The 6 Hours of Bahrain was a nail-biter from the drop of the flag. There was a championship on the line, and Porsche wanted to secure it. They've had a good run this year, and after taking the constructor's championship at the previous round, they were looking to secure the World Endurance Driver's Championship as well for LMP1 drivers Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard, and Brendon Hartley. They had the lead going into the race, but they absolutely had to finish the race, and they had to do whatever they could to prevent the second placed Audi drivers from winning. There was also the question of the GTE-Pro championships that were on the line. How did it all play out?
As you can see from the video above, Porsche "won it all" in Bahrain, putting the cap on a near-perfect season of World Endurance Championship racing. All of the championships that the factory teams were eligible for, they clinched in fabulous fashion. However, it was no walk in the park and it almost didn't happen for the 919. Here's how the weekend went.
Porsche in the LMP1 Category -
The eighth and final WEC round was thrilling from start to finish, especially because of the implications that it had on the championships. Bernhard/Hartley/Webber had started the weekend with a 13-point lead ahead of the Audi trio. Thei #17 car started from pole, making it 8-straight poles for the Porsche team, completely locking out the season. Only half an hour into the race, however, the fates called for a more dramatic running, and the leading Porsche had to come into the pits for engine repairs, putting them on the back foot.
As mentioned, Timo Bernhard started the 17 from pole and flew away to an early lead. But then, on lap 17, he radioed in to report that he'd experience a significant loss of engine power, requiring a detour into the pits. The team's mechanics set about fixing what Porsche calls an "engine actuator problem", taking just under 9-minutes to make repairs and get the car back out about 4 and a half laps down to the leader. Luckily Timo rejoined the race still in the top 10 in the field. Brendon Hartley got in the 919 at lap 79 and set about the tough job of catching up. By the time Webber got in the Porsche to finish out the race, the car was back up in 5th position overall. The actuator problem had persisted, and the car had been running slower laps than the rest of its LMP1-H class compatriots, generally stuck in the 1:49 second range, while the leaders ran 1:44s. There was something clearly wrong with the car, as it cannot deploy hybrid energy properly, making traffic much harder to pass than normal. Mark was called in for another unscheduled pit stop, this time though the car didn't lose any positions, and came out remaining in 5th, as the #8 Audi had to make extensive repairs as well.
In the #18 car, everything seemed to be sunshine and roses by comparison. Romain Dumas started the race from second on the grid, and dutifully followed Timo for the first 9 laps. On lap ten, the #8 Audi overtakes Romain. When the 17 pits for repair, and the 8 pits for fuel, Dumas took over the lead. Swapping drivers for Marc Lieb, the 18 remained leading over the 7 Audi. After a restart from caution, Lieb had a mighty dice with the 7 car for the lead, and ultimately came out on top. Shortly after, the #7 car punctured a tire, suffers a very slow in-lap, and lengthy repairs, dropping them a lap to the 18. Neel Jani got in the car at lap 176 and ran it to the finish.
Interestingly, the #7 Audi was driven by the guys fighting the #17 for the driver's title. If Mark Webber had brought his Porsche home any lower than 7th, or the #7 had passed the #18 for the win, Audi would gone home with the hardware instead of Porsche. While car #17 had suffered some bad luck, they had enough good luck in reserve to keep their Porsche running and bring it home for enough points to be FIA international champions. After more than a dozen years in Formula 1, Webber didn't win a championship. Only two years in the WEC, and he's got one. Good on ya, mate!
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1
“This was no race for the nervous. Because of the issues we had with car number 17, we found ourselves in new situations all the time. You cannot imagine better team-work after the number 18 crew had handed the number 17 crew the title by winning the race. The one hundred per cent qualifying result over the season, winning all the races since Le Mans, is an amazing success. Thanks to Porsche, thanks to the Weissach team and the crew here at the track. I’m terribly proud of the team, which has grown together. It is the greatest pleasure to work with them.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal
“What a race! Congratulations firstly to Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber for their well deserved world championship title. We experienced a very difficult race today. But again we were able to show that we can cope with it. After a perfect season this is the icing on the cake. Thanks to the team here and at home and to all our technical partners and sponsors, who have supported us right from the beginning of this programme and who deserve a big share of this success. From trrow on the new season starts.”
