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Spirited swan song for the Porsche factory squad goes unrewarded in Bahrain

The Porsche GT Team bids the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC farewell with third and fourth place in the GTE-Pro class. After a spirited fight at the season finale in Bahrain, the factory squad narrowly misses out on winning the manufacturer’s and driver’s world championship titles. In the GTE-Am class, the two Porsche 911 RSR fielded by Project 1 set the benchmark. The German customer team celebrated a one-two victory at the eight-hour race.

At the end of a decade of factory racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC, the Porsche GT Team showed an impressive fighting spirit. In the notoriously competitive eight-hour race on the Bahrain International Circuit, the two Porsche 911 RSR initially held the lead. However, two unfortunately-timed full-course yellow phases just after refuelling stops threw both factory vehicles well down the field after around two hours of racing. Despite commendable performances from the drivers and flawless teamwork, the efforts to catch up went unrewarded.

At the wheel of their No. 92 car, Frenchman Kévin Estre and Michael Christensen from Denmark concluded the final round of the season in Bahrain third in the GTE-Pro class. The sister car driven by the works driver teammates Gianmaria Bruni from Italy and Richard Lietz from Austria took the flag in fourth place. These results were not enough to earn sufficient points to claim the desired victory in the manufacturer’s and driver’s world championships. Shortly before the end of the final race of the 2022 season, the two 911 RSR swapped positions. The reason: If the deteriorating No. 51 Ferrari had retired, Estre/Christensen could have clinched the driver’s world championship title at the last minute.

“It’s a disappointing result for us. We really wanted to win the title as a fitting farewell to the works-911,” concludes Thomas Thomas Laudenbach. The Vice President of Porsche Motorsport adds: “We did a flawless job and did our very best – but we weren’t in a position to win on our own merits. We were really unlucky twice with the timing of the yellow flags, so it was a disappointing swan song performance from the GTE-Pro category. Still, let’s not forget that we won our class at Le Mans last June with the 911 RSR.”

“At the end of the day, we were too slow and the rivals had more luck with the yellow phases,” states Alexander Stehlig, Director Factory Motorsport FIA WEC. “We need to find out whether our lack of pace was due to the tyres or the BoP classification. We’re sad. We’d imagined a different outcome to wrap up this great factory programme.”

The final round went significantly better for the Project 1 customer team contesting the GTE-Am category. After impressive performances from drivers Nicolas Leutwiler (Switzerland), Mikkel Pedersen (Denmark) and Matteo Cairoli (Italy), the No. 46 car won its class ahead of the sister car. Even more impressive was the fact that this was the debut in the FIA WEC for the two Americans Gunnar Jeannette and PJ Hyett in the No. 56 car. The duo was supported in their fight for second place by the British regular driver Ben Barnicoat. “Congratulations to our strong customers,” comments Thomas Laudenbach. Alexander Stehlig adds: “Project 1 achieved a one-two result – that’s precisely what every team wants at the end of a season. The squad will be feeling highly motivated as it turns its attention to the 2023 season, which marks the final year for the 911 RSR in the GTE-Am class of the FIA WEC.” Dempsey-Proton Racing’s two customer cars reached the flag in positions eight and twelve, with the nine-eleven fielded by GR Racing achieving sixth.

With the conclusion of the 2022 season, an era in endurance racing comes to an end: The popular and most fiercely competitive GTE-Pro class of the FIA WEC is phased out. However, the Porsche 911 RSR will still be campaigned in 2023, with customer teams fielding the ca. 378 kW (515 PS) in the GTE-Am category. Next year, the new Porsche Penske Motorsport factory squad will fight for overall victory with 963 LMDh prototypes in the hypercar class of the World Endurance Championship.

Comments on the race
Michael Christensen (Porsche 911 RSR #92):
 “From a driving and strategic perspective, we did our absolute best. We lost a lot of ground early on due to bad luck with the caution phase. Basically, it was game over by then. It’s such a shame but that’s just how it goes some days.”

Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “This is not how we imagined it. We came here to win both titles – and now we stand here empty-handed. We just didn’t have the speed in the final race, so we tried to do something strategic, but luck wasn’t on our side. We tried our very best. Unfortunately, Ferrari was faster than us in the second half of the season.”

Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “It was close in the end – but that doesn’t change the overall outcome. Our car felt good in the race. We had to compensate for some absences in our pit crew due to illness. Even the rookies who stepped in at short notice did an impeccable job. We did everything we could, it just wasn’t quite enough. Thank you to the FIA WEC works team for an extraordinary time. Now, we’re looking forward to a new era with exciting prototypes.”

Richard Lietz (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “Despite doing everything right we just didn’t have a chance. I’m sure many people could recognise why that was. I didn’t understand the handling of the Balance of Performance this year. I wish our colleagues who are going on to work on the 963 next year better luck with the BoP.”

Matteo Cairoli (Porsche 911 RSR #46): “In the last race of the season, we finally clinched our first win. It really doesn’t get better than that. The whole weekend ran like clockwork. It was so much fun to drive the 911 RSR on the track. My teammates did a fantastic job in the cockpit and our entire team did everything right. We deserved this success. A one-two result at the end of the year – you can’t ask for more than that.”

Race result
GTE-Pro class

1. Molina/Fuoco (E/I), Ferrari 488 GTE #52, 231 laps
2. Milner/Tandy (USA/UK), Corvette C8.R #64, 230 laps
3. Christensen/Estre (DK/F), Porsche 911 RSR #92, 230 laps
4. Bruni/Lietz (I/A), Porsche 911 RSR #91, 230 laps
5. Pier Guidi/Calado (I/UK), Ferrari 488 GTE #51, 227 laps

GTE-Am class:
1. Cairoli/Pedersen/Leutwiler (I/DK/CH), Porsche 911 RSR #46, 226 laps
2. Hyett/Jeannette/Barnicoat (USA/USA/UK), Porsche 911 RSR #56, 226 laps
3. Bovy/Frey/Gatting (B/CH/DK), Ferrari 488 GTE #85, 226 laps
6. Wainwright/Barker/Pera (UK/UK/I), Porsche 911 RSR #86, 226 laps
8. Ried/Priaulx/Tincknell (D/UK/UK), Porsche 911 RSR #77, 226 laps
12. Poordad/Lindsey/Heylen (USA/USA/B), Porsche 911 RSR #88, 224 laps

Source. Porsche

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