Porsche on Pole in Bahrain

The fastest Porsche 963 is primed to embark from the second row at the climactic race of this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship WEC on Saturday.

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

Kévin Estre, a factory stalwart, clocked in the fourth quickest time during qualifying, completing a lap of the Bahrain International Circuit in just 1:47.712 minutes. He’s at the helm of the Porsche hybrid prototype alongside Germany’s André Lotterer and Laurens Vanthoor of Belgium. Estre’s mate from the Porsche Penske Motorsport team, fellow Frenchman Frédéric Makowiecki, put the No. 5 Porsche in seventh place on the grid. Sharing the drive with him are Dane Cameron from the States and Michael Christensen of Denmark.

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

Positions eight and nine were nabbed by Proton Competition and Hertz Team Jota, two client teams. Meanwhile, the GTE Am class saw Iron Dames’ Porsche 911 RSR clinch pole position, all thanks to Sarah Bovy of Belgium for her blistering lap time.

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

Over in Sakhir, the 15-minute qualifying sprint for the Hypercar division kicked off as night fell, despite the temperature lingering at a balmy 29 degrees Celsius, with the track itself a tad hotter at 33 degrees. Both Porsche 963s entered the fray on Michelin’s harder tyres, a choice suited even to Bahrain’s midday sizzle. The flag drops at 2 p.m. local time, with the contest stretching into the night’s cooler air.

Makowiecki hit the circuit just after a minute had passed, while Estre bided his time in the pit lane. His strategy paid off, laying down his quickest lap on his third attempt. Makowiecki wasn’t as fortunate, having to abort his initial push due to interference from another driver, ultimately logging the seventh-best time.

Porsche 963, Proton Competition (#99), Gianmaria Bruni (I), Harry Tincknell (UK), Neel Jani (CH)

“Fourth and seventh place on the grid is not exactly the result we expected,” admits Urs Kuratle, Director of Factory Racing LMDh. “While it’s not that important in an 8-hour race, we’re annoyed – we want to start in front of Cadillac. Our goal here in Bahrain is to beat them. The race is long and tough for the drivers, so we’re well-positioned in this regard. So far, neither we nor our customers have had any technical hiccups this weekend, and that also makes us confident. If we drive a flawless race and make the right decisions like we did in Fuji, then we have a good chance.”

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

At the last qualifying of the 2023 WEC season, things were quite tight between P3 and P7. The drivers were only separated by a few tenths of a second,” remarked Jonathan Diuguid, Managing Director of Porsche Penske Motorsport. “Kévin Estre put in a decent lap there. We’re pleased with our good starting position for the race. The wear and performance of the tyres will be crucial. We feel well-positioned in this regard. The target is always a podium so we hope to move up the order tomorrow.”

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

Porsche’s works driver Gianmaria Bruni nabbed eighth in the Porsche 963 for the Proton Competition team. He’s sharing driving duties with Swiss racer Neel Jani and Britain’s Harry Tincknell. Ninth on the grid is where the Hertz Team Jota will start the season finale, thanks to the swift lap by Britain’s Will Stevens just before qualifying wrapped up. His teammates include factory driver António Félix da Costa from Portugal and Chinese racer Yifei Ye, under the patronage of Porsche Motorsport Asia-Pacific.

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

After the last GTE Am qualifiers in the World Endurance Championship, it was the Porsche 911 RSR from Iron Dames taking pole with a commanding lap of 1:58.692 minutes by Sarah Bovy. The Belgian led the pack by nearly 0.3 seconds, flanked by Denmark’s Michelle Gatting and Rahel Frey of Switzerland. Looking ahead, the GTE class will give way to FIA GT3 regulations starting next year.

Porsche 911 RSR, Dempsey-Proton Racing (#77), Julien Andlauer (F), Mikkel Pedersen (DK), Christian Ried (D)

Christian Ried landed the eighth-quickest lap for Dempsey-Proton Racing, setting him up for a fourth-row start in the GTE Am class. Rounding out the field, the other customer teams’ 911 RSRs, driven by PJ Hyett of the States, Britain’s Michael Wainwright, and Italy’s Claudio Schiavoni, slotted in from tenth to twelfth. This class is reserved for amateur racers holding a bronze status.

Porsche 911 RSR, Iron Lynx (#60), Matteo Cressoni (I), Alessio Picariello (B), Claudio Schiavoni (I)

The grand finale of this year’s FIA WEC is all set to roar into action at the Bahrain International Circuit this Saturday at 2 pm local time (noon CET), with the eight-hour endurance battle taking place on the Gulf island’s Grand Prix track.

Qualifying result
Hypercar class:
1. Buemi/Hartley/Hirakawa (CH/NZ/J), Toyota #8, 1:46.564 minutes
2. Conway/Kobayashi/Lopez (UK/J/ARG), Toyota #7, 1:47.053 minutes
3. Bamber/Lynn/Westbrook (NZ/UK/UK), Cadillac #2, 1:47.265 minutes
4. Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor (F/D/B), Porsche 963 #6, 1:47.712 minutes
7. Cameron/Christensen/Makowiecki (USA/DK/F), Porsche 963 #5, 1:47.946 minutes
8. Bruni/Tincknell/Jani (I/UK/CH), Porsche 963 #99, 1:47.964 minutes
9. Da Costa/Ye/Stevens (P/CHN/UK), Porsche 963 #38, 1:48.555 minutes

GTE Am class:
1. Bovy/Gatting/Frey (B/DK/CH), Porsche 911 RSR #85, 1:58.692 minutes
2. Talbot/Stevenson/Fujii (AUS/UK/J), Aston Martin #777, 1:58.982 minutes
3. Al Harthy/Dinan/Eastwood (OMN/USA/IRL), Aston Martin #25, 1:59.161 minutes
8. Ried/Pedersen/Andlauer (D/DK/F), Porsche 911 RSR #77, 2:00.063 minutes
10. Hyett/Jeannette/Cairoli (USA/USA/I), Porsche 911 RSR #56, 2:00.294 minutes
11. Wainwright/Pera/Barker (UK/I/UK), Porsche 911 RSR #86, 2:01.275 minutes
12. Schiavoni/Cressoni/Picariello (I/I/B), Porsche 911 RSR #60, 2:01.547 minutes