In his final Motorsport.com column of the season, Porsche WEC star Timo Bernhard looks back on the 6 Hours of Bahrain, the last race for he and his crewmates Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber as a trio.
Excitement, emotion and flat-out racing for six hours – you couldn’t have wished for a better season finale. The race in Bahrain was definitely a worthy end to an exciting year.
The final race of the season is always special, but this year we knew it was going to be a highly emotional weekend. To share the car with Mark and Brendon over the last three years was a very special time and of course we wanted to get the best possible result to finish with.
It wasn’t always easy for us this year, but it paid off that we stayed motivated and looked ahead. Even though we won four races and were on the podium twice, the tricky start to the season meant we weren’t able to fight for the title anymore. Our sister car scored double points at Le Mans and therefore we wanted to help them bring home their lead.
Usually the track in Bahrain is very sandy, which makes it a tricky race, but this year it was a lot less sandy than we experienced before and it was surprisingly clean from the beginning. This meant we got off to a great start.
On the first practice day everything went according to plan. We were focussing on set-up work and I started with a qualifying simulation where I had a clear lap, which gave us useful information. Like in Shanghai we were quick over a single lap, on the long-runs however we saw that we were very close with the competition.
Brendon and I shared the cockpit in qualifying, which mostly ran in the dark, and like in the previous races it was extremely tight. I thought we would be able to fight for pole position, but the #8 Audi was clearly faster and we qualified second.
The race started at 4pm, an hour later than last year, and we hoped that with the cooler temperatures after sunset we would be able to keep up with the speed at the front, which we couldn’t – Audi was clearly quicker in Bahrain.
I was first in the cockpit and my start wasn’t too bad. Neel came on the inside and, of course, I left him room to overtake as we were about the same speed. On lap 13 the #7 Audi passed me, however Mark was able to get past the #5 Toyota and moved up into third.
I did another stint and handed over the car to Mark to do the last laps, and we finished the race in third. To be on the podium at the end of the season and in Mark’s last race was incredibly important. It was amazing to share this moment with Mark and Brendon and a great finish of our time together. It was a very emotional day, too much to put into words.
Well done to Audi for the double victory in their last race in the WEC and, of course, big congratulations to our sister car. Despite a challenging last race, Neel, Marc and Romain were able to secure the drivers champion title.
For the second time in a row Porsche cleared up everything: the win at Le Mans, manufacturers' and drivers' championship title – that’s something to be proud of. Who knows, maybe we can do the hat-trick!
For now though, we’re off for a break to recharge the batteries. See you next season!