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Jani: “You Win a Championship By Surviving Your Bad Moments”

Neel Jani on Porsche’s title success in 2016 WEC season…

Photo: Porsche

Photo: Porsche

To say the No. 2 Porsche labored towards the FIA World Endurance Drivers Championship would be an understatement.

It’s been a tough second half of the season for Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas, with no podium finishes since the dramatic victory at the 24 Hours of Le Man, which gave them a commanding 39-point lead in the standings.

Slowly but surely, the No. 8 Audi R18 and No. 6 Toyota TS050 Hybrid ate into their advantage, but a sixth place finish in last weekend’s season-ending Six Hours of Bahrain was enough for the title, Porsche’s second in a row.

In many respects, the race summed up their season, as Jani was hit by the KCMG Porsche 911 RSR in the first hour and suffered a puncture which dropped the team off the lead lap.

Jani admits that he has been frustrated by the team’s struggles during the second half of the year, but explained that he had learned to focus on playing the long game.

“There are many possibilities to close it way earlier, but on the other hand we were lucky early in the season as well,” he said.

“We always say good luck and bad equals out over the season. You don’t win a championship because of your good moments, you win a championship by surviving your bad moments in the best possible way, because you have them anyway.

“It’s about how you survive them mentally and I think we’ve done that quite well by staying in the race, not getting frustrated, not throwing the car away, just get those points.

“What I learned is just don’t give up, get yourself into a good position and try to be there when you have to be there.”

Jani has been the team’s standout driver for much of the season and did his reputation no harm at all with a second pole at Le Mans.

Although he accepts that it counted for little in the race itself, as Porsche only overcame the No. 5 Toyota when it ground to a halt in the closing stages, the Swiss regards it as one of his personal highlights of the season.

“Pole position second time in a row in Le Mans was good for me,” said Jani, without hesitation. “I know it doesn’t mean anything before the race, but in the end it’s still something cool.

“I have my highlights, my good moments where I had a lot of fun like fighting with Andre [Lotterer] at Nürburgring, good fights at Le Mans, it was a good season.”

However, when asked whether winning the world’s most famous endurance race, or the World Championship were more important to him, Jani was more philosophical.

“I think still Le Mans is a myth and it’s something that even non-motorsport fans can relate to,” he said.

“The WEC is still a young championship and it has a lot of meaning to me as a racing driver, but less people can relate to it, so that tells you almost the importance of something. Maybe in 50 years it will be different, who knows.

“At the beginning of the season, everyone asked me what do you want, Le Mans or the world championship, but I say we had the car for both – we should not need to choose.”

James Newbold (@James_Newbold) is a UK-based freelance motorsport journalist. A graduate of Politics and International Relations, James is also the editor of Autosport Performance.

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