Porsche has secured a podium spot in the fiercely contested GTE-Pro class at the 89th edition of the Le Mans 24-hour race. The works drivers Kévin Estre from France and Neel Jani from Switzerland as well as Denmark’s Michael Christensen achieved third place in the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR. The No. 91 sister car driven by Gianmaria Bruni from Italy, Richard Lietz from Austria and Frenchman Frédéric Makowiecki wrapped up round four of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) in fourth place. The in-house fight between the two works cars for the final podium spot was decided about an hour before the flag dropped: After sliding in the last chicane, the rear of the No. 91 had to undergo repairs and a replacement of the brakes.
“Our team put in a flawless and spirited performance,” explains Fritz Enzinger, Vice President Motorsport. “Unfortunately, we lacked a bit of speed to be able to challenge the competition for class victory. The podium result for our No. 92 car is still a nice reward for the passionate work that our employees have done at the racetrack and back at our headquarters in Weissach. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this achievement.”
The two ca. 515 PS nine-eleven from Weissach set a decent pace over long stretches of the French long-distance classic. However, due to bad luck during two safety car phases, a gap of around three minutes from the leader emerged in the first third of the race. It proved impossible to reduce this margin by performance alone over the remaining hours of the 24-hour endurance race. The background to this unfortunate occurrence for the Porsche GT Team is a distinctive feature in the running of the event in the French department of Sarthe.
Unlike other racing events, when an incident occurs at Le Mans, three safety cars are sent out onto the track at the same time. This is due to the sheer length of the circuit at 13.626 kilometres. As the result, the field is divided into three groups. If drivers are behind the same safety car as the leader, they can regain lost ground. Those who follow the second safety vehicle are immediately disadvantaged through no fault of their own, losing at least 90 seconds. This happened to the works team’s two Porsche 911 RSR twice.
“The race wasn’t only difficult, it was also disappointing for us. We had expected to fight for victory,” concludes Alexander Stehlig, Head of Operations FIA WEC. “Despite our good and systematic preparation, we didn’t have the lap-time performance and the top speed we’d hoped for compared to the competition. We’ll now take some time to analyse everything once again with the FIA and ACO to see why we weren’t quite able to match the performance of our opposition in the race.”
Drivers’ comments on the race
Michael Christensen (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “We’d hoped for more and took up the race on the assumption that we could fight at the top of the field. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. Still, the team and drivers did their utmost. Ultimately, a podium spot was the best we could do. That said, to finish on the podium in the GTE-Pro class at Le Mans is no mean feat.”
1. Calado/Pier Guidi/Ledogar (GB/I/F), AF Corse, Ferrari 488 GTE #51, 345 laps
2. Garcia/Taylor/Catsburg (E/USA/NL), Corvette Racing, Corvette C8.R #63, 345 laps
3. Estre/Jani/Christensen (F/CH/DK), Porsche GT Team, Porsche 911 RSR #92, 344 laps
4. Lietz/Bruni/Makowiecki (A/I/F), Porsche GT Team, Porsche 911 RSR #91, 343 laps
5. Serra/Molina/Bird (BR/E/GB), AF Corse, Ferrari 488 GTE #52, 331 laps
6. Milner/Tandy/Sims (USA/GB/GB), Corvette Racing, Corvette C8.R #64, 313 laps
7. Martin/Parente/D. Vanthoor (B/P/B), HubAuto Racing, Porsche 911 RSR #72, 227 laps
8. MacNeil/Bamber/L. Vanthoor (USA/NZ/B), WeatherTech Racing, Porsche 911 RSR #79, 139 laps