Porsche 911 RSR farewells the FIA WEC with pole position

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

– Sarah Bovy sets the fastest qualifying time in the GTE Am class for Iron Dames
– Works Porsche 963 tackle the FIA WEC finale from positions four and seven
– Customer squads Proton Competition and Hertz Team Jota on P8 and P9
– Asphalt temperatures in the desert state of Bahrain reach 33 degrees Celsius during qualifying

The best Porsche 963 will tackle the final round of this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship WEC from the second grid row on Saturday. Works driver Kévin Estre turned the fourth-fastest qualifying lap for the 8-hour race on the Bahrain International Circuit in 1:47.712 minutes. The Frenchman shares the cockpit of the 514 kW (699 PS) hybrid prototype with André Lotterer from Germany and Belgium’s Laurens Vanthoor. Estre’s Porsche Penske Motorsport teammate and compatriot Frédéric Makowiecki planted the No. 5 Porsche on position seven. He shares driving duties with Dane Cameron (USA) and Michael Christensen from Denmark. The two customer outfits Proton Competition and Hertz Team Jota head into the race from positions eight and nine. In the GTE Am class, the Porsche 911 RSR fielded by Iron Dames starts from pole position thanks to Sarah Bovy’s (Belgium) fastest lap time.

The 15-minute qualifying session for the Hypercar class began as darkness fell, with the outside temperatures remaining high at 29 degrees Celsius. The dry asphalt had reached 33 degrees Celsius. Both works-run Porsche 963 headed into the session fitted with Michelin’s harder racing tyres – a compound that can also be used in the midday heat of Bahrain. The race starts at 2 pm local time and runs into the cooler night.

While Frédéric Makowiecki headed out onto the track after just over a minute, Kévin Estre waited in the pits for the first third of qualifying – and promptly set his fastest time on his third flying lap. Makowiecki, however, had to abandon his first attempt after being hampered by a rival. As a result, he only managed to turn the seventh-fastest time.

« Fourth and seventh place on the grid is not exactly the result we expected, » explains Urs Kuratle, Director of Factory Racing LMDh. « While it’s not that important in an 8-hour race, we’re annoyed – we want to start in front of Cadillac. Our goal here in Bahrain is to beat them. The race is long and tough for the drivers, so we’re well-positioned in this regard. So far, neither we nor our customers have had any technical hiccups this weekend, and that also makes us confident. If we drive a flawless race and make the right decisions like we did in Fuji, then we have a good chance. »

« At the last qualifying of the 2023 WEC season, things were quite tight between P3 and P7. The drivers were only separated by a few tenths of a second, » states Jonathan Diuguid, Managing Director of Porsche Penske Motorsport. « Kévin Estre put in a decent lap there. We’re pleased with our good starting position for the race. The wear and performance of the tyres will be crucial. We feel well-positioned in this regard. The target is always a podium so we hope to move up the order tomorrow. »

Porsche works driver Gianmaria Bruni qualified in eighth with the Porsche 963 from the Proton Competition customer team. The Italian shares the cockpit with Neel Jani from Switzerland and Harry Tincknell from the UK. The Hertz Team Jota outfit will tackle the season finale on the 5.412-kilometre Bahrain International Circuit on Saturday from the ninth grid spot: Englishman William Stevens turned the fastest lap in the team’s LMDh prototype shortly before the end of qualifying. He shares the car with works driver António Félix da Costa from Portugal and Yifei Ye. The Chinese racer is sponsored by Porsche Motorsport Asia-Pacific.

GTE Am class
After the final GTE Am qualifying in the World Endurance Championship, the fastest Porsche 911 RSR starts from pole position: with a time of 1:58.692 minutes, Sarah Bovy set the fastest time in the Iron Dames’ 378 kW (515 PS) 911. The Belgian dominated the session by almost 0.3 seconds. She shares the cockpit with Denmark’s Michelle Gatting and Rahel Frey from Switzerland. From next year, racing cars complying with the FIA GT3 regulations will replace the current GTE vehicles. Christian Ried posted the eighth fastest time with the Porsche fielded by his Dempsey-Proton Racing team. The German will tackle the eight-hour race from the fourth grid row in the GTE Am class. The other 911 RSR racing vehicles campaigned by the customer teams Project1-AO, GR Racing and Iron Lynx qualified in positions ten to twelve with drivers PJ Hyett (USA), Michael Wainwright (Great Britain) and Claudio Schiavoni (Italy). Only amateur racers with bronze driver status are eligible to qualify in this category.

