The Porsche Team with the two 919 Hybrids achieved a good qualifying result in Bahrain: Last year’s world champions, Timo Bernhard (DE), Brendon Hartley (NZ) and Mark Webber (AU), will start from second on the grid for the finale of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). The sister car, with the aspirants for the 2016 drivers’ title, Romain Dumas (FR), Neel Jani (CH) and Marc Lieb (DE), will start third on the grid for the six-hour race on Saturday. For Dumas/Jani/Lieb the six-hour race is all about the drivers’ world championship. They have an advantage of 17 points ahead of the best placed Toyota. Finishing fifth in the race would still be enough for them to win the title, even if the number 6 Toyota won. Mark Webber as well is facing an extraordinarily emotional race, as it will be his last one as a professional driver. The Australian hangs up his helmet at the end of the season. Audi took pole position on the 5.412 kilometre long Formula One circuit in the Persian Gulf.
In the WEC the average of the two fastest laps of two drivers counts for the qualifying result. In Bahrain the qualifying drivers were Bernhard/Hartley (car number 1, position 2, 1:39.471 minutes) and Jani/Lieb (car number 2, position 3, 1:39.669 minutes). Both these average lap times are below last year’s record that was set by Bernhard in 1:39.670 minutes, despite the fact that the 919 is allowed to use eight per cent less energy per lap this year.
As will be the situation for most of the race, the 20-minute qualifying session was held in the dark. The race will be green flagged on Saturday at 16:00 hrs local time (14:00 hrs in Central Europe).
The third free practice session at midday went smoothly with Porsche’s two Le Mans prototypes coming first (car number 1, 1:40.318 minutes) and fifth (car number 2, 1:41.014 minutes).
Quotes after qualifying:
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1: “Today we saw a very good qualifying against exceptionally strong competition. My compliments go to our entire team for this performance. The weather conditions are consistent. We have all the ingredients in place for an exciting race tomorrow, when we want to reach our big aim of also winning the drivers’ title for the second time in a row.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: “Congratulations to Audi and to the drivers of the number 8 car for pole position in their final WEC race. We worked hard to be starting from second and third on the grid, which is a good base. All four drivers and the whole team did an outstanding job and got everything out of our 919 Hybrid. There were no technical issues at all. Considering what we learned in free practice, we should be in good shape for the race. We are looking forward to sunset at 16:45 hrs tomorrow, because we reckon that cooler conditions will be more favourable for us. We are expecting an extremely exciting finale.“
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid number 1
Timo Bernhard (35, Germany): “I thought we would be able to fight for pole position, but the number 8 Audi was clearly faster. However, second in qualifying is still a good story. We are looking forward to a very exciting race tomorrow, especially as in Bahrain we have the highest tyre wear of the entire season. We will approach it with a very positive attitude and I think we have good chances. We will race into the cooler night, which should be beneficial for us.”
Brendon Hartley (26, New Zealand): “It was a good qualifying, but also a tough fight, as we desperately wanted to get onto the front row. Timo made a bit of a mistake at his first attempt, so we knew he would go again. I had a pretty clean lap. Not perfect, but good. Then Timo did a mega lap in the end to get us on the front row. Audi was a bit quicker today. But after the long-runs yesterday, we still have a good feeling about the race.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid number 2
Neel Jani (32, Switzerland): “My lap wasn’t perfect, and I think I lost three tenths in one corner. More than P2 wasn’t possible for us today. The lap times from P2 to P4 are extremely close together. From a strategic point of view our grid position is okay. In third free practice this morning we evaluated the race set-up and learnt a few important things, although the temperatures were much higher than we expect them to be during the race.”
Marc Lieb (36, Germany): “We have made a step in the right direction – it is good to be back in the top three again. On my fastest lap I made a mistake in the last corner, which cost about two tenths of a second, but still I can’t complain. For sure we have a good position to start from and we have to handle it with care. Due to higher temperatures during the third practice session, our car was not as good as yesterday. Compared to our competitors, we are not as comfortable with the heat. Therefore, the first hour of the race could be a bit difficult for us.”