The 911 RSR’s time on this earth is nearly at a close, and the 2022 running of the Le Mans 24 is the last time the car will ever race in modern competition at La Sarthe. So it is incredibly fitting that this amazing mid-engine 911 race car managed to trounce the competition at Le Mans one last time. The GTE regulations will die at the end of the year, replaced in FIA WEC by a new pro-am GT class called GT3 Premium. The class was dying a slow death with the exit of major manufacturers like Ford, BMW, and Aston Martin, and IMSA replaced its GTE-based GTLM class with a new GT3-based GTD Pro class back in January. It was time for GTE to slip away into the long cold night of goodbye, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less bittersweet to see the 911 RSR depart Le Mans for the final time. Works drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Richard Lietz, and Frederic Makowiecki put up an intense race for 350 laps of competition, running twice around the clock at flat chat, and came out on top at the end of it in the #92 911 RSR.
“The Porsche GT Team has upheld our great tradition at the 24 Hours of Le Mans today. This success makes me very proud,” says Michael Steiner, Member of the Board for Research and Development at Porsche AG. “A big thank you to the team, the drivers and everyone else who contributed their expertise and passion to make this 109th class victory possible for Porsche.”
“Victory at the final outing of the 911 RSR at Le Mans: that’s an indescribable feeling,” said a delighted Thomas Laudenbach, Vice President Porsche Motorsport. “When our No. 92 got a puncture while running in the lead, I thought it might all be over. But our Corvette rivals also experienced bad luck. At the exact moment, we were where we needed to be with our No. 91 car – because no one gave up: neither the team nor the drivers. We’ve been rewarded for the hard and systematic work that was also done behind the scenes. It simply feels great!”
From the start, it looked like it would be the 92 car taking point for Porsche with Kevin Estre, Michael Christensen, and Laurens Vanthoor doing driving duties, but bad luck plagued that car for the entirety of the race. Through the night with the 911 RSR running great, the team had moved into the lead and was rocking out lap times that set them more than two minutes out front of the Corvette competition. Around 8AM on Sunday the car suffered a tire blowout at speed which damaged a lot of the car’s front bodywork and suspension. In addition to the slow drive back to the pits, which destroyed their lead, the team then had to spend ten minutes fixing things in the garage, which lost the 92 a whopping three laps of competition and put them out of contention for the win. It can all go down the drain so quickly!
With just Porsche, Ferrari, and Corvette in the GTE Pro class, it looked like Porsche had all but lost its chance to win, pushing the red and yellow cars to the front. Then a truly bizarre it-never-rains-but-it-pours confluence of events took the Corvette team and ripped it apart like a rag doll. The #63 Corvette had spent much of the early hours of the race in the lead, but was forced into the garage for a left rear suspension failure. After lengthy repairs were enacted, the car was sent back out, but it had vibrations and it came back in for more repairs, and at that point it was decided to retire the car for “significant mechanical damage”. Within seconds of making that call, the sister Corvette #64 was pushed off the road at high rate of speed in a three-wide run down the Mulsanne straight with two dueling LMP2 cars.
So with six hours to go, it was down to a single 911 RSR as the meat in a Ferrari 488 sandwich. By dint of the 911 being gentler on its tires and better on long runs, the 92 car managed to close the gap to the lead and overtake the then-leading Ferrari. Aside from a short drive-through penalty for exceeding track limits overnight. The 92 car was completely incident-free for the full 24 hour race. That was how Porsche won, simply by staying out of trouble and staying on the race track to pound out as many laps as they could. That’s how you win in endurance racing, just keep the car going!
“What we witnessed was a classic long-distance race. Those who experience the least number of incidents end up on top of the podium – today, that was our No. 91 car,” concluded Alexander Stehlig, Director Factory Motorsport FIA WEC. “I’m delighted for the victorious crew, who have often not had luck on their side in the past. the no 92 crew had bad luck with a puncture, but they never gave up. Fourth place earns us many important points in the championship. I’m also thrilled that we finally won at Le Mans with the latest version of our car, the RSR-19.”
In GTE-Am there were five 911 RSRs in the running, but most of them suffered major bad luck. Only the #79 WeatherTech Racing entry managed to make it through the race trouble-free to finish second on 343 laps completed. At the halfway point the WeatherTech team had a significant lead thanks to pit strategy and a well-timed caution, but ultimately that was eaten away and they were passed by the winning Aston Martin. The GR Racing Porsche finished fourth after a tough race. The Hardpoint Racing/Absolute crew were devastated after 23 hours and 15 minutes, as they were on track to score a podium position, but Andrew Haryanto spun the car into a gravel trap and lost four laps in the process of extracting the car, ultimately finishing down in 11th position.