Mark Webber, Driver #17 Porsche 919 Hybrid LMP1
“Today clearly shows the qualities of the team. We have had some very smooth days this year, but we executed the victories with clinical precision. Today was about fighting as hard as possible. You saw the spirit of the mechanics; you saw the spirit of the drivers. I cannot thank the mechanics enough. The pit stops we had in the garage were extremely stressful. It’s amazing that we were able to win the world championship under pressure like this. I am so proud to be world champion with Timo and Brendon and with Porsche. It was 1986 when Derek Bell managed this the last time. It was a massive day for the team!
Marc Lieb, Driver #18 Porsche 919 Hybrid LMP1
“On my first stint the car wasn’t as good as I had hoped it would be. The tyres were on the limit, and I also lost some time on the first laps when the traffic was really heavy. But once I found my rhythm it was all okay, and my second stint was great with the car performing very well. The battle with the Audi was tough but good fun. He was on new tyres, and I was on old ones. That’s why the opportunities were not great, but then my car improved and his got worse, so I was able to pass him and take the lead.”
LMP1 Category Results -
1. Dumas/Jani/Lieb (FR/CH/DE), Porsche 919 Hybrid, 199 laps
2. Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer (CH/DE/FR), Audi R18 e-tron quattro, + 1:25.310 min
3. Wurz/Sarrazin/Conway (AT/FR/GB), Toyota TS040 Hybrid, 3 laps behind
4. Davidson/Buemi/Nakajima (GB/CH/JP), Toyota TS040 Hybrid, 3 laps behind
5. Bernhard/Hartley/Webber (DE/NZ/AU), Porsche 919 Hybrid, 9 laps behind
6. Di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis (BR/FR/GB), Audi R18 e-tron quattro, 11 laps behind
Porsche In The GTE Pro Category -
Continuing the party at Porsche this year, the GTE Pro drivers also took the championship victory, as well as the race victory. Coming into this race, Porsche was actually trailing Ferrari in the manufacturers' championship, but with a victory in Bahrain, they had enough points to overtake them and make it a clean sweep of FIA WEC championships. The Porsche Manthey squad secured the team championship, and Porsche works driver Richard Lietz convincingly defended his title in the FIA World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers. Lietz finished in fifth place in Bahrain with his teammate Michael Christensen from Denmark, and that was enough for the Austrian to secure this honor.
The desert circuit is known to be quite hard on tires, and Porsche chose to use tire strategy to their advantage in Bahrain. Rather than attempting for pole in qualifying, Porsche conserved their tires for use in the race. Patrick Pilet, on fresh tires, started in 5th position and immediately mounted a charge to the front. After one lap, he worked to third place, second after two, and made it into the lead of the GTE Pro class after 11 runs around the circuit. Pilet and teammate Frédéric Makowiecki worked diligently to fend off their rivals' attacks, and made it their mission the whole race to stay at the front. At the flag drop, the #91 car had slowly built up a comfortable lead of almost 40 seconds.
In the sister 911 RSR, Michael Christensen and Richard Lietz, who have notched up victories this season at the Nürburgring, COTA and Shanghai, initially took things a little cautiously. The points lead was theirs to lose, and they wanted to finish the race without any drama in order to secure that teams championship and Richard's driver championship. They initially held back their speed and simply circulated cautiously. As nightfall set in, they turned up the wick a little bit, but still refrained from taking any unneeded risks. At the finish, they were satisfied with fifth place, thus securing Porsche all three GT championship titles.
Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser, Head of Porsche Motorsport
“We fought hard and gave our utmost. And we were rewarded for this with three titles. Richard Lietz is a worthy champion, and the team definitely deserves the title, too. Ultimately, our strong catch-up campaign after Le Mans with four victories tipped the scales for us. We never gave up and we deserved to win. Right to the end, we benefitted from our consistency. Our pit stops were perfect, the drivers didn’t make any mistakes. The WEC is a fantastic arena for an autbile manufacturer. The fight against Ferrari was incredibly gripping – for fans it couldn’t have been better.”