The seventh and final race of this year’s FIA WEC on the Bahrain International Circuit takes off on Saturday at 2 pm local time (noon CET). The race on the Grand Prix circuit of the island state in the Persian Gulf runs over eight hours.

Qualifying quotes from the drivers
Kévin Estre (Porsche 963 #6): « Our qualifying was good. I waited in the pits for quite some time before heading out onto the track. After two warm-up laps, I attacked but I made a few minor mistakes so I abandoned the lap and tried again. That was the right decision but it was risky: I only had this one attempt. It worked out so I’m pleased about that. »

Frédéric Makowiecki (Porsche 963 #5): « I’m pretty disappointed with the result, we’d hoped for a better position. I was held up by a competitor on my flying lap, which cost me crucial time and a much better grid position. Still, sometimes such things happen in motorsport. »

Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche 963 #99): « We continue to improve as a team. Qualifying showed that we are getting there step by step – even though we haven’t done any testing here. Unfortunately, on my fastest lap, a rival made a mistake in front of me and simply kept driving without letting me past. »

Will Stevens (Porsche 963 #38): « The changeable conditions during the free practice sessions turned this qualifying into a bit of an unknown. In the last few days, we focused primarily on our race setup, so qualifying wasn’t our highest priority. I had problems with the brake balance during the session – the front wheels kept locking up. This further complicated matters. Still, I think we’re well positioned for the race and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. »

Sarah Bovy (Porsche 911 RSR #85): « Securing the last pole position of the GTE Am era in the World Endurance Championship for Porsche means a lot to me – it’s a very emotional moment, I even shed tears on the cool-down lap. In Bahrain, it’s always very tricky finding the right balance between performance and tyre wear. We knew that we probably only had one lap where everything had to come together. My team gave me the perfect car for this. »

Qualifying result
Hypercar class:
1. Buemi/Hartley/Hirakawa (CH/NZ/J), Toyota #8, 1:46.564 minutes
2. Conway/Kobayashi/Lopez (UK/J/ARG), Toyota #7, 1:47.053 minutes
3. Bamber/Lynn/Westbrook (NZ/UK/UK), Cadillac #2, 1:47.265 minutes
4. Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor (F/D/B), Porsche 963 #6, 1:47.712 minutes…
7. Cameron/Christensen/Makowiecki (USA/DK/F), Porsche 963 #5, 1:47.946 minutes
8. Bruni/Tincknell/Jani (I/UK/CH), Porsche 963 #99, 1:47.964 minutes
9. Da Costa/Ye/Stevens (P/CHN/UK), Porsche 963 #38, 1:48.555 minutes…

GTE Am class:
1. Bovy/Gatting/Frey (B/DK/CH), Porsche 911 RSR #85, 1:58.692 minutes
2. Talbot/Stevenson/Fujii (AUS/UK/J), Aston Martin #777, 1:58.982 minutes
3. Al Harthy/Dinan/Eastwood (OMN/USA/IRL), Aston Martin #25, 1:59.161 minutes…
8. Ried/Pedersen/Andlauer (D/DK/F), Porsche 911 RSR #77, 2:00.063 minutes…
10. Hyett/Jeannette/Cairoli (USA/USA/I), Porsche 911 RSR #56, 2:00.294 minutes
11. Wainwright/Pera/Barker (UK/I/UK), Porsche 911 RSR #86, 2:01.275 minutes
12. Schiavoni/Cressoni/Picariello (I/I/B), Porsche 911 RSR #60, 2:01.547 minutes…

Holger Eckhardt,