The season finale in the desert promises suspense from start to finish: At the six-hour race on the Bahrain International Circuit on 18 November, the title decisions in the Sports Car World Endurance Championship WEC go down to the wire. Richard Lietz (Austria) and Frédéric Makowiecki (France) aim to wrap up an incredibly close and eventful season by securing the GT drivers’ title with the 510 hp Porsche 911 RSR.
Their prospects of claiming the crown in the first season of the newly developed race car from Weissach look good: Ranking second in the drivers’ classification, they are just two points behind the leaders and could take home the world championship crown by their own efforts. Also within reach of a world championship title is the Porsche GT Team, which currently lies second in the team classification. In Bahrain, the Porsche GT Team fields two 911 RSR in the fiercely competitive GTE-Pro class. Their toughest rivals in the fight for the world championship are Ferrari and Ford. Dempsey Proton Racing travels to the Kingdom at the Persian Gulf also holds title chances: The Porsche customer team is within striking distance of clinching the FIA World Endurance Trophy in the GTE-Am class with a 911 RSR.
A distinctive feature of the six-hour race on the Bahrain International Circuit is that it starts in the heat of the afternoon and ends in the darkness and cooler temperatures of the late evening. The 5.407-kilometre racetrack with its 14 corners is located 30 minutes by car to the southwest of the capital Manama. In 2004, the track was purpose-built in the middle of the desert for Formula 1.
The Porsche drivers
In Bahrain, four Porsche factory pilots and a Porsche Young Professional contest this season’s last WEC round. Richard Lietz (Austria) and Frédéric Makowiecki (France) share the cockpit of the #91 Porsche 911 RSR. Their team colleagues Michael Christensen (Denmark) and Kévin Estre (France) drive the 911 RSR with the starting number 92. In the GTE-Am class, Porsche customer teams field two 2015-spec 911 RSR: Dempsey Proton Racing has notched up two victories at the Nürburgring and in Mexiko so far this season with the Porsche Young Professional Matteo Cairoli (Italy), Christian Ried and Marvin Dienst (both Germany). Ben Barker and Michael Wainwright from Great Britain as well as Australian Nick Foster compete in the 911 RSR run by Gulf Racing.
The Porsche 911 RSR
The 911 RSR, developed on the basis of the high-performance 911 GT3 RS sports car, contested its first season in 2017. The suspension, body structure, aerodynamic concept, engine and transmission were all designed from scratch by Porsche Motorsport in Weissach for this season. Depending on the size of the restrictor, the motor, which is positioned in front of the rear axle, puts out around 375 kW (510 hp). Thanks to the large rear diffuser combined with a top-mounted rear wing, the level of downforce and the aerodynamic efficiency were significantly improved. It scored its maiden victory at the American IMSA SportsCar Championship race at Lime Rock on 22 July. The best results so far in this year’s Sports Car World Endurance Championship WEC were second place at the rounds in Nürburgring, Austin, Fuji, and most recently at Shanghai.
The six-hour race in Bahrain starts on Saturday, 18 November, at 16.00 hrs local time (14.00 hrs CET). The complete race can be viewed free-of-charge via live streaming from 13.30 to 20.30 hours on www.sport1.de, as well as on pay-TV on Motorsport.TV from 13.45 to 20.05 hrs. The TV channel Sport 1 televises a live broadcast from 13.45 to 17.00 hrs as well as from 19.00 to 20.30 hrs live. Eurosport telecasts live from 17.15 to 20.10 hrs. The FIA WEC app is free in its basic version, and offers live streaming of the complete race as well as the time-keeping for a fee.
Comments before the race
Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser, Vice President Motorsport and GT Cars: “In Bahrain, an exciting WEC season comes to an end, the first for our new 911 RSR. Considering how close and fierce the competition in the GT categories were this year, it’s no surprise really that most of the title decisions have to wait until the finale. Our very clear focus for the final round is to provide Richard Lietz and Frédéric Makowiecki with all the support they need to win the race and secure the world championship title, which is awarded this year for the very first time in the GTE-Pro class. The first WEC win for the 911 RSR would also increase the chances for the Porsche GT Team to win the team classification. And, of course, we’re keeping our fingers crossed for our Dempsey Proton Racing customer team, who still has a chance to conclude a successful season by winning the FIA World Endurance Trophy.”
Marco Ujhasi, Director GT Factory Motorsports: “Racing in the heat of Bahrain is the ultimate test for the brakes. Those who have the right knack and manage to cope with the temperatures enjoy a huge advantage and have the best chances to be amongst the frontrunners. And the season finale in the desert also puts the tyres under incredible stress. However, as we’ve seen in the last few years, the brakes are the decisive factor.”
Richard Lietz (911 RSR #91): “So now comes the grand finale. Bahrain is one of my favourite racetracks. Firstly, I like driving on the interesting desert circuit, secondly it’s always good weather there. We have a great chance in Bahrain to win the world championship in our new 911 RSR’s maiden season. That’s our goal and we’ll fight for it to the finish – supported by a terrific team, which has played a major role in getting us this far.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (911 RSR #91): “It’s been a very tough first season so far with our new 911 RSR, and the final round in Bahrain won’t be easy either. For us, the season finale is about the world championship, and that increases the pressure. But we can handle it. In Shanghai, we missed out on winning the race by just eleven seconds. This makes us even more motivated for Bahrain, where we have good chances to win and clinch the title for Porsche.”
Michael Christensen (911 RSR #92): “I’m looking forward to the last race of the season. 2017 was an interesting year. We tackled it with the new 911 RSR, we’ve learned a lot from every race and now we’ve reached a good level. This development was a very interesting experience. I’m hoping to finish the season with a strong performance in Bahrain, and I wish the same for our team colleagues Richard and Fred, who hopefully secure the world championship title in Bahrain.”
Kévin Estre (911 RSR #92): “The first season for our new 911 RSR comes to an end in Bahrain. It would be fantastic if we managed to bring home our first win of the WEC on this special racetrack in the desert. The race has a very special atmosphere – a little like 1001 nights. The focus is definitely on the title fight of our teammates Richard and Fred. We’ll do everything we can to support them and, with our entire team, to help them win the GT world championship.”
Matteo Cairoli (911 RSR #77): “In Shanghai we experienced problems and we had no real chance to win. We want to change this in Bahrain. I’m certain that our engineers will find the appropriate solutions to get us back up amongst the frontrunners for the final race of the year. We want to win the FIA Endurance Trophy in Bahrain. That’ll be difficult, but it’s not impossible.”
Balance of Performance (BoP)
The “Balance of Performance” applies to the GTE-Pro class of the WEC Sports Car World Endurance Championship as well as the GTLM class of the IMSA SportsCar Championship. “BoP” was introduced by the FIA with the aim of achieving a level playing field for the different vehicle concepts, and thus ensuring balanced and fair races. The intention is that it should not make a fundamental difference if a vehicle is powered by a turbocharged or normally aspirated engine, or if the engine is mounted on the front axle or in front of the rear axle. The basic aerodynamic shape of the vehicles should also not play a decisive role. After an initial grading by the FIA, the balance of performance is adjusted at the races by means of telemetry - not only using lap times, but also acceleration profiles and engine mappings. This data input is automatically analysed and incorporated into the “Balance of Performance”. The most frequently used means of adjusting the performance level is through adding or subtracting weight. In keeping with the rule-makers’ intention, the key to success on the racetrack is not about the individual potential of a vehicle, instead it’s about the performance of the drivers, the race strategy, a perfect setup or the skill of the team with their pit stops.