Drivers’ comments after the race
Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “A dream has come true for me today. I’ve won Le Mans three times with Ferrari. After my move to Porsche, winning was at the top of my list. I’ve been incredibly close twice with second place – today was finally my day. The era of the GTE-Pro class comes to an end with a victory for Porsche at Le Mans. It doesn’t get better than that.”
Richard Lietz (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “Le Mans has chosen its winners – and this time it was our turn. We were where we needed to be when others ran into problems. I think we made the least mistakes over the 24 hours and therefore deserved to win. I was part of the crew at the first victory for a factory RSR in 2013 and also for the final outing of the GTE-Pro class at Le Mans today. That’s a wonderful story.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “Finally! I’ve been trying for nine years and now I’m at the top of the podium! I finished second several times and was often the fastest car, but it never quite worked out. Today was different. We weren’t perhaps the ones to shine with top lap times, but we made it over the distance with the fewest mistakes. This win feels so good.”
Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “We were among the frontrunners for a long time but then we had to pit to change the brakes. That threw us back a bit. Afterwards, we pushed and our pace was good – but this time it simply wasn’t meant to be, because a minor puncture had major consequences. The repairs took so long that it threw us out of contention for victory. Still, it’s a great day for Porsche. Congratulations to our teammates in the No. 91 car: They did a great job. And it’s terrific that the Porsche 911 RSR was able to win the last race in the GTE-Pro class at Le Mans.”
Michael Christensen (Porsche 911 RSR #92):“That was definitely not the race I’d hoped for. It wasn’t my day. I made a couple of mistakes which had a major impact. When you lock up the wheel and get a flat spot, it doesn’t normally lead to the tire blowing out. But unfortunately, that happened today. The team had to do some extensive work, which was unfortunate. We were doing so well in the race and the 911 RSR was running beautifully. Afterwards, the car handled really well but unfortunately, the repairs simply cost us too much time.”
Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 RSR #92):“We were super fast with our No. 92, at times we even dominated. Unfortunately, the puncture shattered all our dreams. We finished fourth in the end. That yields some decent points for Porsche and my colleagues who are contesting the whole FIA WEC season. Congratulations to the no. 91 crew: they deserved to win the class.”
Cooper MacNeil (Porsche 911 RSR #79): “The race was eventful, exhausting and anything but easy. We couldn’t do more than second place against such tough competition. Our 911 RSR ran like clockwork and our WeatherTech Racing team did a great job. Thanks for the incredible support, particularly to Porsche. If you finish second, your eyes are always on the top step of the podium. Still, I’m satisfied with my third podium finish at Le Mans.”
1 Bruni/Lietz/Makowiecki (I/A/F), Porsche 911 RSR #91, 350 laps
2 Calado/Pier Guidi/Serra (GB/I/BR), Ferrari 488 GTE #51, 350 laps
3 Fuoco /Molina/Rigon (I/E/I), Ferrari 488 GTE #52, 349 laps
4. Christensen/Estre/Vanthoor (DK/F/B), Porsche 911 RSR #92, 348 laps
5. Fraga/Bird/Van Gisbergen (BR/GB/NZ), Ferrari 488 GTE #74, 347 laps
1. Keating/Chaves/Sörensen (USA/P/DK), Aston Martin #33, 343 laps
2. MacNeil/Andlauer/Merrill (USA/F/USA), Porsche 911 RSR #79, 343 laps
3 Dalla Lana/Pittard/Thiim (CDN/GB/DK), Aston Martin #98, 342 laps
4 Wainwright/Barker/Pera (GB/GB /I), Porsche 911 RSR #86, 340 laps
5. Poordad/Heylen/Root (USA/B/USA), Porsche 911 RSR #88, 340 laps
11 Haryanto/Picariello/Rump (RI/B/EST), Porsche 911 RSR #99, 338 laps
14 Ried/Priaulx/Tincknell (D/GB/GB), Porsche 911 RSR #77, 336 laps
16 Campbell/ Fassbender/Robichon (AUS/IRL/CDN), Porsche 911 RSR #93, 329 laps
DNF. Iribe/Barnicoat/Millroy (USA/GB/GB), Porsche 911 RSR #56, 241 laps
DNF. Leutwiler/Cairoli/Pedersen (CH/I/DK), Porsche 911 RSR #46, 77 laps