Neel Jani admits Porsche had to “roll the dice” in an attempt to secure a swansong LMP1 win in Saturday’s FIA World Endurance Championship season-ending Six Hours of Bahrain.
The 2016 World Champion and co-drivers Nick Tandy and Andre Lotterer, however, came up short after a gamble to triple-stint its Michelin tires and contact with a GTE-Am car derailed their bid.
Jani, who helped put the No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid on pole on Friday, lost the lead early to the eventual race-winning Toyota TS050 Hybrid of Sebastien Buemi in the opening hour, with Tandy dropping back 30 seconds but still within reach.
A fuel-only stop just past halfway put Tandy into the lead on strategy, but contact with Nick Foster’s No. 86 Gulf Racing Porsche 911 RSR dashed hopes of a potential win in the fourth hour.
“We were not far off,” Jani told Sportscar365. “We were closer than we thought. It was the little edge that we missed.
“Interestingly, we started to find pace the cooler it got and we went quicker and quicker, which was the opposite what we expected.
“We could have kept them on their toes, a little bit under pressure and maybe run them into a mistake.
“Unfortunately it hit us with some contact, but we had to roll the dice and try everything at this stage. No risk, no fun here. We wanted to win.
“If we finished second or third, it didn’t matter for us anymore, to be honest.”
The trio finished third, in a race that saw the sister No. 2 Porsche also face drama when Timo Bernhard ran over a stray bollard that required an unscheduled stop with only 15 minutes complete.
“I had some good fights with the two Toyotas,” Jani said. “I just enjoyed every battle because I knew it was the last time you can play with the boost, do tactical games, try to underboost and overboost.
“It was an amazing journey.”
‘Moral’ Victories for No. 1 Crew
Despite not having any wins on the board in 2017, Jani said he feels like they morally won at least twice this season.
The No. 1 Porsche crew was forced to relinquish the lead in team orders at the Nürburgring, Mexico and Circuit of The Americas, to help the championship-leading car of Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber clinch the title.
“I think from the four years, this one was the toughest to accept how it went,” Jani said. “We lost Le Mans, and having basically a minimum two races under our belt.
“It has been an amazing journey but definitely if I had to pick one season I would like to change it’s this season.”
While sharing disappointment from this year, Jani said the four-year run with Porsche in LMP1 has been the highlight of his career.
“It was an unbelievable time,” he said. “It’s been the most amazing time of my career. Having had the experience and working with such a big group.
“We had lucky moments and unlucky moments. But overall, I’m more than happy that I was able to experience this.
“As they say, don’t be sad it stops; be happy you experienced it; be happy it happened.”