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Porsche 963 misses podium in Bahrain

After eight hours of racing, the Porsche 963 missed the podium by less than 1 second

Porsche 963, Porsche Penske Motorsport (#5), Dane Cameron (USA), Michael Christensen (DK), Frederic Makowiecki (F)

The Race

The 8 Hours of Bahrain got underway at 2 pm local time with air temperatures of almost 32 degrees Celsius and asphalt temperatures over 40 degrees. For the Porsche Penske Motorsport works squad, the order was thrown into disarray after the first corner: starting from P4 on the grid, Laurens Vanthoor had to run wide in his Porsche 963 to avoid a collision – which initially relegated the Belgian to ninth place. As the chase continued, a slight nudge with a GTE vehicle made it necessary to replace the front hood at the next pit stop. For the remainder of the race, the No. 6 Porsche systematically battled its way up the field and was back within reach of the podium. Ultimately, Vanthoor and his works driver teammates Kévin Estre from France and André Lotterer from Germany took the flag in fifth place.

Porsche 963, Porsche Penske Motorsport (#6), Kevin Estre (F), Andre Lotterer (D), Laurens Vanthoor (B)

The No. 5 sister car benefitted from the chaos in the sprint to the first corner and progressed to fourth place. However, the vehicle was unable to match the pace of its rivals, especially in the heat during the first half of the race. A problem with the speed limiter, which automatically regulates the speed on the track during a full course yellow, also earned the 514 kW (699 PS) Porsche two five-second penalties. Fréderic Makowiecki from France, the American Dane Cameron and Michael Christensen reached the finish in seventh place.

Porsche 963, Porsche Penske Motorsport (#6), Kevin Estre (F), Andre Lotterer (D), Laurens Vanthoor (B); Porsche 963, Proton Competition (#99), Gianmaria Bruni (I), Harry Tincknell (UK), Neel Jani (CH), Start

Response from Management

VP of Porsche Motorsport

“We’ve experienced a season of mixed fortunes and still have a lot of work to do,” says Thomas Laudenbach, Vice President Porsche Motorsport. “But we’re seeing an upward trend and we were able to fight with the Ferraris today – that’s great news. I’m particularly impressed with the Hertz Team Jota squad’s strong performance – congratulations on fourth place. We definitely would’ve preferred a better result for the factory team. This was our first season with the Porsche 963, and we rebuilt a lot of things at the same time. That’s why we’re wrapping up the season feeling positive and looking ahead. Next year we will return significantly stronger. I’m also delighted for the Iron Dames team. The squad finally clinched its first class victory in the GTE Am, and thus brings the great era of the 911 RSR in the FIA WEC to a fitting end.”

Director of Porsche Factory Racing

“The last race of the 2023 season was not easy for all Porsche 963,” states Urs Kuratle, Director Factory Racing LMDh. “We at Porsche Penske Motorsport encountered a lot of minor incidents with both vehicles that we had to sort out during the race. And to be honest, it wasn’t our best race on the operational side, either. We had the speed because we were able to match the pace of the Ferraris and we also edged closer to the Toyotas. Congratulations to Hertz Team Jota!”

Director Porsche Penske Motorsport

“We had a rough start into the race today and immediately lost important positions,” explains Jonathan Diuguid, Managing Director Porsche Penske Motorsport. “It took us a little while to fight our way back. We also sustained some damage on our number 6 Porsche 963. We had to change the nose which cost us some time and track positions. The number 5 sister car also had a rough day for various reasons. We picked up a few full-course-yellow speeding violations. Our drivers weren’t to blame for this. In general, we didn’t have the pace to fight the Toyotas today. That’s always our goal so we need to improve there. Still, as the season comes to an end we have a lot to be proud of and we have a lot to build on for the future. So we’re looking forward to the 2024 WEC season and of course the 24 Hours of Le Mans.”

Porsche 963, Porsche Penske Motorsport (#6), Kevin Estre (F), Andre Lotterer (D), Laurens Vanthoor (B)

Hertz Team Jota

The Porsche 963 fielded by Hertz Team Jota coped better with the midsummer conditions during the early part of the season finale: the LMDh hybrid prototype crewed by works driver António Félix da Costa from Portugal, William Stevens from the UK and Yifei Ye from China moved up to fourth place. Halfway through the eight-hour race, Félix da Costa even advanced to third place after overtaking a Ferrari. However, the Portuguese driver lost this position after a braking failure. He was also handed a drive-through penalty for hindering another competitor when he rejoined the track. Nevertheless, in a gripping sprint to the finish, the trio worked their way back up to fourth position.

Porsche 963, Hertz Team Jota (#38), António Félix da Costa (P), Will Stevens (UK), Yifei Ye (CHN)

GTE Am class: First win for Iron Dames, the last for the Porsche 911 RSR

At its FIA WEC swan song, the 911 RSR again gave a strong performance. Heading into the race from pole position, Sarah Bovy initially held on to the lead in the Iron Dames’ 378 kW (515 PS) Porsche. After a good half hour, the Belgian had to make way for Matteo Cressoni’s Iron Lynx sister car. For long stretches of the final race in Bahrain, the two Porsche dominated the GTE Am class. However, halfway through the seventh hour, the charge of the leading Iron Lynx car came to an early end: after falling ill, the third driver was unable to take over the cockpit. To avoid disqualification, the team pulled out. This opened the door for Sarah Bovy and her teammates Michelle Gatting from Denmark and Rahel Frey from Switzerland. The all-female crew clinched their first class victory in the FIA World Endurance Championship after 232 laps and gave the Porsche 911 RSR a perfect farewell – from next season, the 911 GT3 R will replace the GTE vehicle. Christian Ried (Germany), Mikkel Pedersen (Denmark) and former Porsche Junior Julien Andlauer (France) brought the Dempsey Proton Racing nine-eleven over the finish line sixth in class. The customer teams GR Racing and Project1-AO secured positions eight and ten with the other 911 racers.

Porsche 911 RSR, Iron Dames (#85), Sarah Bovy (B), Rahel Frey (CH), Michelle Gatting (DK)

Results

Hypercar class:

  1. Buemi/Hartley/Hirakawa (CH/NZ/J), Toyota #8, 249 laps
  2. Conway/Kobayashi/Lopez (UK/J/ARG), Toyota #7, 249 laps
  3. Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen (I/E/DK), Ferrari #50, 249 laps
  4. Da Costa/Ye/Stevens (P/CHN/UK), Porsche 963 #38, 249 laps
  5. Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor (F/D/B), Porsche 963 #6, 248 laps
  6. Cameron/Christensen/Makowiecki (USA/DK/F), Porsche 963 #5, 247 laps
  7. Bruni/Tincknell/Jani (I/UK/CH), Porsche 963 #99, 247 laps

GTE Am class:

  1. Bovy/Gatting/Frey (B/DK/CH), Porsche 911 RSR #85, 232 laps
  2. Talbot/Stevenson/Fujii (AUS/UK/J), Aston Martin #777, 232 laps
  3. James/Mancinelli/Ribeiras (USA/I/E), Aston Martin #98, 232 laps
  4. Ried/Pedersen/Andlauer (D/DK/F), Porsche 911 RSR #77, 231 laps
  5. Wainwright/Pera/Barker (UK/I/UK), Porsche 911 RSR #86, 231 laps
  6. Hyett/Jeannette/Cairoli (USA/USA/I), Porsche 911 RSR #56, 230 laps
  7. DNF Schiavoni/Cressoni/Picariello (I/I/B), Porsche 911 RSR #60

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