Porsche’s GT team rolled into the sixth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship this weekend at Spa-Francorchamps ready to take on the world, or at least the best from Ferrari and Aston Martin. After winning the opening round of the championship at the 4 hours of Silverstone last September, Porsche has been shut out of the top step of the podium with Aston Martin taking three of the last four victories, and Ferrari taking the fourth. Being that Spa is traditionally seen as the closest thing to Le Mans in that it has long straights and sweeping curves, this is as close to the low-downforce bodywork that the cars will have at La Sarthe next month. So, how did it go?
Shortly before the 6-hour race began, the summer Belgian skies opened up and dumped millions of gallons of water on the racing surface. The race began under safety car with the Porsche 911 Carrera 4 showing the field the way around the circuit at a reduced pace. A few grid places behind, the pair of factory effort 911 RSRs prepared to fight it out on that extremely wet surface. While Porsche drivers of old used to revel in the wet, the current mid-engine 911 RSR chassis does its best work in the dry, and when the race finally got underway the pair of white and red Porsches saw themselves at a performance deficit.
When the track began to dry, both Porsches began to catch up to the front again, but then another deluge fell and it was back to the drawing board. It took until the 3rd hour of the six hour race for the sun to return and dry out the track, but that was when the Porsches built upon their dry weather strengths and fought hard. Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre shared driving duties in the class-winning #92 Porsche. The GTE Pro class is always an incredibly close battle, and the six cars in this field were practically bumper to bumper for the entire six hours. While the quicker of the Porsches, Astons, and Ferraris were trading off the lead, ultimately it was the 92 car that was ahead at the finish.
NEW LEADER in GTE Pro as @NickiThiim takes the first place with his @AMR_Official Vantage AMR.#WEC #6HSpa #WECRacesForYou pic.twitter.com/LeRiREhozt
— FIA World Endurance Championship (@FIAWEC) August 15, 2020
If this is what rehearsal for Le Mans looks like, we’re bound to be in for a seriously good 24 hour race. These cars are so closely and evenly matched that none of them can ever eke out a big advantage. The #91 car of Bruni and Lietz were always close, but couldn’t ever quite make a move on the cars ahead and finished down in fifth. At the end of six hours, all of the cars in the GTE Pro class were still on the same lap, separated by under a minute.
Comments on the race
Pascal Zurlinden (Director Factory Motorsport): “Congratulations to the entire team at the track and to our development squad in Weissach. The Porsche 911 RSR proved extremely competitive in all sessions. In the race, the team’s and drivers’ wealth of experience paid off once again. The tactics were perfect in difficult conditions, our works drivers pushed the car to the limit at all times and brought them over the finish line unscathed. This win gives us an addition boost for the upcoming 24 Hours of Le Mans in September. We’re ready for the big highlight!”
Alexander Stehlig (Head of Operations FIA WEC): “For us, this was a perfect restart after the 172-day enforced break in the WEC. Pole position on Friday, victory on Saturday – it couldn’t be better. Spa always throws huge challenges at us. Snow last year, torrential rain this year. We had some difficulties on the wet track but as soon as it dried up, we were back. Overall, it was extremely thrilling. The fight against Aston Martin and Ferrari was fun. We couldn’t have wished for a better dress rehearsal for Le Mans.”
Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “What a wonderful weekend! We were fast in practice, we claimed pole position and won the race. The team put in a tactically strong performance. The second half of the race was on a dry track. It was precisely in this critical phase that we were back in full force and able to call on the full potential of our Porsche 911 RSR. We’ve taken an important step forward in the overall standings. At Le Mans, we aim to pick up exactly where we left off and go all-out.”
Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “That was a difficult race for us. We lost a lot of time because we drove too long on wet tyres at the wrong moment. We took a gamble and tried to make up for it later. When the sun finally came out, we were the first ones back on the track with slicks. In the first laps I slid wildly and lost a lot of time. Once the grip improved, our train had already left the station.”
1. Christensen/Estre (DK/F), Porsche 911 RSR #92, 135 laps
2. Sorensen/Thiim (DK/DK), Aston Martin Vantage #95, 135 laps
3. Lynn/Martin (GB/B), Aston Martin Vantage #97, 135 laps
4. Calado/Pier Guidi (GB/I), Ferrari 488 GTE #51, 135 laps
5. Lietz/Bruni (A/I), Porsche 911 RSR #91, 135 laps
6. Rigon/Molina (I/E), Ferrari 488 GTE #71, 135 laps
1. Perrodo/Collard/Nielsen (F/F/DK), Ferrari 488 GTE #83, 134 laps
2. Campbell/Ried/Pera (AUS/D/I), Porsche 911 RSR #77, 134 laps
3. Yoluc/Eastwood/Adam (TR/IRL/GB), Aston Martin Vantage #90, 134 laps
4. Perfetti/Hörr/Cairoli (N/D/I), Porsche 911 RSR #56, 134 laps
5. Giraudi/Sanchez/Legeret (I/MEX/CH), Porsche 911 RSR, 134 laps
6. Keating/Fraga/Bleekemolen (USA/BR/NL), Porsche 911 RSR #57, 134 laps
10. Wainwright/Barker/Watson (GB/GB/GB), Porsche 911 RSR #86, 134 laps