The curtain came down on the 2017 WEC after the Bahrain 6 Hour race this last weekend, and although the winner of the 2017 WEC LMP1 class was known beforehand, it was nevertheless a cracking race. The Bahrain WEC finale 2017 was everything the spectators and fans had hoped for, with thrills and spills from start to finish.
The #1 Porsche 919 of Neel Jani/Andre Lotterer/Nick Tandy started the final race of the season from pole, with the #2 sister car of Timo Bernhard/Brendon Hartley/Earl Bamber in third place. At the start, the race was rather appropriately green flagged by Matthias Müller, Chairman of the Executive Board of Volkswagen AG. While a win wasn’t possible on the day for the LMP1 team, a second (#2) and third (#1) place finish at the chequered flag gave the team a solid finish to the year.
Bernhard/Bamber/Hartley in the #2 Porsche dropped behind after an early incident but impressively fought back. The sister car (#1), driven by Jani/Lotterer/Tandy also suffered a set-back after a collision and a subsequent penalty. Andre Lotterer clocked the fastest race lap and finished in third position after six hours of racing.
Neel Jani started in car #1 and led the race until lap 19 when he could no longer prevent the #8 Toyota from passing, and on lap 20, the #7 Toyota also overtook Jani. After regaining second spot again due to different pit stop strategies, the #1 car retained this place until lap 130 when it was involved in an accident causing Tandy to pit for a new nose and to replace a punctured tyre. Later, with Lotterer behind the wheel, a penalty had to be served as a result of the earlier accident and the #1 Porsche crossed the line in third place at the chequered flag.
In the #2 Porsche, it was Timo Bernhard who started the race, improving his position from third to second place, but on the third lap he ran over an errant bollard lying on the track. The bollard was stuck underneath the car but it was not obvious to the driver during the safety car period. At the end of lap seven, Bernhard pits to get the bollard removed and the nose changed, and to take on fuel as well, losing almost a whole lap in the process. After 37 laps, while running in fourth place, Bernhard handed over to Hartley. At around the halfway mark, this improves to third place when the #7 Toyota has to undergo some repairs after an accident. With 150 race laps on the board, Bernhard climbed back into the car. Timo Bernhard, the driver who did the initial laps with the very first test chassis of the Porsche 919 Hybrid back in 2013, was given the privilege of driving the last few miles in the 919, bringing to a close an intense chapter in the history of Porsche motorsport. The #2 Porsche 919 finished in second place, one lap down to the race winning Toyota.
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1: “Today a very successful era comes to an end and this is the right time to say thank you. Foremost I want to thank the Board who had the faith to give me the project, supported me a lot and always gave me the feeling I was the right choice. Thanks to all our drivers who took every chance and delivered the highest performance with 17 wins from 34 races. Thanks to everybody in the team for their relentless work and euphoria for the project. Today is also the right time to pay my gratitude to our Team Principal Andreas Seidl. For the last two years Andreas has mastered the dual role of Team Principal and Technical Director in a superior manner with the first 919 that was developed under his guidance winning the world championship. And finally, it is great that a company like Porsche exists. If I had to put the six years that I have been with Porsche in one sentence it would be: I was allowed to live my dream. Thanks for the project and thanks for the freedom of scope.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: “Over the past four seasons, Toyota has been an incredible competitor, and I congratulate them on today’s victory. Thanks to the whole team here and in Weissach, to our drivers and partners for four sensational years. This definitely was the last race for the 919 Hybrid. We are very proud of the success we were able to achieve with this technology driven car. Next year we will celebrate these innovations with some very special events. But these details will be unveiled at a later date.”
Neel Jani (#1 Porsche 919): “The start was good and at the beginning we could more or less match the pace of the Toyotas, but as soon as we were in traffic, they just had this little bit more than us. I really, really enjoyed playing with the boost today and all of the tactics for the last time. I was very aware that we were doing everything for the last time. It has been an amazing journey to be part of such a big project with so many great people.”
André Lotterer (#1 Porsche 919): “I had a smooth stint. The 919 was good and I really enjoyed driving it today. I’m very happy that I was able to do 50 WEC races and drive these amazing cars. The 919 has been a very successful car and I’ve enjoyed the season racing with Porsche.”
Nick Tandy (#1 Porsche 919): “I enjoyed the race. It was good fighting and we were all pushing really hard. We got ambitious and tried to do a triple stint on one set of tyres, it all looked good. Unfortunately, I had contact with another car in the middle of the race. A clear misunderstanding that ended with punctures for both cars. We knew we had to do everything possible to take the fight to Toyota today. It was a pleasure to drive with Neel and André over this season and to be part of this team.”
Earl Bamber (#2 Porsche 919): “We were on the back foot after Timo unluckily had to make an early pit-stop, but we never gave up and kept things clean. I just ticked the laps off and enjoyed my time in this monster for the last time. Porsche came up with the crazy idea of putting a little guy from the Carrera Cup in the 919 Hybrid for Le Mans. So, I must thank everyone at Porsche who believed in the pyramid system which gave me that opportunity. It has been an honour to drive for Porsche at the highest level of motorsport.”
Timo Bernhard (#2 Porsche 919): “I had a good start, got past one Toyota and kept up with Neel. But then unfortunately I picked up that bollard and the extra stop dropped us far behind. But the race result is secondary today. It is the end of great era, and I’m honoured to have been part of this programme from the very beginning until the last lap. A great crew, great people and great team mates. I will miss them. This programme definitely is the highlight of my career.”
Brendon Hartley (#2 Porsche 919): “We were out of contention early on today, Timo was really unlucky and to hit this bollard in the middle of the road, it wasn’t his fault at all. It is good to have both cars on the podium today but it is with mixed emotions. I’m honoured having been part of this programme and I will miss it.”
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