Richard Lietz, Driver Porsche 911 RSR #91
“It wasn’t just a thrilling race, the whole week was full-on. Many thought, because of my points’ lead, I could just coast along and bring home the title. But today was six hours of pressure; a nonstop fight against cars in all classes. After all, championship titles were at stake for many and therefore they didn’t hold back. Our strategy worked. Patrick and Fred went for victory in their 911 RSR, we erred on the side of caution. Porsche did everything right today. I’m proud to be part of this team.”
Frédéric Makowiecki, Driver Porsche 911 RSR #92
“We had to wait for our first win of the season until the very last race. But it was worth it. Before the start, I said to Patrick that on no account did I want to go home without a victory. The year was not easy for us. We took a while to get where we wanted to be. But we fought at all times and therefore deserve this success.”
GTE Pro Category Results -
1. Pilet/Makowiecki (F/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 173 laps
2. Bruni/Vilander (I/SF), Ferrari, 173
3. Turner/Adam (GB/GB), Aston Martin, 173
4. Nygaard/Sörensen/Thiim (DK/DK/DK), Aston Martin, 173
5. Lietz/Christensen (A/DK), Porsche 911 RSR, 172
6. Rigon/Calado (I/GB), Ferrari, 172
7. MacDowall/Rees/Stanaway (GB/BRA/NZ), Aston Martin, 171
Porsche In The GTE Am Category -
While Porsche teams didn't quite make it to the victory in GTE Am, the Proton Racing crew managed to take up two podium spots to finish out the season with a reasonably successful round. The Klaus Bachler/Khaled Al Qubaisi/Marco Mapelli car captured the second position in their Abu Dhabi Proton Racing car. Patrick Dempsey was unable to make the race in Dubai, because he was off filming for his upcoming movie 'Bridget Jones' Baby'. Patrick Long/Christian Ried/Marco Seefried managed to round out the podium in 3rd for Dempsey Proton Racing.
GTE Am Category Results -
1. Dalla Lana/Lamy/Lauda (CDN/P/A), Aston Martin, 170 laps
2. Bachler/Al Qubaisi/Mapelli (A/UAE/I), Porsche 911 RSR, 170
3. Long/Ried/Seefried (USA/D/D), Porsche 911 RSR, 170
4. Perrodo/Collard/Cressoni (F/F/I), Ferrari, 169
5. Bertolini/Shaytar/Basov (I/RUS/RUS), Ferrari, 169
6. Roda/Ruberti/Poulsen (I/I/DK), Chevrolet Corvette, 169
7. Castellacci/Goethe/Hall (I/D/GB), Aston Martin, 168
Championship Standings Results -
1. Bernhard/Hartley/Webber (DE/NZ/AUS), Porsche 166
2. Lotterer/Tréluyer/Fässler (DE/FR/CH), Audi, 161
3. Dumas/Jani/Lieb (FR/CH/DE), Porsche, 138,5
4. Di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis (BR/FR/GB), Audi, 99
5. Davidson/Buemi (GB/CH), Toyota, 79
6. Wurz/Sarrazin/Conway (AT/FR/GB), Toyota, 79
7. Nakajima (JP), Toyota, 75
6. Tandy (GB), Porsche & Oreca, 70,5
7. Bamber/Hülkenberg (NZ/DE), Porsche, 58
1. Porsche, 344
2. Audi, 264
3. Toyota, 164
1. Porsche, 290 points
2. Ferrari, 286
3. Aston Martin, 192
1. Porsche Team Manthey, #91 Porsche, 154 points
2. AF Corse, #51 Ferrari, 149
3. AF Corse, #71 Ferrari, 137
4. Porsche Team Manthey, #92 Porsche, 118
5. Aston Martin Racing, #99 Aston Martin, 100
6. Aston Martin Racing, #95 Aston Martin, 95
1. Richard Lietz, Porsche, 145 points
2. Gianmaria Bruni, Toni Vilander, Ferrari, 131.5
3. Michael Christensen, Porsche, 127
4. Davide Rigon, James Calado, Ferrari, 123
5. Frédéric Makowiecki, Porsche, 118
6. Patrick Pilet, Porsche, 100
In addition to the trio of GTLM championships Porsche won in the United Sports Car series (Driver's, Teams, and Manufacturers), Porsche has now won another five championships here in the World Endurance Championship. You could say they've had a successful year in 2015. Let's hope for continued success in 2016!