Works driver Kévin Estre has planted the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR on pole position in qualifying for the six-hour race in Bahrain.
In the close hunt for top times, the Frenchman only just outpaced his Italian brand colleague Gianmaria Bruni in the identical nine-eleven with the starting number 91. For Kévin Estre and Neel Jani, who currently rank second in the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC, this is the fourth pole position from the fifth and penultimate race of the season. In the GTE-Am class, the best 911 RSR takes up the race from third place.
“The result looks good. Considering the narrow gap, it’s clear that both drivers turned strong laps,” said Alexander Stehlig, Head of Operations FIA WEC. “We did a good job in the free practice sessions. In hot conditions, we managed to get the tyres within the operating window – over long distances and a flying lap. First and second are ideal starting positions. We have to try everything in the race to hold on to these positions until the flag. That would improve our ranking in the championship considerably.” Thanks to their pole position, Estre/Jani have slashed the gap in the drivers’ standings to eleven points. In the manufacturers’ classification, 15 points separate Porsche from the lead.
Conditions were tricky in the ten-minute qualifying on Friday evening on the Bahrain International Circuit. Due to the very abrasive asphalt and high temperatures of over 30-degrees Celsius in the desert, the Michelin tyres on all GTE-Pro cars only allowed optimal grip for a single flying lap. About 90 seconds after the session started, Estre was the first GTE-Pro driver to head out onto the 5.412-kilometre racetrack. His works driver teammate Bruni followed shortly after. Flying in formation, the two seasoned specialists promptly clocked top times in the Porsche 911 RSR, which the competition was unable to undercut. In a time of 1:56.144 minutes, Estre beat Bruni in the sister car by a mere 0.034 seconds.
The qualifying in the GTE-Am class
In the GTE-Am class, the Project 1 squad scored a commendable grid spot with third place for the race in Sakhir. Setting a lap time of 1:59.404 minutes, the Norwegian Egidio Perfetti missed out on a front-row spot by less than a tenth of a second. The two Porsche 911 RSR fielded by Dempsey-Proton Racing tackle the six-hour race from positions seven and nine. GR Racing’s technically identical car takes up race five of the season from P12.
The six-hour race of the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC on the Bahrain International Circuit gets underway on Saturday 30 October at 11:00 am local time (10:00 am CEST). For a fee, the official FIA WEC app offers live streaming and live timing.
Drivers’ comments after the qualifying
Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “My lap might not have been perfect but it was enough for pole position – and I’m very happy about that. It was very tight between us and our sister car. This shows that Porsche is very good here, especially in qualifying. The manufacturers’ world championship is very important for us, so the No. 91 car also plays a major role. And it stands between us and the ‘reds’. I hope we also manage to maintain the upper hand in the race.”
Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “The qualifying result is really good: Our lap times were almost the same. Our Porsche 911 RSR felt fantastic on the flying lap, which was a result of our perfect preparation. I’m feeling very confident about the race. We have a strong car and we can definitely fight at the front.”
Egidio Perfetti (Porsche 911 RSR #56): “Third isn’t as good as first of course, but I’m happy we managed to beat most of the Ferraris and Aston Martins. We face two races in ten days. It’s good that we are at the front. We were strong here in Bahrain last year and we won our class. I hope we’ll make it back to the podium tomorrow, preferably on the top step.”
