Porsche’s Race in LMP1 –
Porsche finished the 2017 LMP1 season this year by securing all of the available championships, though they technically won fewer races than Toyota did. By winning at Le Mans this year, however, Porsche secured more points than Toyota had, giving them the championship victory from the penultimate race in China. For Bahrain, then, their primary goal was to arrive to the race and win it. Porsche ultimately finished second and third in an emotional and incident-filled 6-hour race. Porsche started from pole, and victory would have put a nice pin in Porsche’s LMP1 program, but instead they’ll have to settle for a double-podium and the championship victory. This was likely a good consolation prize for them.
Porsche Chairman Oliver Blume reflects on the successes of the 919 Hybrid LMP1 program: “No other Porsche team has ever managed three Le Mans outright victories in a row but this squad achieved it. I thank them very much for this. I’m extremely proud of every single team member. They have mastered a mammoth task with hard work, consistency and the right approach. To me this represents the Porsche spirit that our brand stands for spanning almost 70 years. Now the team of Fritz Enzinger and Andreas Seidl face its new challenge: to enter Formula E for season number six at the end of 2019.”
Neel Jani, a driver with the P1 program from day one, started the final race of the #1 car’s career from pole position. For the opening 19 laps Jani stayed out front, but as the green flag period progresses, the Toyotas have the measure of the Porsches on pace, he was passed by the #8 Toyota for the lead, and by the #7 car for second on lap 20. Jani continues for his second stint after a pit for fuel on lap 30 and retains third on the track. At lap 61, Jani hands off driving duties to Nick Tandy. Thanks to a triple stint on tires during his time in the car, Tandy re-takes the lead on pit strategy. Only six laps after taking that lead, however, Tandy collides with the Gulf Racing UK Porsche GTE-Am category car in turn one, which causes a puncture and costs the #1 car its lead and potential for victory. Dejected, Andre Lotterer takes over the car to run it to the finish one lap down from the leader at 199 laps.
In the #2 car, meanwhile, Timo Bernhard started the race and immediately improved from third to second. At lap three, there was a bollard lying on the track from a prior collision, and the car collected it, unbeknownst to its pilot. It goes unnoticed during the subsequent pace car period, but when the race returns to green, Bernhard is forced to pit to remove the debris and change the nose cone. The car continues to run untroubled for the remainder of the race. Cycling through Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley, Timo gets back aboard the car to bring it to its final finish on the podium in second after the other Toyota suffered collision damage and then a penalty for the collision. Timo was the initial development driver for the 919 Hybrid program, so it’s only fitting that he take the car to its last checkered flag.
Quotes after the race
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1: “Today a very successful era comes to an end and this is the right time to say thank you. Foremost I want to thank the Board who had the faith to give me the project, supported me a lot and always gave me the feeling I was the right choice. Personally, I was only convinced about this when we took our first race win in São Paulo back in 2014. Thanks to all our drivers who took every chance and delivered the highest performance. Finally, it was 17 wins in 34 races. Thanks to everybody in the team for their relentless work and euphoria for the project. There was nothing I enjoyed more than seeing the instinct to win in their eyes on race days! Today is also the right time to pay my gratitude to our Team Principal Andreas Seidl: For the last two years, Andreas mastered the dual role of Team Principal and Technical Director in a superior manner with the first 919 that was developed under his guidance winning the world championship. And finally: It is great a company like Porsche exists. If I had to put the six years I’m with Porsche in one sentence it would be: I was allowed to live my dream. Thanks for the project and thanks for the freedom of scope.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: “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. “
Neel Jani, Driver, 919 Hybrid #1 –
“The start was good and at the beginning we could more or less match the pace of the Toyotas. But as soon as we were in traffic, they just had this little bit more than us and over the distance we had to let them go. I really, really enjoyed playing with the boost today and all of the tactics for the last time. I was very aware that we were doing everything for the last time. It has been an amazing journey to be part of such a big project with so many great people.”
Timo Bernhard, Driver, 919 Hybrid #2 –
“I had a good start, got past one Toyota and kept up with Neel. But then unfortunately I picked up that bollard and the extra stop dropped us far behind. That was a real shame. But the race result is secondary today. 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 team mates. I will miss them. This programme definitely is the highlight of my career.”
Porsche’s Race in GTE –
Both GTE Pro entrants from Porsche suffered an abysmal start to the race, at times running at the back of the class. Things turned around for the #91 car, however, as Fred Mako fought his way forward within the class to be sitting in second place, just behind the leading Ferrari, with just 90 minutes left in the race. Unfortunately, as the race continued, his pace waned and he was forced to allow a second Ferrari and one of the Ford GTs ahead of him. The #91 car would ultimately finish second in the WEC championship, a valiant effort. The #92 car also managed to, at one point, run second on the road following the leading Ferrari, as it was around the half-way point of the motor race. Unfortunately for Michael Christensen, who was in the car at the time, a misjudged pass by the second Toyota TS050 LMP1 contender shunted Michael off and into early retirement. A less than good finish for Porsche’s GTE Pro effort, then.
In GTE Am, Dempsey Proton Racing finished in fourth in class, securing second in the GTE Am category points standings. They won two races this season, one at the Nurburgring, and another in Mexico. The team of Matteo Cairoli, Christian Ried, and Marvin Dienst did well in 2017.
Quotes after the race –
Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser, Vice President Motorsport and GT Cars: “We were only narrowly beaten in the debut season of the 911 RSR. Like the last race of the season, all the other races in the GTE-Pro class were extremely competitive. Spectators were treated to truly spectacular racing. Unfortunately, our number 92 car was often hit by competitors. In 2018 we’ll return with the goal of winning the world championship. Congratulations to our Dempsey Proton Racing customer squad for securing second place in the drivers’ classification of the FIA Endurance Trophy.”