The final race weekend for the Porsche LMP Team and the 919 Hybrid has kicked off in Bahrain. In the first two free practice sessions for the last round of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship Neel Jani (CH), André Lotterer (DE) and Nick Tandy (GB) came third and fourth respectively. The new world champions, Earl Bamber (NZ), Timo Bernhard (DE) and Brendon Hartley (NZ), finished in the same positions but in reverse order. Hartley clocked today’s fastest lap for the Porsche 919 Hybrid in 1:40.773 minutes. Two Toyotas topped the time sheets.
Saturday’s six-hour race at the 5.41 kilometre long Grand Prix circuit in the Kingdom’s desert will mark the end of an era. After three outright victories at the Le Mans 24-Hours and winning the world championships for drivers as well as for manufacturers in 2015, 2016 and 2017, Porsche pulls out of the Le Mans Prototype category. For its final race, the exceptionally successful race car has got a special livery: the red stripe carries the names of all the people that have contributed to this chapter of Porsche’s motorsport history. Furthermore, the fin indicates the #919tribute social media campaign. The nicest farewell wishes from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter that use the hashtag will be published on the official Porsche homepage http://porsche.com/919tribute and in the LED strip light at the Porsche Museum in Zuffenhausen.
The first practice session was interrupted for 37 minutes due to circuit repairs and cleaning. Later the 919 Hybrid of Jani/Lotterer/Tandy had to pit for quick repairs after a shortcut in a loom required fixing. The second 90-minute session took place entirely in darkness in pleasant ambient temperatures of around 25 degrees Celsius. Shortly before the end of FP2, Bamber touched a LMP2 car but was able to drive back to the pits.
The qualifying session for the Le Mans prototypes on Friday from 17:30 to 17:50 hrs local time also takes place in the dark. The six-hour race on Saturday will start at 16:00 hrs local time with the sun setting 46 minutes later.
The Porsche LMP Team after practice
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: “All in all it was a good first day for us. We managed to test all the set-up options we wanted to and tried the different tyre compounds on longer runs. We are not entirely happy yet with the cars’ balance and performance and want to try and make a step forward for tomorrow. In the first free practice session, we lost about 15 minutes with car number 1 when we had to fix a loom.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid car number 1:
Neel Jani (33, Switzerland): “FP1 was quite okay, the car’s balance really wasn’t bad. At the beginning of FP2, Nick and I wanted to perform a qualifying simulation but it was difficult to find a clear lap in traffic. Later we worked on the race preparation.”
André Lotterer (35, Germany): “I did long runs in the second session. The car felt quite good. It is not easy to judge yet how we look compared to the competition. We now have to analyse the data from the tyre comparison. I was forced in to a spin by a Ferrari when I was already at a corner exit on one occasion. Driving at night for some is probably not always easy.”
Nick Tandy (33, Great Britain): “It’s been a good first day except for the issue that we had with the wiring loom in the first practice. We lost some laps which is quite important because we needed to work through our programme before we started to progress through the weekend. Clearly it’s going to be a tough weekend against Toyota.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid car number 2
Earl Bamber (27, New Zealand): “In general terms, it’s been a good day. Our long run pace looks good compared to Toyota. We’ll work on the car overnight as it’s not 100% to our liking. But after today’s two practice sessions, it looks like we’ll be in the game come Saturday.“
Timo Bernhard (36, Germany): “In the first session we were focusing on the race set-up. The second practice session we began with a qualifying simulation. Earl went on a long run after that to see for how many laps the tyres will last over the distance. This will be key for a good race result here.”
Brendon Hartley (28, New Zealand): “It was free practice only so there isn’t much to say yet. We didn’t have a great free practice one, chasing the balance. Free practice two looked like we made some changes to the car that work pretty well.”