1.Estre/Jani (F/CH), Porsche GT Team, Porsche 911 RSR #92, 1:56.144 minutes
2.Lietz/Bruni (A/I), Porsche GT Team, Porsche 911 RSR #91, 1:56.178 minutes
3.Serra/Molina (BR/E), AF Corse, Ferrari 488 GTE #52, 1:57.327 minutes
4.Calado/Pier Guidi (GB/I), AF Corse, Ferrari 488 GTE #51, 1:57.573 minutes
1.Mastronardi/Piccini/Cressoni (I/I/I), Ferrari 488 GTE #60, 1:58.687 minutes
2.Dalla Lana/Farfus/Gomez (CDN/BR/BR), Aston Martin Vantage GTE #98, 1:59.331 minutes
3.Perfetti/Cairoli/Pera (N/I/I), Team Project 1, Porsche 911 RSR #56, 1:59.404 minutes
7.Andlauer/de Leener/Al Qubaisi (F/B/UAE), Dempsey-Proton Racing, Porsche 911 RSR #88, 1:59.923 minutes
9.Ried/Campbell/Evans (D/AUS/NZ), Dempsey-Proton Racing, Porsche 911 RSR #77, 2:00.294 minutes
12.Wainwright/Barker/Gamble (GB/GB/GB), GR Racing, Porsche 911 RSR #86, 2:00.939 minutes
Full results and points’ standings: fiawec.alkamelsystems.com
At the last two rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season, the Porsche GT Team has its sights firmly set on winning the world championship title. The 2021 season wraps up with back-to-back races in Bahrain over the next two weekends. This is the first doubleheader event in the history of the World Endurance Championship. Round five on 30 October runs over six hours, with the Bahrain International Circuit hosting an eight-hour race a week later. Porsche contests the notoriously cutthroat GTE-Pro class with two 911 RSR. In the GTE-Am class, three customer teams field five identical nine-eleven racers.
“We’re tackling the last two races of the season in Bahrain with very clear goals: We want to win the manufacturers’ championship and we’re also aiming to take home the drivers’ trophy with our number 92 crew,” explains Pascal Zurlinden, Director Factory Motorsport. “Last year we clinched a double victory on this desert racetrack. We’re eager to repeat this feat. If we can do this at the final two races of the year, the championship will be ours. Our Porsche 911 RSR is well suited to the special characteristics of this racetrack – and that makes me hopeful.”
“We’re very much looking forward to the two races in Bahrain. Our double victory there last year bodes well for a strong performance at the first-ever doubleheader event for the WEC,” says Alexander Stehlig, Head of Operations FIA WEC, outlining his expectations. “The six-hour race will be held in daylight. We have to be prepared for the heat. Plus, managing the tyres over a full stint will be decisive. The final eight-hour race will finish in the dark. The challenge here will be a little different because we’re anticipating cooler asphalt temperatures and we need to respond accordingly. It’s sure to be exciting and spectacular for fans, drivers and teams. When the doubleheader is over, we’d like to celebrate our world championship title win.”
Post-season rookie test
Following the final two races, the WEC has organised a post-season rookie test at the Bahrain International Circuit on 7 November. The Bahrain International Circuit has hosted the Formula 1 Grand Prix regularly since 2004. The FIA WEC was first contested on the 5.412-kilometre circuit close to the capital Manama in its 2012 inaugural season. The only time the endurance race was not held in Sakhir was in the 2018/2019 season. High daytime temperatures, falling temperatures at dusk and fine sand at times covering the asphalt make the race a huge challenge for teams, engineers and drivers.
Tyre wear is a major consideration on the Grand Prix circuit with its 15 turns. A consistent pace over a full stint is regarded as the key to success. At the first of two races in Bahrain, points will be awarded following the conventional FIA formula (25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1). For the second race, the points are multiplied by a factor of 1.5 and rounded up (38-27-23-18-15-12-9-6-3-2). Moreover, achieving pole position yields an extra point towards the world championship.
The Porsche GT Team drivers
Sharing driving duties in the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR at the six-hour race in Bahrain are the regular WEC drivers Gianmaria Bruni from Italy and Richard Lietz from Austria. Works driver Frédéric Makowiecki supports the duo at the final eight-hour round. The Frenchman has already joined forces with the pair in Portimão and Le Mans. The No. 92 sister car is manned by Frenchman Kévin Estre and Neel Jani from Switzerland. They are joined in the cockpit for the last race of the season on 6 November by Michael Christensen from Denmark. The regular crew of the No. 92 car currently ranks second in the drivers’ championship with their brand colleagues in the No. 91 vehicle in third place. In the manufacturer’s classification, Porsche ranks second.
The customer teams
The experienced German customer teams Project 1 and Dempsey-Proton Racing each field two Porsche 911 RSR at the two WEC races in Bahrain. The British squad GR Racing fields another vehicle. One of the crew in Dempsey-Proton Racing’s No. 77 entry is the works driver Matt Campbell from Australia.