Leading up to the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year, Porsche looked in an extremely strong position to score yet another class victory in the world’s greatest endurance sports car event. In both GTE Pro and GTE Am, there were nice shiny 911 RSRs sitting on the class pole. Despite over 19 percent of the grid being powered by Porsche’s four-liter flat-six engine, only one of the twelve race cars managed to find a position on the podium in either class. It wasn’t an outright failure for Stuttgart, but it wasn’t a day of heavy celebration either. So how did it all go down?
“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.”
While Porsche didn’t have the outright race pace to fight for the lead, it wasn’t really that alone that pushed the 911 drivers backward. Unfortunately, because of the way Le Mans safety car procedures work, the field is split into three groups, each behind their own safety car. Wherever you are on track, you get bunched up about 90 seconds behind the group ahead. Twice in the early part of the race both of the Porsche factory team’s cars were held up a group behind the leading GTE Pro class car, kicking them several minutes adrift of the lead, which ultimately proved impossible to make up. Without any failures or mistakes by the drivers or difficulties of any kind, the Porsche team still managed to fail in their bid to secure the victory. The two factory-entered 911 RSRs had a nice battle between the pair of them all race long, but ultimately it was the #92 car which would prevail as its sister #91 car needed a brake replacement late in the event.
Neither of the privateer Porsche efforts from WeatherTech Racing or the GTE Pro pole-sitting HubAuto team managed to finish the race. The HubAuto Racing car suffered a mechanical failure just after sunrise on Sunday, completing 227 laps. The WeatherTech car with American Cooper MacNeil aboard ran unprovoked into the barriers right in front of the Porsche Experience Center Le Mans.
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In the GTE Am category, the 911 RSRs could do no better than fifth in class. Both Project 1 cars and the #99 Proton Competition car suffered retirements, and the GR Racing car lost significant ground thanks to lengthy time in the garage to repair crash damage. The #77 Dempsey-Proton car finished highest among the Porsche contingent in fifth, while its sister #88 car finished 13th. Absolut Racing finished 7th in class on its Le Mans debut, and Herberth Motorsport managed 10th in their own debut.
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.”
Richard Lietz (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “If you don’t have any punctures at Le Mans, if the team does a flawless job, if you implement a good strategy and then only finish on third and fourth, then you have to take a good look at things. This result is not good enough. Anyone who watched the race knows that it was a painful 24 hours for us. Now we have to look at why.”
Dries Vanthoor (Porsche 911 RSR #72): “During my morning stint, I was approaching the first corner when suddenly nothing worked. I couldn’t even get back to the pits — that was it. Up until that point we’d already experienced a number of setbacks: a drive-through penalty, a spin and more. All in all, we never had the consistent pace of the other GTE-Pro cars. It’s a shame.”
Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 RSR #79): “We worked really well as a team. The car was good, the balance was right and we were fast. Unfortunately, Cooper had an accident during the night in the chicane before the start-finish straight. The chassis was irreparably damaged and we had to give up early. I enjoyed every single lap and felt really good in the Porsche 911 RSR. These positive experiences are the main things for me.”
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
1. Perrodo/Nielsen/Rovera (F/DK/I), AF Corse, Ferrari 488 GTE #83, 340 laps
2. Keating/Pereira/Fraga (USA/L/BR), TF Sport, Aston Martin Vantage #33, 339 laps
3. Cressoni/Mastronardi/Illot (I/I/GB), Iron Lynx, Ferrari 488 GTE #80, 338 laps
5. Ried/Campbell/Evans (D/AUS/NZ), Dempsey-Proton Racing, Porsche 911 RSR #77, 335 laps
7. Haryanto/Picariello/Seefried (RI/B/D), Absolute Racing, Porsche 911 RSR #18, 332 laps Runden
10. Renauer/Ineichen/Bohn (D/CH/D), Herberth Motorsport, Porsche 911 RSR #69, 330 laps
13. Andlauer/Bastien/Arnold (F/USA/D), Dempsey-Proton Racing, Porsche 911 RSR #88, 327 laps
14. Wainwright/Barker/Gamble (GB/GB/GB), GR Racing, Porsche 911 RSR #86, 322 laps
16. Olsen/Buchardt/Foley (N/N/USA), Team Project 1, Porsche 911 RSR #46, 138 laps
21. Perfetti/Cairoli/Pera (N/I/I), Team Project 1, Porsche 911 RSR #56, 84 laps
22. Inthraphuvasak/Latorre/Tincknell (T/F/GB), Proton Competition, Porsche 911 RSR #99, 66 laps