2016 FIA WEC: Six Hours of Bahrain race report

While Audi dominated the LMP1 class in its final FIA World Endurance Championship race and the no. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid’s sixth-place finish guaranteed Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas a first world title, the real battle at the Six Hours of Bahrain was among the GTE ranks.

In the GTE-Am class, Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing guided the no. 88 Porsche 911 RSR to a second victory of the season after a non-stop battle with the no. 78 KCMG 911 RSR. The one-two was all the more remarkable as both cars started from the rear of the field.

In the first hour, it was actually the no. 86 Gulf Racing 911 RSR that led the charge for Porsche as Ben Barker, taking the start from fourth, spent the opening stint in second, chasing down the leading Larbre Competition Corvette.

Porsche 911 RSR (78), KCMG: Joel Camathias, Christian Ried, Wolf Henzler

The blue-and-orange RSR emerged from the pits ahead of the Chevrolet but, as hour one came to a close it was actually the no. 78 Porsche 911 that led the GTE-Am field having run longer into the race without taking a pit stop.

KCMG’s advantage would be wiped out moments after its first tyre-and-fuel stop though as a safety car period closed up the pack and allowed the Abu-Dhabi Proton car to make its own stop, gaining around 50 seconds as a result.

With factory ace, Patrick Long now behind the wheel (having taken over from Khaled Al Qubaisi), the no. 86 Porsche went on a charge as the American racer moved the Abu Dhabi-Proton RSR from fifth up to third in his first few laps.

Porsche 911 RSR (77), Dempsey Proton Racing: Richard Lietz, Michael Christensen

By the end of the second hour, Long had established a 25-second lead over the KCMG car (which still needed to pit to get back on sequence). From here, the no. 88 Porsche 911 RSR asserted its authority around the Bahrain International Circuit.

Strong stints by David Heinemeier Hansson and Al Qubaisi kept the challenge from the KCMG car – piloted by Wolf Henzler, Christian Ried and Joel Camathias – at bay before Long jumped back in the hot seat to bring the lead 911 RSR home and give the Abu Dhabi-Proton squad a second victory of the year.

Behind, the KCMG crew took second while Gulf Racing fought back well through the mid part of the race to narrowly miss out on a maiden WEC podium. Having dropped to last, the British team rallied to fourth place.

Porsche 911 RSR (86), Gulf Racing: Michael Wainwright, Adam Carroll, Ben Barker

While Long was obviously delighted to finish the year on a high, fellow factory driver, Henzler rued the intervention of the safety car: “We are delighted to be back on the podium, but we could have won today. The only safety car phase of the race cost us the victory. We simply weren’t able to make up the difference.”

In the GTE-Pro class, the Dempsey-Proton pairing of 2015 FIA WEC GT champion, Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen finished their challenging season with seventh in the no. 77 Porsche 911 RSR.

“Now it’s over and we can look forward to 2017 and the new 911 RSR,” explained Christensen after a year in which duo’s best result was fourth place at the Six Hours of Spa.

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