Works driver Kévin Estre has planted the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR on pole position in qualifying for the six-hour race in Bahrain. In the close hunt for top times, the Frenchman only just outpaced his Italian brand colleague Gianmaria Bruni in the identical ca. 515 PS nine-eleven with the starting number 91. For Kévin Estre and Neel Jani, who currently rank second in the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC, this is the fourth pole position from the fifth and penultimate race of the season. In the GTE-Am class, the best 911 RSR takes up the race from third place.
“The result looks good. Considering the narrow gap, it’s clear that both drivers turned strong laps,” said Alexander Stehlig, Head of Operations FIA WEC. “We did a good job in the free practice sessions. In hot conditions, we managed to get the tyres within the operating window – over long distances and a flying lap. First and second are ideal starting positions. We have to try everything in the race to hold on to these positions until the flag. That would improve our ranking in the championship considerably.” Thanks to their pole position, Estre/Jani have slashed the gap in the drivers’ standings to eleven points. In the manufacturers’ classification, 15 points separate Porsche from the lead.
Conditions were tricky in the ten-minute qualifying on Friday evening on the Bahrain International Circuit. Due to the very abrasive asphalt and high temperatures of over 30-degrees Celsius in the desert, the Michelin tyres on all GTE-Pro cars only allowed optimal grip for a single flying lap. About 90 seconds after the session started, Estre was the first GTE-Pro driver to head out onto the 5.412-kilometre racetrack. His works driver teammate Bruni followed shortly after. Flying in formation, the two seasoned specialists promptly clocked top times in the Porsche 911 RSR, which the competition was unable to undercut. In a time of 1:56.144 minutes, Estre beat Bruni in the sister car by a mere 0.034 seconds.
In the GTE-Am class, the Project 1 squad scored a commendable grid spot with third place for the race in Sakhir. Setting a lap time of 1:59.404 minutes, the Norwegian Egidio Perfetti missed out on a front-row spot by less than a tenth of a second. The two Porsche 911 RSR fielded by Dempsey-Proton Racing tackle the six-hour race from positions seven and nine. GR Racing’s technically identical car takes up race five of the season from P12.
The six-hour race of the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC on the Bahrain International Circuit gets underway on Saturday 30 October at 11:00 am local time (10:00 am CEST). For a fee, the official FIA WEC app offers live streaming and live timing.
Drivers’ comments after the qualifying
Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “My lap might not have been perfect but it was enough for pole position – and I’m very happy about that. It was very tight between us and our sister car. This shows that Porsche is very good here, especially in qualifying. The manufacturers’ world championship is very important for us, so the No. 91 car also plays a major role. And it stands between us and the ‘reds’. I hope we also manage to maintain the upper hand in the race.”
Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “The qualifying result is really good: Our lap times were almost the same. Our Porsche 911 RSR felt fantastic on the flying lap, which was a result of our perfect preparation. I’m feeling very confident about the race. We have a strong car and we can definitely fight at the front.”
Egidio Perfetti (Porsche 911 RSR #56): “Third isn’t as good as first of course, but I’m happy we managed to beat most of the Ferraris and Aston Martins. We face two races in ten days. It’s good that we are at the front. We were strong here in Bahrain last year and we won our class. I hope we’ll make it back to the podium tomorrow, preferably on the top step.”
1. Estre/Jani (F/CH), Porsche GT Team, Porsche 911 RSR #92, 1:56.144 minutes
2. Lietz/Bruni (A/I), Porsche GT Team, Porsche 911 RSR #91, 1:56.178 minutes
3. Serra/Molina (BR/E), AF Corse, Ferrari 488 GTE #52, 1:57.327 minutes
4. Calado/Pier Guidi (GB/I), AF Corse, Ferrari 488 GTE #51, 1:57.573 minutes
1. Mastronardi/Piccini/Cressoni (I/I/I), Ferrari 488 GTE #60, 1:58.687 minutes
2. Dalla Lana/Farfus/Gomez (CDN/BR/BR), Aston Martin Vantage GTE #98, 1:59.331 minutes
3. Perfetti/Cairoli/Pera (N/I/I), Team Project 1, Porsche 911 RSR #56, 1:59.404 minutes
7. Andlauer/de Leener/Al Qubaisi (F/B/UAE), Dempsey-Proton Racing, Porsche 911 RSR #88, 1:59.923 minutes
9. Ried/Campbell/Evans (D/AUS/NZ), Dempsey-Proton Racing, Porsche 911 RSR #77, 2:00.294 minutes
12. Wainwright/Barker/Gamble (GB/GB/GB), GR Racing, Porsche 911 RSR #86, 2:00.939 minutes