New Zealand’s Mitch Evans has piloted a Porsche 919 Hybrid around the Bahrain International Circuit in 1:43.60 minutes, only 1.71 seconds outside the fastest lap recorded by the winning Porsche team car in the eighth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Evans was invited to test the car on Sunday, a day after fellow Kiwi Brendon Hartley had helped wrap up the world title for Porsche on the 5.421km layout and after Evans himself had won the GP2 event. Former Formula One driver Juan Pablo Montoya was also testing with Evans.
Hartley and his team-mates Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard (pictured above) finished fifth in the Bahrain six-hour event, banking enough points in car No. 17 to secure the world drivers’ title for Porsche after winning six of the eight rounds so far. The winning car was another Porsche 919, car No.18 driven by Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb.
Jani set a best time of 1:41.89 minutes during Saturday’s race and Evans followed it up with a test best of 1:43.60min. The fastest lap in qualifying for the eighth round was set by Bernhard, who secured pole position with a time 1:39.67min.
Evans had 54 test laps in the Porsche 919 and Montoya had 55. It was 21-year-old Evans’ second time in the car after an earlier run in Barcelona. Montoya, 40, who won seven Formula One races, was having his first drive and set a fastest time of 1:40.86min.
Porsche team boss Andreas Seidl said both drivers impressed. “Mitch had the experience of Barcelona under his belt; Juan Pablo only had a simulator session before,” said Seidl.
“We are very interested in drivers’ impressions, especially a driver like Juan Pablo who has successfully driven so many different kinds of race car in his career. Both were quickly up to speed and did a good job.”
Evans said it was easy to get confidence in the 919. “I’m learning little things here and there on every lap. The car benefits a lot from the four-wheel drive under braking and obviously acceleration.
“It has got a lot of downforce and the way it looks after its tyres is a lot better than a GP2 car. Thanks to Porsche and the FIA who have enabled me to do this rookie test.”
Montoya described the Porsche 919 as the “most advanced race car on the planet” and a “hell of a toy.” “ It is really, really stable and because it is so predictable, it invites you to overdrive it,” he said. “That’s what I found the most impressive thing. In fact the car is so good that you don’t realise the speed you’re going.”
A day earlier, Hartley, Webber and Bernhard had started the eighth round with a 13-point lead ahead of the best placed Audi trio. The drivers’ title was on the line, after the Le Mans victory and the manufacturers’ title.
But half an hour into the race car No. 17 had to pit for repairs. After that the trio had to catch up from the very back of the pack, and eventually they finished fifth after the third- and fourth-placed Toyota hybrids. It was the Porsche sister car No.18 that took the lead and the crucial points away from the Audi.
Hartley, 25, said every second was critical after the long stop for repairs. “I drove two clean stints driving flat out and trying to catch the two Toyotas. The boys in the pits did a fantastic job to get us out again and of course it was absolutely crucial that our sister car stayed in the lead. A true team effort. Incredible!”
Senior driver Webber, 39, said finishing fifth to win the drivers’ title showed the qualities of the team. “We have had some very smooth days this year, but we executed the victories with clinical precision. Today was about fighting as hard as possible.
“I cannot thank the mechanics enough. The pit stops we had in the garage were extremely stressful. It’s amazing that we were able to win the world championship under pressure like this.
“I am so proud to be world champion with Timo and Brendon and with Porsche. It was 1986 when Derek Bell managed this the last time. It was a massive day for the team.”