the driver who completed the initial laps with the very first test chassis of the Porsche 919 Hybrid back in 2013, drove its last racing miles, coming home in second place one lap down on the race winner. Lotterer brought the No1 car home – also one lap down to the leader – in third place for a double Porsche podium. By way of consolation for not winning the final race, Lotterer recorded the fastest race lap.
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal, commented “Over the past four seasons, Toyota has been an incredible competitor, and I congratulate them on today’s victory. Thanks to the whole team here and in Weissach, to our drivers and partners for four sensational years. This definitely was the last race for the 919 Hybrid. We are very proud of the success we were able to achieve with this technology-driven car. Next year we will celebrate these innovations with some very special events. But these details will be unveiled at a later date.”
Echoing the thoughts of his fellow drivers, Timo Bernhard said: “It is the end of great era. I’m honoured having been part of this programme from the very beginning until the last lap. A great crew, great people and great teammates. I will miss them. This programme definitely is the highlight of my career.”
Lietz & Makowiecki Secure Second in Championship
The gap in the GT Drivers World Championship was just two points going into the final race in Bahrain, with Lietz and Makowiecki trailing Calado and Guidi in the Ferrari. But the title aspirations of the pair looked to be a distant dream when the lights went out in Sakhir. The two 911 RSRs struggled for pace in the opening stint of the race, which saw the pair at times running at the back of the GTE-Pro field. Porsche switched tyre strategy as a result, sending title aspirant Kévin Estre in the No91 car back out to redress the balance. He gradually worked his way back up the field, eventually snatching the lead two hours into the night race.
Teammate, Michael Christensen followed Estre on tyre strategy, rejoining the race in third place and subsequently moved up into second. However, after half the distance, an LMP1 Toyota squeezed past the 911 RSR, shunting it into retirement. With 90 minutes left to the flag, Makowiecki sat second behind the leading Ferrari. However, in the last hour of racing, he was unable to maintain this level of performance. Despite his determined efforts to defend his position, he ultimately had to let the second Ferrari and then a Ford by him, meaning his RSR finished the race fourth in the GTE-Pro class. He didn’t, however, relinquish the runner-up spot in the drivers’ classification of the world championship.
Richard Lietz commented: “We did a lot of things right in this first season with the new 911 RSR. Ultimately, we were in a position to fight for the drivers’ world championship. In today’s race, we tried several courageous measures and learned a lot, albeit a little too late. Nevertheless, I take my hat off to the team for being so brave. We were beaten by a very strong opponent. For the 2018/2019 season, we now have to prepare even more intensively in order to fight for victories and the world championship title.”
|1. Nakajima / Buemi / Davidson||Toyota TS050||199 laps|
|2. Bernhard / Bamber / Hartley||919 Hybrid||198 laps|
|3. Jani / Lotterer / Tandy||919 Hybrid||198 laps|
|1. Rigon / Bird||Ferrari 488 GTE||175 laps|
|2. Calado/Pier Guidi||Ferrari 488 GTE||175 laps|
|3. Priaulx / Tincknell||Ford GT||174 laps|
|4. Lietz / Makowiecki||911 RSR||174 laps|
|DNF. Christensen / Estre||911 RSR||DNF|
Final Points Standings:
|1. Bernhard / Hartley / Bamber||919 Hybrid||208 points|
|2. Nakajima / Buemi||Toyota TS050||183 points|
|3. Davidson||Toyota TS050||168 points|
|4. Jani / Lotterer / Tandy||919 Hybrid||129 points|
|1. Porsche||337 points|
|2. Toyota||287 points|
|1. Calado / Guidi||Ferrari 488 GTE||153 points|
|2. Lietz / Makowieck||911 RSR||145 points|
|3. Priaulx / Tincknell||Ford GT||142.5 points|
|11. Estre / Christensen||911 RSR||67 points|
|1. Ferrari||305 points|
|2. Ford||238 points|
|3. Porsche||224 points|