Mixed Results for Porsche in Bahrain

Hertz Team Jota secured a solid fourth-place finish in the 8-hour race in Bahrain, while the factory Porsche Penske Motorsport team had a challenging day, with their cars crossing the line in fifth and seventh positions. The Porsche 911 RSR era in the FIA WEC concluded on a high note as the Iron Dames team, featuring Sarah Bovy from Belgium, Michelle Gatting from Denmark, and the Swiss driver Rahel Frey, claimed victory in the GTE Am class.

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

The action kicked off at 2 pm local time with scorching temperatures exceeding 32 degrees Celsius and asphalt sizzling at over 40 degrees. Laurens Vanthoor, driving the Porsche 963 for the works team, faced adversity early on when he had to veer wide to avoid a collision, dropping him to ninth place initially. Despite subsequent challenges, including a front hood replacement, the No. 6 Porsche fought its way back to a commendable fifth-place finish, piloted by Vanthoor, Kévin Estre from France, and German, André Lotterer.

Porsche Penske Motorsport (#6), Andre Lotterer (D)

Lotterer told reporters, “Fifth place for us and seventh for our teammates is obviously not the result we wanted. We didn’t have the pace we needed to win today. Tyre wear on this asphalt took a toll on our car. We did our very best. Hopefully, we can continue to improve for next season because we want to fight for victory regularly.”

Meanwhile, the No. 5 sister car managed to gain ground, reaching fourth place in the early stages. However, it struggled to match the pace of its competitors, especially in the scorching conditions. Technical issues with the speed limiter led to two five-second penalties for the Porsche, ultimately finishing in seventh place, driven by Fréderic Makowiecki, Dane Cameron, and Michael Christensen.

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

“We learned a lot this season and can be proud of where we are today. Of course, we have to continue to improve.” said Makowiecki. He added, “The road to victory is certainly long. We’ll all keep working hard together over winter so that we can return in even better shape in 2024 and be in the fight for the championship.”

Thomas Laudenbach, Vice President Porsche Motorsport, commented,“We’ve experienced a season of mixed fortunes and still have a lot of work to do, but we’re seeing an upward trend and we were able to fight with the Ferraris today – that’s great news. I’m particularly impressed with the Hertz Team Jota squad’s strong performance – congratulations on fourth place. We definitely would’ve preferred a better result for the factory team. This was our first season with the Porsche 963, and we rebuilt a lot of things at the same time. That’s why we’re wrapping up the season feeling positive and looking ahead. Next year we will return significantly stronger. I’m also delighted for the Iron Dames team. The squad finally clinched its first class victory in the GTE Am, and thus brings the great era of the 911 RSR in the FIA WEC to a fitting end.”

Urs Kuratle, Director Factory Racing LMDh, acknowledged the challenges faced by the Porsche Penske Motorsport team during the race, stating, “The last race of the 2023 season was not easy for all Porsche 963. We at Porsche Penske Motorsport encountered a lot of minor incidents with both vehicles that we had to sort out during the race. And to be honest, it wasn’t our best race on the operational side, either. We had the speed because we were able to match the pace of the Ferraris and we also edged closer to the Toyotas. Congratulations to Hertz Team Jota!”

Jonathan Diuguid, Managing Director Porsche Penske Motorsport, added, “Despite a rough start and various setbacks, there’s much to be proud of this season. We’ll focus on improving our pace and aim to compete at the highest level in the upcoming seasons, including the 2024 WEC season and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. “It took us a little while to fight our way back. We also sustained some damage on our number 6 Porsche 963. We had to change the nose which cost us some time and track positions. The number 5 sister car also had a rough day for various reasons. We picked up a few full-course-yellow speeding violations. Our drivers weren’t to blame for this. In general, we didn’t have the pace to fight the Toyotas today. That’s always our goal so we need to improve there. Still, as the season comes to an end we have a lot to be proud of and we have a lot to build on for the future. So we’re looking forward to the 2024 WEC season and of course the 24 Hours of Le Mans.”

