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Seven weeks of preparation for 14 hours of racing at the WEC finale in Bahrain

The FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) starts its grand finale of the season this coming weekend. The championship titles will be decided on two consecutive race weekends in Bahrain. This first-ever doubleheader event in the history of the WEC poses some special challenges for the Porsche works team.

Within just eight days, a six-hour race on October 30th and an eight-hour race on November 6th will be contested at the Bahrain International Circuit near the capital city of Manama.

The workshops of the Manthey operations team have been standing near-empty since September 6th: On that day, WEC logistics partner DHL picked up five shipping containers, each a good twelve metres long, and dispatched them to Bahrain from the Belgian port city of Antwerp. These containers hold the equipment for the two races in the island nation, including the two Porsche 911 RSR and two safety cars, which are also serviced and maintained by Manthey. Only for the highlight of the season, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, does the team need more equipment.

“From a logistics perspective, back-to-back races on the Persian Gulf are much easier than one race in Fuji and one in Bahrain,” states team manager Bernhard Demmer. Originally, the FIA WEC racing calendar had planned one race each in Japan and Bahrain at the end of the year. In Bahrain, everything is handled as ‘temporary import’: the material is only imported for a short period of time and then the exact same material is exported again. It’s noticeably easier to organise, explains Demmer.

Sea freight instead of air freight

In Japan, the freight enters the country via the so-called ‘ATA Carnet’. This requires, among other things, a guarantee from the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, as well as many signatures and stamps. All in all, it’s a significantly greater effort, says the team manager, who goes by the name of “Berno.” He continues: Due to the tight time frame, we would also have had to transport our cars and equipment to Fuji via air freight. That would’ve been seven to ten times more expensive than shipping them over the ocean.

The pit equipment does not have to be set up and dismantled between the two races, hence there is no need to load and pack twice. The vehicles are serviced in the well-equipped garage between the two events. “There are certainly worse places than Bahrain for such a situation,” Demmer says with a smile.

“The first race ends on Saturday evening, followed by four days in which the cars have to be maintained – and there is time for the crew to take some deep breaths,” reports Alexander Stehlig, Head of Operations FIA WEC. He adds: It is our task in team management to give everyone in the squad the freedom to take one of the days off. That way we can also prevent cabin fever. In addition, at a doubleheader event like this, we have to divvy up our workforce well. The work schedule is similar to that of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2021.

Intensive work and breaks

In Bahrain, the two races add up to a total of 14 hours of racing, plus a rookie test day on the Sunday after the season finale. If both Porsche 911 RSR cross the finish line in the first race without any major damage, the vehicles will be serviced on Sunday and Monday morning. The team would then have around 24 hours of free time.

One thing is important – and it’s often overlooked: If you fly home between two races, like in Fuji and Bahrain for example, it’s like pushing a reset button. Automatically, the crew would be fully concentrated on each of the race weekends, says Bernhard Demmer. We have to achieve the same effect at this upcoming back-to-back event, even though it’ll seem like one long event. We all have to divide our concentration and energy optimally because these last two races are about nothing less than the championship, outlines the team manager.

Focus on the engineers

“Even if we win the first race, the drivers and engineers will still find things that we need to optimise,” says the FIA WEC Head of Operations. With a smile, he adds: I was a race engineer myself for a long time. I know that we like to calculate to the second decimal place, even though the first would be enough. That’s how we work – and it’s a good thing. Still, we have to manage our workload effectively in this area as well. So, an engineer should allow himself three hours of downtime, too.

Original article

Oct 29, 2021 at 10:43

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