Podium finish and title win for Porsche in a highly emotional finale
For the second consecutive year Porsche has taken everything in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC): victory in Le Mans, winning the manufacturers’ world championship in Shanghai and now again the drivers’ world championship at the finale in Bahrain. In the last of nine WEC rounds in 2016 Timo Bernhard (DE), Brendon Hartley (NZ) and Mark Webber (AU) came third, having started second on the grid with their Porsche 919 Hybrid. The new world champions, Romain Dumas (FR), Neel Jani (CH) and Marc Lieb (DE) only came sixth after contact with another car early in the race. Audi’s dominant one-two race result was an impressive farewell from the WEC.
The six-hour race started at 16:00 hrs with ambient temperatures near 30 degrees Celsius. After the sun had set at 16:45 hrs the air cooled down to 24 degrees.
How the race went for car number 1:
Bernhard starts from second on the grid and lets Jani in the sister car pass him on the first lap. On lap 13 the number 7 Audi also overtakes him, Bernhard is fourth now. After 29 laps he hands over to Webber, who manages to improve to third by overtaking the number 5 Toyota on lap 43. Hartley jumps in after 59 laps, and after 89 laps Bernhard takes over until Hartley is back in the car after 120 laps. Bernhard once again jumps in after 150 laps, before finally, after 180 laps, Webber goes in to enjoy the final stint of his racing career. After a total of 201 laps he brings the 919 home in P3.
How the race went for car number 2:
Jani improves on lap one from third to second. On lap 15 he is overtaken by the number 7 Toyota. Jani is third now in front of the sister Porsche. After 28 laps he has his first pit stop and continues. One lap later he has contact with a GT car and has to stop again: the damaged tyre and rear bodywork is changed. Now the number 2 Porsche is one lap down. After 60 laps Dumas takes over, after 91 laps it is Lieb’s turn, after 122 laps Jani is back behind the wheel and after 153 laps it is Dumas again. Lieb climbs into the car for the final stint to cross the line some 20 minutes later after 198 laps and becomes a world champion.
Quotes after the race:
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1: “Today’s race has shown what characterises the Porsche Team. It was able to handle a difficult race under huge pressure. I can only say thank you to all six drivers, every single team member and the Porsche board members, who have supported this programme right from the beginning. Also today at the track they have personally shown that they absolutely support the project. Congratulations to Audi for a well deserved victory today, and thanks for the great competition – we will miss you.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: “Le Mans winners, manufacturers’ and drivers’ champions – for the second consecutive year we have achieved all our goals. That is an immense joy for us as the Porsche Team. I congratulate our three world champions Marc, Neel and Romain as well as the crew of car number 2. This car has been the only one of all LMP1 entries that hasn’t spent a single second inside the box with technical problems during the 2016 races. We are now looking forward to the celebrations. And, after a short pause for a rest, we will start flat out with the preparations for 2017.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid number 1
Timo Bernhard (35, Germany): “My start wasn’t too bad. Neel came on the inside and, of course, I left him room to overtake. We were about the same speed and neither of us was quick enough to catch the Audi, but clearly we beat Toyota. For us it was very important to hand over the car to Mark at the end and enable him to do the last laps, and we wanted to be together with him on the podium for one last time. This was a very emotional day, too much to put it into words.”
Brendon Hartley (27, New Zealand): “My first stint after Timo and Mark had been driving went pretty cleanly. I had Kazuki Nakajima behind me and it was a bit tricky with the traffic, but it came out okay. Regarding the Audi, we were hoping to get closer when it was getting cooler, but it didn’t work out today. They deserved the victory in their last race. And for Mark and us it worked out, as we got onto the podium in his last race. We did our maximum today, and it is really very sad to see him go.”
Mark Webber (40, Australia): “I was the second and the last driver in the car today, and pretty happy with both stints. Early in the race I had a nice little fight with the number 5 Toyota. I managed to get passed him and tried to pull away, but we didn’t have enough pace to fight the Audi. Then for the final stint it was pretty emotional putting my helmet on for the last time. I enjoyed the last stint and I got the chance to bring the car to the chequered flag for the top three finish, and this was the maximum we could get today. It has been such an incredible three years for me with Porsche, together with Timo and Brendon and the whole team. Nothing is forever, I’m stopping at a good time and I’m looking forward to seeing everybody again soon.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid number 2
Romain Dumas (38, France): “For us the chance for a podium was over after one hour into the race. After Neel had contact with another car our 919 felt strange. We had a little oversteer everywhere. But, because of the championship situation, we didn’t have to push. For us it was important to finish the race reliably and avoid any mistakes – I’m relieved it worked out.”
Neel Jani (32, Switzerland): “It was a promising race start. It was also hard work, because I frequently got into traffic in the worst places, but the strategy and the first pit stop went very well. Then when I was on my out lap a GT car just hit me, which caused damage to a rear tyre and bodywork. After the repairs the car wasn’t great anymore and we had no chance to close the huge gap to the front. All we could do was hope the number 6 Toyota would not win and make sure that we would not take any risks on track.”
Marc Lieb (36, Ludwigsburg): “For me it went pretty smoothly, and I was just carrying the car round the track. Since the hit when Neel was driving early in the race, the steering wheel wasn’t straight anymore. Our 919 wasn’t in the best shape in the end, but we rolled it home, and we just made it.”