The 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship season is winding down with the final two rounds, the Bapco 6 Hours and 8 Hours of Bahrain, scheduled on 30 October and 6 November. These back-to-back race weekends pose particular challenges for the factory Porsche team.
The workshops of Manthey Racing, Porsche's operating team in the FIA WEC, have been basically empty since 6 September. That day, the championship's logistics partner, DHL, picked up five 12-meter shipping containers, sending them to Bahrain by way of the port city of Anvers. The containers are filled with the equipment needed for the last two rounds of the season, incuding the #91 and #92 Porsche 911 RSRs and the two safety cars that are also managed by Manthey.
14 days in the Middle East
Team Manager Bernhard Demmer: "From a logistics perspective, back-to-back races in the Persian Gulf are much easier than one race in Fuji and one in Bahrain. Originally, the FIA WEC racing calendar had planned one race each in Japan and Bahrain at the end of the year. Especially in terms of customs clearance in the two countries, this would have resulted in significantly more effort. In Bahrain, everything is handled as temporary import: the material is only imported for a short period of time and then the exact same material is exported again. It’s noticeably easier to organise. In Japan, the freight enters the country via the so-called ATA Carnet. This requires, among other things, a guarantee from the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, as well as many signatures and stamps. All in all, it’s a significantly greater effort."
As a result of this adjusted end-of-season calendar, the team will not only save money but will also be able to bypass a certain amount of work. The pit and garage equipment will not need to be dismantled and reinstalled between the two races, for example. The cars will be kept in their well-equipped garages between the two rounds. The team will spend a total of 14 days in the Middle East. Demmer: "There are certainly worse places than Bahrain for such a situation. The people there are friendly, the hotels are first class and the conditions at the track are ideal. Additionally, everyone can get their fix of sun and warmth there before the European winter."
At Bahrain, Porsche GT Team will take part in 14 hours of racing and one day of testing sessions for the official Rookie Tests. Team members will have a very intense schedule peppered with well-deserved breaks. If the two Porsche 911 RSR-19s cross the finish line of the first race without any major damage, the cars will be serviced on Sunday and Monday morning and then the mechanics will have 24 hours of free time. "One thing is important, and it’s often overlooked. If you fly home between two races, like in Fuji and Bahrain for example, it’s like pushing a reset button. Automatically, the crew would be fully concentrated on each of the race weekends. We have to achieve the same effect at this upcoming back-to-back event, even though it’ll seem like one long event. We all have to divide our concentration and energy optimally because these last two races are about nothing less than the championship."
Packing a washing machine and a dryer
The teams in the FIA WEC have never experienced two back-to-back races in the championship. FIA WEC Head of Operations Alexander Stehlig: "This is exactly where it becomes a bit of an experiment because we’ve never experienced this format before. I see a particular focus on the engineers in this situation. They have to follow up, analyse and prepare everything within four days, where they would otherwise have two or three weeks to do this. Even if we win the first race, the drivers and engineers will still find things that we need to optimise. I was a race engineer myself for a long time. I know that we like to calculate to the second decimal place, even though the first would be enough. That’s how we work and it’s a good thing. Still, we have to manage our workload effectively in this area as well. So, an engineer should allow himself three hours of downtime, too."
Porsche GT Team made sure to include a washing machine and a dryer in the equipment shipped to Bahrain. Demmer: "We have a washing machine and dryer in our luggage. With such a lengthy event, the team and drivers’ clothing have to be cleaned every now and then, especially in the sweltering heat of the desert. With a third-party laundry service, like a hotel, you always run the risk of things coming back a size smaller. We’d rather wash our own clothes."
The team is currently in second place in the FIA GT Constructors Championship, trailing AF Corse by 16 points. In the FIA GT Drivers Championship, Kevin Estre and Neel Jani (#92) are 12 points behind leaders Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado (#51 Ferrari). Kevin Estre: "It's a shame that we had to give up the lead in the drivers' championship in the previous race at Le Mans. But it gives us an enormous amount of motivation. If we win both races, the title is ours. That's our main goal."
The start at the Bapco 6 Hours of Bahrain will be given on Saturday 30 September at 11:00 (U.K. time).
Click for the entry list.