Porsche Aims to Finish Season on a High

Porsche Penske Motorsport is eyeing another trophy at the concluding round of the 2023 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season. The official team is fielding two Porsche 963 cars in the eight-hour showdown in Bahrain.

The customer teams, Hertz Team Jota and Proton Competition, are each entering a 514 kW (699 hp) hybrid prototype in the elite hypercar class. In the GTE-Am category, five partner teams will be racing with the Porsche 911 RSR for the last time as, from 2024, the FIA WEC will transition to GT3-class vehicles.

Porsche 963, Porsche Penske Motorsport (#6), Kevin Estre (F), Andre Lotterer (D), Laurens Vanthoor (B) – © Porsche Motorsport

Traditionally, the season’s finale is held at the Bahrain International Circuit, and the Porsche Penske Motorsport team is making its debut at this Formula 1 circuit in the Persian Gulf, bringing along their two Porsche 963 race cars. Fresh from a podium finish in Japan, the squad is targeting another podium spot.

Porsche 963, Porsche Penske Motorsport (#5), Dane Cameron (USA), Michael Christensen (DK), Frederic Makowiecki (F) – © Porsche Motorsport

Thomas Laudenbach reflects on a season of varied fortunes but emphasises the team’s relentless effort in the highly competitive hypercar class. Looking forward to the season’s climax, the Vice President of Porsche Motorsport expresses his eagerness for another podium finish in Bahrain, which he believes would be a fitting reward for the team, the drivers, and their supporters. Post-race in Manama, the official FIA WEC test day will see their Porsche 963 being driven by the new DTM champion, Thomas Preining, stirring curiosity about his performance.

Porsche 963, Hertz Team Jota (#38), Antonio Felix da Costa (P), Will Stevens (UK), Yifei Ye (CHN) – © Porsche Motorsport

Urs Kuratle, Director of Factory Racing LMDh, anticipates a strong performance in Bahrain, highlighting tyre management as crucial under the desert’s scorching heat. He’s also optimistic about the relatively smooth track, which he reckons would complement their Porsche 963. The aim is to cap off Porsche Penske Motorsport’s maiden season in the FIA WEC with a podium finish.

Jonathan Diuguid, Managing Director of Porsche Penske Motorsport, acknowledges the first season’s challenges but is buoyed by the last race at Fuji, where strategy, excellent driving, and a well-balanced Porsche 963 showcased their potential. The ambition is clear: transform the race lead into a victory in Bahrain, ending the season on a high note, a testament to the team’s hard work and talent.

The FIA WEC first raced on the 5.412-kilometre Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir back in its inaugural 2012 season, with only the 2018/2019 season being an exception. The circuit, with its 15 turns, is notorious for high daytime temperatures, plummeting temperatures at dusk, and often a fine layer of sand on the asphalt, presenting a formidable challenge regarding tyre wear. Consistent pacing throughout is deemed the recipe for success here. For the Bahrain eight-hour race, the points will have a 1.5 multiplication factor applied before rounding up (38-27-23-18-15-12-9-6-3-2).

Porsche 963, Proton Competition (#99), Gianmaria Bruni (I), Harry Tinckbell (UK), Neel Jani (CH) – © Porsche Motorsport

Come Sunday (5th of November), after the season’s last race, numerous cars including the Porsche 963 will hit the track again for the two official test sessions. Thomas Preining, the 25-year-old newly crowned DTM champion from Austria, will take the wheel of the hybrid prototype for the first time, a significant moment following his recent triumph in the Porsche 911 GT3 R.

Private teams Proton Competition and Hertz Team Jota are each fielding a Porsche 963 in the top hypercar class. António Félix da Costa from Portugal, Will Stevens from the UK and Yifei Ye from China are teaming up for the British outfit, while Proton Competition’s car will have Gianmaria Bruni from Italy, Neel Jani from Switzerland and Harry Tincknell from the UK at the helm. Their last podium finish came at the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Road Atlanta.

Porsche 911 RSR, Project1-AO (#56), Matteo Cairoli (I), PJ Hyett (USA), Gunnar Jeannette (USA)

Five Porsche 911 RSR, each boasting 378 kW (515 PS), will vie in the GTE-Am category for the final time before the switch to FIA GT3 cars in 2024. Amongst them is “Rexy”, a fan-favourite bright green 911 adorned with a dinosaur design, piloted by Americans PJ Hyett and Gunnar Jeannette, alongside Italian Matteo Cairoli. The grid will be further brightened by the yellow Iron Lynx car and the pink Iron Dames contender, driven by the only all-female trio Michelle Gatting (Denmark), Sarah Bovy (Belgium) and Rahel Frey (Switzerland). The customer teams Dempsey-Proton Racing and GR Racing are entering two cars.

Porsche 911 RSR, Iron Dames (#85), Sarah Bovy (B), Michelle Gatting (DK), Rahel Frey (CH)

Drivers are sharing their anticipation and reflections as the season draws to a close. Michael Christensen is hopeful for further progress in Bahrain, aiming for a strong finish to bolster their position in the manufacturers’ standings. Kévin Estre echoes this sentiment, hoping to match or even better their pace from Japan, despite the demanding nature of the Bahrain circuit on the tyres. Will Stevens is excited about the finale, keen on continuing the learning journey with the Porsche 963, and aims to end 2023 on a high. Gianmaria Bruni is also eager to sustain the upward momentum, encouraged by their recent podium finish at Road Atlanta despite a late start to the season.

Porsche 911 RSR, Dempsey-Proton Racing (#77)

Overview of teams and drivers:

Hypercar class (Porsche 963):

Porsche Penske Motorsport (#5): Dane Cameron (USA), Michael Christensen (DK), Frédéric Makowiecki (F)

Porsche Penske Motorsport (#6): Kévin Estre (F), André Lotterer (D), Laurens Vanthoor (B)

Hertz Team Jota (#38): António Félix da Costa (P), Will Stevens (UK), Yifei Ye (CHN)

Proton Competition (#99): Gianmaria Bruni (I), Harry Tincknell (UK), Neel Jani (CH)

GTE-Am class (Porsche 911 RSR):

Project1-AO (#56): PJ Hyett (USA), Gunnar Jeannette (USA), Matteo Cairoli (I)

Iron Lynx (#60): Claudio Schiavoni (I), Matteo Cressoni (I), Alessio Picariello (B)

Dempsey-Proton Racing (#77): Christian Ried (D), Mikkel Pedersen (DK), Julien Andlauer (F)

Iron Dames (#85): Sarah Bovy (B), Michelle Gatting (DK), Rahel Frey (CH)

GR Racing (#86): Michael Wainwright (UK), Riccardo Pera (I), Ben Barker (UK)

The schedule (local time, CET +2):

Thursday, 2 November

12:15 pm – 1:35 pm: Free practice 1

5:30 pm – 7:00 pm: Free practice 2

Friday, 3 November

12:00 pm – 1:00 pm: Free practice 3

4:15 pm – 4:30 pm: Qualifying GTE-Am

5:05 pm – 5:20 pm: Qualifying Hypercars

Saturday, 4 November

2:00 pm – 10:00 pm: Race