In a dark and rainy part of the world this Saturday, Porsche customer team Dempsey-Proton Racing found victory in the GTE-AM class of the FIA World Endurance Championship six-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps. The Belgian race was quite eventful for all involved, but when the checkered flag fell it was Christian Ried, Sebastian Priaulx, and Harry Tincknell finishing first in class in their mid-engine 911 RSR. In fact, all of Porsche’s customer teams gave strong performances. The squads from Dempsey-Proton Racing and Project 1 spent long stretches in the lead. Only in the last hour was the battle for victory decided. In the final laps, Harry Tincknell successfully fended off attacks from his rivals to cross the finish line first in the No. 77 car. The No. 88 sister car concluded the six-hour race in ninth place. The two 911 RSR fielded by Project 1 took the flag in positions five and 13, with the identical model campaigned by GR Racing achieving sixth place.
In the factory-supported GTE Pro category, the two Porsche 911 RSRs started the race from first and second on the grid with an extremely strong qualifying. Unfortunately, that left the two 911s to fight amongst themselves at the front, and Kevin Estre made an attempt to pass teammate Gianmaria Bruni at the first corner. Collision damage between the Porsches caused Bruni’s tire to deflate, and immediately put the #91 car out of contention for competing with the front runners. His extremely slow lap with a cut tire cost him a lap by the time he returned to the pits and got a new set of boots fitted. Estre remained at the front until the rain showers came down, causing three red flags in the six hours. Several spins and crashes led to frequent deployment of the safety car, which meant the field was bunched up for most of the race. The #92’s pit strategy didn’t pan out exactly as they had hoped, dropping the car to third on the road. Michael Christensen fought back up to second place in the closing stages of the race, and very nearly re-gained the lead, crossing the line just half a second behind the winning Ferrari.
“We’re a little disappointed. In fact, more was possible because we had a great car,” states Thomas Laudenbach, Vice President Porsche Motorsport. Concerning the early contact between the factory team’s two 911 RSR, Laudenbach added: “In the very first corner the two cars touched. Unfortunately, that meant our No. 91 car was no longer among the frontrunners. All in all, it was a crazy race with a lot of interruptions and constant changes in the class rankings. Congratulations to our customer squad Dempsey-Proton Racing on winning the GTE-Am class. Spectators were certainly given a treat today.”
“We started from the first two grid spots and had the speed for a major success, so we’re disappointed,” outlined Alexander Stehlig, Director Factory Motorsport FIA WEC. “The fact that our cars collided at the start should not have happened. In a chaotic race with lots of rain and red and yellow flags, ultimately it just wasn’t enough for a class win – that’s a shame!”
By regaining second position, Porsche and Estre/Christensen have done enough to retain the lead in both the driver and team championship. Next on the list is the June classic 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “Gimmi and I got away well off the line. Unfortunately, I made a mistake while braking on cold tyres. I slid straight ahead and slightly nudged the No. 91 car. At the exit of the corner, three cars were side by side and there was hardly any room. Our two cars touched again. It was definitely not handled well on my part. I want to apologise to my teammates in the sister car. It was my mistake. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to earn maximum points for Porsche today.”
Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “Kévin missed the braking point while approaching the first corner, veered too wide and collided with me while merging. Our rear left tyre blew out – game over. It’s a shame because we missed out on a lot of points for Porsche today. As the race progressed, the conditions turned crazy at times. We battled with serious aquaplaning because we’d set the tyre pressure lower expecting a dry patch. The rear of my car got twitchy maybe 20 times – on the straight in third gear. That was insane!”
Christian Ried (Porsche 911 RSR #77): “What a wild race with interruptions and many incidents. At the start I first had to avoid a Ferrari, then Gimmi’s works-911. Once everything had finally sorted itself out, I found a decent rhythm. Sebastian then did a great job in the rain and Harry brought it all safely home. As a team, our strategy worked perfectly. It was anything but easy. I’m delighted with our class win.”
1. Calado/Pier Guidi (GB/I), Ferrari 488 GTE #51, 102 laps
2. Christensen/Estre (DK/F), Porsche 911 RSR #92, 102 laps
3. Fuoco/Molina (I/E), Ferrari 488 GTE #52, 102 laps
4. Tandy/Milner (GB/USA), Corvette C8.R #64, 101 laps
5. Bruni/Lietz (I/A), Porsche 911 RSR #91, 100 laps
1. Ried/Priaulx/Tincknell (D/GB/GB), Porsche 911 RSR #77, 99 laps
2. Keating/Chaves/Sörensen (USA/P/DK), Aston Martin #33, 99 laps
3. Dalla Lana/Pittard/Thiim (USA/GB/DK), Aston Martin #98, 99 laps
4. Leutwiler/Cairoli/Pedersen (CH/I/DK), Porsche 911 RSR #46, 99 laps
6. Wainwright/Barker/Pera (GB/GB/I), Porsche 911 RSR #86, 98 laps
9. Poordad/Heylen/Lindsey (USA/B/USA), Porsche 911 RSR #88, 96 laps
13. Iribe/Barnicoat/Millroy (USA/GB/GB), Porsche 911 RSR #56, 93 laps