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

The Hertz Team Jota‘s Porsche 963 performed admirably in the challenging midsummer conditions. The LMDh hybrid prototype, driven by António Félix da Costa, Will Stevens, and Yifei Ye, secured fourth place after a series of exciting battles, including briefly holding third place before a braking issue.

Hertz Team Jota (#38), Yifei Ye (CHN)

Wrapping up his first season in the hypercar, Ye said, “It wasn’t an easy first time for me here in Bahrain. The tyre degradation on this track is huge. We got off to a good start from ninth place and profited from the confusion in the first corner. We could then fight with the two Ferraris. At one point we were even in third place – it’s a shame that we had to give up this podium place shortly before the finish because of a penalty. Still, fourth place is a great result.”

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

Proton Competition, with the No. 99 Porsche 963 piloted by Neel Jani, Gianmaria Bruni, and Harry Tincknell, faced its own challenges and finished the race in tenth place.

Bruni commented, “We had a tough day. Halfway through the race, we had a problem with the footrest in the cockpit, which hampered my braking. As a result, we lost time on the track and also during the pit stop to repair it. It’s annoying, but such things happen in motorsport – it’s all part of the learning process. We had some ups and downs in the six races with the Porsche 963 in the WEC and IMSA. We gained valuable experience that we can build on for the future.”

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

In the GTE Am class, the Porsche 911 RSR delivered a strong performance in its farewell race. The Iron Dames team, led by Sarah Bovy, initially led the class but later relinquished the top spot to Matteo Cressoni‘s Iron Lynx sister car. However, the leading Iron Lynx car faced setbacks, allowing the all-female crew of Bovy, Gatting, and Frey to claim their first class victory in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

A delighted Rahel Frey said, “Simply fantastic – at last our first victory in the World Endurance Championship. We worked hard for this for five years. It finally all came together in the last race with the Porsche 911 RSR. For me, this is the reward we deserve for the tremendous effort we’ve put in. Today we’ll celebrate!”

This victory marked a perfect send-off for the Porsche 911 RSR, which will be replaced by the 911 GT3 R in the upcoming season.

Christian Ried, Mikkel Pedersen, and Julien Andlauer finished sixth in class for Dempsey Proton Racing, while the customer teams GR Racing and Project1-AO secured eighth and tenth positions with their Porsche 911 racers.

Porsche 911 RSR, GR Racing (#86), Ben Barker (UK), Riccardo Pera (I), Michael Wainwright (UK)

Race Result

Hypercar class:
1. Buemi/Hartley/Hirakawa (CH/NZ/J), Toyota #8, 249 laps
2. Conway/Kobayashi/Lopez (UK/J/ARG), Toyota #7, 249 laps
3. Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen (I/E/DK), Ferrari #50, 249 laps
4. Da Costa/Ye/Stevens (P/CHN/UK), Porsche 963 #38, 249 laps
5. Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor (F/D/B), Porsche 963 #6, 248 laps
7. Cameron/Christensen/Makowiecki (USA/DK/F), Porsche 963 #5, 247 laps
10. Bruni/Tincknell/Jani (I/UK/CH), Porsche 963 #99, 247 laps

GTE Am class:
1. Bovy/Gatting/Frey (B/DK/CH), Porsche 911 RSR #85, 232 laps
2. Talbot/Stevenson/Fujii (AUS/UK/J), Aston Martin #777, 232 laps
3. James/Mancinelli/Ribeiras (USA/I/E), Aston Martin #98, 232 laps
6. Ried/Pedersen/Andlauer (D/DK/F), Porsche 911 RSR #77, 231 laps
8. Wainwright/Pera/Barker (UK/I/UK), Porsche 911 RSR #86, 231 laps
10. Hyett/Jeannette/Cairoli (USA/USA/I), Porsche 911 RSR #56, 230 laps
DNF Schiavoni/Cressoni/Picariello (I/I/B), Porsche 911 RSR #60

Full results: fiawec.alkamelsystems.com.