Stefan Mücke
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Bahrain: P5 for Stefan Mücke in last race of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship

? The Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK driver mounts a courageous charge through the field in the final race of the season ? Bad luck in qualifying thwarts potential Top Three finish ? Stefan: "If we could have started from further forward, a Top Three finish might have been on the cards"

Stefan Mücke and Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK were in Bahrain last weekend for the grand finale of the FIA World Endurance Championship. The big event at the Bahrain International Circuit pulled in fans from all around the world, who were treated to some terrific racing. 
Right at the centre of the action were Stefan Mücke and his team-mate Olivier Pla. In the highly competitive LMGTE Pro class, the Ford duo were on song right from the first session. Stefan Mücke took the wheel for the first qualifying session. The Berliner did not shy away from risk in shaving off those vital thousandths of a second. And it was a tactic that almost paid off, as his fastest lap would have seen him line up on the front row of the grid. But instead, neither of the two laps counted, as the stewards ruled that he had transgressed track limits by a few centimetres. To their great disappointment, Mücke and Pla were obliged to go into the race from the rear of the grid. 
The subsequent charge through the field looked very promising. Driving the first stint, Mücke gained several positions. But as was the case in China, the track surface in Bahrain took a heavy toll on the tyres. The duo realised as the race progressed that the pursuit was doomed. The tyres degraded so much towards the end that they ultimately had to settle for fifth.
Five questions for Stefan Mücke
So, Stefan, fifth place in the 6 Hours of Bahrain. How satisfied are you with the closing fixture of the season?
Going into the race, we were obviously hoping for more. Considering the pace we showed, we could have done a lot better. We were on song in terms of lap times, we fought our way through from the very back of the field, and at one point, it looked as if we might be on course for a podium. Battling our way forward required a more aggressive approach, which caused the tyres to suffer in the last part of the race. If we could have started from further forward on the grid, a Top Three finish might have been on the cards.
You've just mentioned your unfavourable grid position. How did that come about?
The reason for that was the first qualifying session. I was at the wheel, and I got the absolute maximum out of the Ford GT on the two timed laps. When you're pushing so hard, you're quite likely to stray over the track limits. Unfortunately, that happened to me on both laps. The frustrating thing is that it was by only a few centimetres. My fastest lap would otherwise have been good enough for the front row. In the WEC, grid positions are allocated on the basis of the average of the two drivers' fastest laps. So anyway, the outcome was that we had to start from the back, because both of my laps were disallowed.
Despite that, you didn't throw in the towel, and you made a virtue out of necessity...
We never throw in the towel. I made up a lot of ground on my first double stint and overtook the first of our main rivals in the LMGTE Pro class. Before Olivier took the wheel, I also minimised the gap to the first Aston Martin. In the further course of the race, we fought our way up to third place, but a full course yellow put paid to our chances. Our sister car, which was still in with a chance of winning the championship, came into the pits on this lap. One lap later, when it was our turn to pit, the green flags had already been out for a while. That cost us a lot of time. With the tyre problems at the end, we were never going to finish higher than fifth.
Which of the 15 race weekends in 2017 would you single out as your personal highlight?
From a results perspective, our third place in the 6 Hours of Spa has to be the highlight of the season. That was a mega achievement for us as a team, and one that I'm very proud of. But apart from that, there were memorable moments in every single race - first-class racing, great wheel-to-wheel action and thrilling stints. As an out-and-out racer, I just love being behind the wheel, even when things are not going so well.
Have you any plans for the forthcoming season at this stage?
Yes, there are already some clearly defined plans. I will also be competing in next year's WEC with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team UK, once again with Olivier Pla as co-driver. I feel really at home in the team and see no reason to change the situation. Unfortunately, we haven't always shown our full potential this year, and that goes for both the WEC and the ADAC GT Masters. The pace was there, and in those races where we avoided breakdowns or other technical issues, we were up there with the front-runners. We've certainly had a lot of bad luck this year. So we feel that our karma should start to balance out in the forthcoming season.

Copy: Ford Chip Ganassi Racing