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.
An overview of teams and drivers (in italics: only round six)
Porsche GT Team #91 – R. Lietz (A) / G. Bruni (I) / F. Makowiecki (F)
Porsche GT Team #92 – K. Estre (F) / N. Jani (CH) / M. Christensen (DK)
Team Project 1 #46 – D. Olsen (N) / TBA / TBA
Team Project 1 #56 – E. Perfetti (N) / M. Cairoli (I) / R. Pera (I)
Dempsey-Proton Racing #77 – C. Ried (D) / M. Campbell (AUS) / J. Evans (NZ)
GR Racing #86 – M. Wainwright (GB) / B. Barker (GB) / T. Gamble (GB)
Dempsey-Proton Racing #88 – K. Al Qubaisi (UAE) / A. de Leener (B) / J. Andlauer (F) / A. Jefferies (GB
Drivers’ comments before the race
Richard Lietz (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “Two races will be held at the same venue, but the characteristics are very different. The different starting times and distances require specially adapted strategies. It’ll definitely be interesting. In terms of the championship, we don’t have much to lose with our number 91 car so we’ll go all-out. Hopefully, we’ll finally have racing luck on our side again.”
Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “The back-to-back races in Bahrain this year will make things very interesting. The first race is contested in daylight. The sun beats down mercilessly on the asphalt and we’re expecting a real scorcher of a race. The second event goes into the night, so with our engineers, we have to predict as precisely as possible how the track will change as the temperatures drop. We’re have big goals and we’ll do everything in our power to make sure that Porsche wins the manufacturers’ title. Fred will provide reinforcement for the final eight-hour race. I’m really looking forward to that.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “I think it’s fantastic that I’ll climb into the No. 91 cockpit again for the eight-hour race. We want to bring home maximum points and help Porsche win the manufacturers’ title. If we can also support our brand colleagues in the sister car to clinch the drivers’ trophy, then that would be even better. The race is going to be tough. We always face sweltering temperatures in Bahrain and the racetrack is demanding on the brakes and tyres. Still, I’m optimistic – also because I won there in 2015.”
Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “It’s a shame that we had to relinquish the lead in the drivers’ championship at the previous race in Le Mans. At the same time, this also gives us huge motivation. We still have an iron in the fire: If we win both races, the title is ours. That’s our big goal. We’ve always been strong in Bahrain with the Porsche 911 RSR. So that gives us a lot of confidence heading into these two races. Plus, I’m pleased that Michael will be sharing driving duties in our car again for the final race.”
Neel Jani (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “I really like the track and the setting in Bahrain. I’ve enjoyed some great successes there during my time racing the Porsche 919 Hybrid. I’m keen to build on that this year with the 911 RSR. We’ll do everything possible to clinch the big trophy. It’s a two-way battle between our car and the No. 51 Ferrari. Let’s see how the competition goes in both races. It’s entirely possible that the first race is used as strategic preparation for the second race, where you can earn a lot more points. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Michael Christensen (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “It’s great fun driving the Porsche 911 RSR. So that makes me all the more excited about my return to the WEC team. I hope that in the first of the two Bahrain races, the squad can lay the foundations for a gripping battle for the crown. The 911 RSR set the benchmark in the GTE Pro class last year. We scored a double victory there – and we want to achieve nothing less this year. This could hand Porsche and my colleagues Kévin and Neel the world championship title. That’s precisely my big goal.”
The schedule (all times CEST/CET)
Thursday, 28 October
2:30 – 4:00 pm: Free practice 1
Friday, 29 October
7:00 – 8:30 am: Free practice 2
11:30 am – 12:30 pm: Free practice 3
3:30 – 3:40 pm: Qualifying GTE
Saturday, 30 October
10:00 am – 4:00 pm: Race 5
Thursday, 4 November
2:30 – 4:00 pm: Free practice 1
Friday, 5 November
6:00 – 7:30 am: Free practice 2
10:20 – 11:20 am: Free practice 3
2:20 – 2:30 pm: Qualifying GTE
Saturday, 6 November
11:00 am – 7:00 pm: Race 6