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Le Mans winner is the new World Champion

FIA World Endurance Championship

winforce_jani_neel_porsche
At the six-hour race in Bahrain Neel Jani, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb secured the drivers' title in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). The 2016 Le Mans winners finished sixth in the final round of the WEC. In the 2016 season, Jani and his teammates have taken race wins in Silverstone and Le Mans.

Jani/Dumas/Lieb have shared a Porsche 919 Hybrid for the third consecutive season. From 2014 up until today they have set milestones, experienced highs and mastered lows. In 2014 they took the first three pole positions for the successful innovative Le Mans prototype. At the finale of the debut season, Brazil in 2014, they achieved the 919's maiden race victory to come third in the 2014 drivers' world championship. Again in 2015 the tally was three pole positions and one race win, as well as third place in the championship. Their race win in the breath-taking 2015 season finale in Bahrain enabled Porsche’s sister crew to become the drivers’ world champions.

Neel Jani (32): "Le Mans and the world title – this was really an incredible year that I will never forget. There is nothing better than winning both in one season. After Le Mans, we struggled a bit, but at the end we did it. And that is everything that counts."

Jani believes in karma. He is convinced that in 2016 he got back what he had given before. The Swiss driver with Indian roots lives up to the image of what a race car driver used to be – more bon vivant than robot, more casual than driven. At least that's what he's like outside the cockpit.

Heading out on weekends in a Porsche has always been his passion. "I have wonderful childhood memories", said Jani. "On Sundays my sister Reena and I would climb onto the back seat of my father's 911 RS 2.7 and he would take us out for a drive. These trips were real highlights for us. Unfortunately later we had to sell the car, because my racing was so expensive."

Neel Jani moved from Formula Renault, GP2 and the A1GP series to Formula One. In 2004 he tested for Red Bull Racing for the first time and in 2006 he was the third driver in the sister team, Scuderia Toro Rosso. He took part in testing and raced in the American Champ Car series as well as the A1GP series. In 2008 he was a guest starter in the Porsche Supercup. "Unfortunately I did not get to finish the race", he recalled, "but I got to drive a 911 GT3 RS for a fortnight beforehand. That was quite something for me as a 24-year-old. The car has so much power and the steering is so precise – an impressive performance"” He likes precision and calculation. The question as to what he would have done for a living if he hadn't become a racing driver yields an unexpected answer: "An accountant. I like numbers."

In 2009 he started in Le Mans for the first time and since then has done so every year – including 2013 with Rebellion in the LMP1 class. In 2011 he won the Le Mans Series with the Swiss team, and in 2012 he narrowly missed the Le Mans podium when he came in fourth. In 2012 and 2013 he took victory in the ten-hour race in Road Atlanta, better known as "Petit Le Mans". Since June 2013 he has been a Porsche works driver. "It was an outstanding opportunity, being involved in the LMP1 programme from the very start", he said. "The level of technology and drivers in the WEC is world class, and when I think Porsche, I think racing cars. Everything fits together."

Does he miss Formula One? "Not at all, because things always work out as they should. I'm happy to have good memories." He married the most beautiful of those: Lauren from Indianapolis. Obviously, good karma can lead to good things even if you are only involved in practice on a Friday during a Grand Prix weekend and have the rest of the time off.

Picture: PORSCHE