Preview, FIA World Endurance Championship WEC, round 4, Sakhir/Bahrain
Porsche intends to conclude its extremely successful 2019 motorsport season with another highlight at the eight-hour race of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) in Bahrain on 14 December. The sports car manufacturer from Stuttgart holds a convincing lead in the world championship after the new Porsche 911 RSR claimed a one-two at Silverstone (Great Britain) and Shanghai (China) as well as podium finishes at Fuji (Japan). Both Porsche duos are also at the top of the drivers’ standings. In the GTE-Am classification, three customer teams field a total of five Porsche 911 RSR in last year’s spec at the long-distance race in the Gulf region.
The Bahrain International Circuit has hosted the Formula 1 Grand Prix regularly since 2004. The WEC world sports car championship was first contested on the 5.412-kilometre circuit close to the capital Manama in its 2012 inaugural season – the only exception was in the 2018/2019 Super Season. At this year’s return to the challenging racetrack, the FIA WEC will race over eight hours for the first time. High daytime temperatures, falling temperatures at dusk and sand at times covering the asphalt make the race a big challenge for teams, engineers and drivers. Tyre wear on the Grand Prix circuit with its 15 turns is regarded as a critical factor for potential success. In 2015, the French works drivers Patrick Pilet and Frédéric Makowiecki won the GTE-Pro class in the Porsche 911 RSR.
The Porsche GT Team drivers
The world sports car champions Michael Christensen (Denmark) and Kévin Estre (France) share driving duties in the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR. The successful duo leads the overall standings after winning the previous race in Shanghai as well as achieving second place at both Silverstone and Fuji. The winners of the season-opening round in Great Britain, Richard Lietz (Austria) and Gianmaria Bruni (Italy), helm the No. 91 sister car. The new Porsche 911 RSR also underlined its enormous potential at the previous races of the 2019/2020 season with pole positions in Japan and China.
The customer teams
The German customer team Dempsey-Proton Racing fields two Porsche 911 RSR in last year’s spec. At the wheel of the No. 77 car are Porsche Young Professional Matt Campbell (Australia), team owner Christian Ried (Germany) and the Italian Riccardo Pera. Porsche Young Professional Thomas Preining from Austria shares the cockpit of the No. 88 sister car.
Porsche Young Professional Matteo Cairoli (Italy) joins forces with Egidio Perfetti (Norway) and David Heinemeier Hansson (Denmark) in the No. 56 Porsche 911 RSR fielded by the German customer squad Project 1. The No. 57 vehicle is shared by the two Dutchmen Larry ten Voorde and Jeroen Bleekemolen and the American Ben Keating. Gulf Racing’s No. 86 car is manned by the all-British line-up of Michael Wainwright, Ben Barker and Andrew Watson.
The schedule of the FIA WEC in Bahrain
The eight-hour FIA WEC race in Bahrain gets underway on Saturday, 14 December at 3 pm local time (1 pm CET).
The race on TV and the Internet
Round four of the FIA WEC season will be shown in full length on www.sport1.de. The pay-TV station Sport 1+ broadcasts the entire race live from 12:30am to 9:30pm. Eurosport televises the final phase four round four live from 6.00pm on its Eurosport 2 channel. Motorsport.tv televises the race in full length. For a fee, the FIA WEC app offers live streaming and live timing.
Comments before the FIA WEC race in Bahrain
Fritz Enzinger (Vice President Motorsport): “An almost unparalleled year for Porsche Motorsport comes to an end with the eight-hour race in Bahrain. We intend to underscore our outstanding form with another success. We have won all world championship titles as well as the North American championship with the predecessor model of the Porsche 911 RSR. The new car has continued this success streak from the previous WEC season seamlessly. At the end of the year, we want to once again demonstrate the potential of the new 911 RSR and head into the 2020 season as the leaders of the world championship.”
Pascal Zurlinden (Director Factory Motorsport): “The last works outing of this year will be a big challenge. The Bahrain circuit is physically demanding and tyre wear is extremely high. As always, we will prepare meticulously and systematically. Porsche has always been particularly strong over long distances – in terms of the car and driver performance as well as strategy. We want to underline this once again with the new Porsche 911 RSR at the eight-hour race in Bahrain.”
Alexander Stehlig (Head of Operations FIA WEC): “We had a dream start into the season with our new Porsche 911 RSR. Two double victories, two pole positions, podium results at every round and we’re leading all championship classifications – what more could you ask for? Of course, to build on this at the next race and continue the success streak. Bahrain is a challenging circuit and it’s the first race of the 2019/2020 season over a really long distance. The team is preparing intensively for this challenge in order to conclude the year successfully for Porsche.”
Richard Lietz (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “After the four-hour race in China, we’re now facing double the distance in Bahrain. That poses a new challenge. Such a long-distance race offers completely different strategic options. For us drivers, it’ll be exhausting, as the track characteristics offer very few chances to catch your breath in the cockpit. Moreover, the asphalt puts enormous stresses on the tyres. We’re well prepared for Bahrain with the new 911 RSR and we want to retain Porsche’s championship lead as we head into the second half of the season.”
Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “Personally, I have very positive memories of Bahrain. In the past, the race in Sakhir was often the final round of the WEC season. In 2013 and 2014, I claimed the championship title there. The circuit seems to bring me luck. Now I’m contesting the race for the first time with the Porsche 911 RSR. I’m feeling confident that we will continue this season’s strong performance with another top result. To catch a few rays of sun before the Christmas break and collect as many points as possible – that’s the goal.”
Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “Apart from the high tyre wear, the changes in temperature during the race make it difficult to find the ideal setup. We head off into the race in sunshine and high temperatures, later it cools down considerably. It’s important to be strong under all conditions. So far, things have gone well for us with two podium finishes at Silverstone and Fuji as well as our Shanghai victory. We hope to further extend our lead in the overall rankings at the end of the year.”
Michael Christensen (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “After our win in Shanghai, we’re travelling to Bahrain as the championship leaders. The mood could hardly be better. We’ll again go all-out at the last race of the year, because we would like to carry this good mood into the Christmas break and the second half of the season. Another success would make the holiday season with friends and family so much better. Regardless of the Bahrain result, my 2019 year was simply fantastic.”
Matteo Cairoli (Porsche 911 RSR #56): “I know Bahrain from the 2017 season when I contested my first race there. It’s not the most beautiful circuit in the world, but the layout has turned out really well compared to other modern courses. It’s incredibly difficult to keep the tyres in good condition over the entire stint. That makes it really exhausting. I hope we can conclude the year with a podium result so that we can head into the 2020 season feeling highly motivated.”
Matt Campbell (Porsche 911 RSR #77): “The race in Bahrain is the longest championship round of the year since Le Mans last June. I’m really curious because I’m not familiar with the Sakhir racetrack. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to repeat the successes of the previous season so far this year. We were often amongst the frontrunners, but we’ve not been able to harvest the fruits of our efforts. That will hopefully change in Bahrain. We want to bring home our first win of the season.”
Thomas Preining (Porsche 911 RSR #88): “Although Bahrain is always really hot, I find the event extremely cool. The racetrack suits me and I like the layout. The eight-hour duration makes the race even more tiring, but also much more interesting. If we can work together to find a setup that keeps tyre wear within a tolerable range, then we have good chances for success.”
Porsche factory press release.
Pictures courtesy Porsche AG