Porsche has scored the perfect qualifying result for round four of the FIA World Endurance Championship in Sakhir (Bahrain). Gianmaria Bruni (Italy) and Richard Lietz (Austria) claimed pole position in the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR. The reigning world champions Michael Christensen (Denmark) and Kévin Estre (France) take up the race in the ca. 515-hp sister car with the starting number 92 from the second grid spot. In the GTE-Am category, the No. 57 Porsche 911 RSR fielded by the Project 1 team tackles the eight-hour race on the Bahrain International Circuit from the best starting position.
The hunt for top times held at sunset close to the capital Manama was marked by strategies, teamwork and driving skill. Shortly after the session got underway, the Porsche GT Team sent Christensen out, while his works driver teammate Bruni waited in the pits in the sister car. As the Italian then took up the chase three minutes into the session, he found an ideal gap in the otherwise heavy traffic. In 1:55.342 minutes, Bruni turned the fastest qualifying lap of all GTE vehicles. Excellent lap times from Christensen and Estre in the Porsche 911 RSR, which is based on the high-performance 911 GT3 RS* road-going sports car, yielded the first double pole of the season. The No. 92 car was just 0.060 seconds shy of the vehicle of its brand colleagues.
In the GTE-Am category, the Project 1 team clinched a perfect starting position for the race with the 2017-spec Porsche 911 RSR. In the No. 57 car, Dutchman Larry ten Voorde and the American Ben Keating achieved the fastest average time. For the fourth round of the year, the pair shares driving duties with Jeroen Bleekemolen (Netherlands). Porsche Young Professional Thomas Preining (Austria) takes up the race from position two in the Porsche 911 RSR (No. 88) campaigned by Dempsey-Proton Racing with his teammates Khaled Al Qubaisi (United Arab Emirates) and Adrien de Leener (Belgium).
Fritz Enzinger (Vice President Motorsport): “Our goal is to conclude this phenomenal year for Porsche Motorsport with another highlight in Bahrain. By securing the first two grid spots we’ve achieved a perfect starting position for the race. The race over eight hours will again be tough. We’re confident that we’ll also be strong over the long distance on this challenging track. The entire team more than deserves to finish this fabulous year with another top result.”
Alexander Stehlig (Head of Operations FIA WEC): “I’m completely satisfied. The journey, which began back in 2018 with the start of our world champion season, continues just as well. It’s simply fantastic. The entire team works in such an incredibly focussed and meticulous way. At every outing, we make small adjustments to become even better. The result is our first one-two qualifying result with the new Porsche 911 RSR. I’m now very much looking forward to the race.”
Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “I immediately felt right at home in the car, even though we’d only worked on the race setup up to the qualifying. The team found a perfect qualifying setup. When it comes to turning a really fast lap from scratch, having complete confidence in the car and the team is a key factor. Everything came together perfectly – our team is simply the best.”
Richard Lietz (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “Thanks to his extremely fast lap time, Gimmi made it clear right from the start that the pole was within reach. For this reason, we decided to fit a fresh set of tyres for my attempt and go all-out for P1. It worked, and we earned the extra point for pole. Porsche starts from pole in both categories. We hope it’ll turn out just as perfectly at the end of the race.”
Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “It was really close. We could have taken pole today, too, however Michael and I both made tiny mistakes. Gimmi and Richie drove a perfect lap at the limit in the sister car. Ultimately, those minor things made the difference. Still, position two is very good. There is nothing better than locking out the first row of the GTE grid with the Porsche 911 RSR.”
Michael Christensen (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “The overall result is simply fantastic for Porsche. If you make even the slightest mistake on the decisive lap, then you can’t expect to start from pole position. With this in mind, we can happily live with position two. The race on Sunday will be long and demanding. I expect an exciting eight-hour event.”
Ben Keating (Porsche 911 RSR #57): “I’ve never driven the Porsche 911 RSR with fresh tyres and low fuel before. It was a very special experience. It was like having to learn the racetrack from scratch – great fun. I was at my absolute limit, and Larry also put in a formidable drive. It was really close at the top with three cars in less than a tenth of a second. But if you have the choice of starting from position one or three, then it has to be first. No doubt about it.”
1. Lietz/Bruni (A/I), Porsche 911 RSR, 1:55.485 minutes
2. Christensen/Estre (DK/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 1:55.545 minutes
3. Calado/Pier Guidi (GB/I), Ferrari 488 GTE, 1:56.087 minutes
1. Keating/t. Voorde/Bleekemolen (USA/NL/NL), Porsche 911 RSR, 1:57.602 minutes
2. Preining/Al Qubaisi/de Leener (A/UAE/B), Porsche 911 RSR, 1:57.661 minutes
3. Perrodo/Collard/Nielsen (F/F/DK), Ferrari 488 GTE, 1:57.690 minutes
4. Perfetti/Heinemeier Hansson/Cairoli (N/DK/I), Porsche 911 RSR, 1:57.863 minutes
5. Wainwright/Barker/Watson (GB/GB/GB), Porsche 911 RSR, 1:57.977 minutes
10. Campbell/Ried/Pera (AUS/D/I), Porsche 911 RSR, 1:59.959 minutes