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“Surprise” Porsche Setbacks Dashed Three-Way Lead Battle

Three-way manufacturer fight expected in GTE-Pro if it were not for Porsche’s setbacks…

Photo: Porsche

Porsche’s “surprise” dual setbacks in Saturday’s 8 Hours of Bahrain cut short what would have been a three-manufacturer battle for the GTE-Pro class win, according to the team.

The German manufacturer suffered two separate race-curtailing issues within minutes of each other, dropping both cars out of contention for top class honors.

In the midst of the lead battle, the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR of Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen was forced into the garage with a damper failure in the fourth hour.

It put the car three laps down from the class lead, before ultimately fighting back to 19th outright at the end of eight hours.

Minutes later, the sister No. 91 Porsche of Gianmaria Bruni also limped to the garage with a tire problem, which was later reported to be a wrongly-fitted wheel.

That also cost the No. 91 time, however, Bruni and Richard Lietz were able to bring the car home as the best of the Porsches in GTE-Pro, fifth in class.

Porsche’s factory motorsports director Pascal Zurlinden said the problems came as a “surprise” after the team ran an extensive endurance test at Sebring of more than 30 hours “without issue”.

Estre explained to Sportscar365 that he felt “something broke” in the car and had a vibration earlier in the stint.

Porsche will investigate the cause of the damper failure, with Zurlinden unsure whether it was the result of any contact during the race.

“I think the battles would have been all together until the end, as Aston and Ferrari were battling to the end,” Zurlinden told Sportscar365.

“Instead of a two-way race with four cars, it would have been a three-way race with six cars

“[It] would have been great over eight hours. We are a bit sad after all of the races that we have had, knowing there could be such battles, having a setback makes it even more frustrating.”

Team Motivated to Salvage Maximum Championship Points

Despite the lost positions and time, Porsche was motivated to score the maximum points as Bahrain was the first of three extended points-paying races this season, with 1.5x points having been awarded on Saturday.

Estre and Christensen have slipped to second in the GTE World Championship, having entered the weekend with a ten-point cushion and is now 14 points adrift of the leading No. 95 Aston Martin crew of Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen.

“Everyone was motivated to bring the car back,” added Zurlinden.

“For our drivers, the target was to go as close a possible to the Pro car, to overtake as many Am cars as possible to make sure they get maximum points for the driver’s championship.

“That was the motivation for everyone. The race was not finished after we were in the box.”

Estre said the team was not focussed on the championship in Bahrain and is confident they will be able to stay in the title hunt at the remaining rounds.

“We’ll see how it is. We had a ten-point gap coming here; COTA is a low-points race but then you have Sebring, you have Spa, you have Le Mans [which is a] double point race,” he said.

“I think the strategy will be the same, to be honest.

“I think here we didn’t have the strategy for the championship really because it’s too early and it will still be like this until maybe Spa; with the double points at Le Mans this year it’s even more than last year.”

Daniel Lloyd & John Dagys contributed to this report

Slade Perrins is an Australian-based junior reporter for Sportscar365. Perrins won the 2019 Virgin Australia Supercars 'Young Gun Award' for journalism for his work with speedcafe.com.

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