The official pre-test on Sunday marks the start of the final stage of preparations for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Porsche Motorsport factory team is campaigning two 911 RSR at the 84th running of the prestigious long distance classic with the overall Le Mans winners Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy in the GTE Pro class. The squad used this test to setup the 470 hp winning racer from Weissach for the most important race of the year. At the season highlight of the Sports Car World Endurance Championship WEC, 60 cars and 180 drivers will line up on the 13.620-kilometer Circuit des 24 Heures on 18/19 June.
“It was a great feeling to come back to Le Mans a year after our win. I’ve never driven a GT car here and hence I felt a little bit like a rookie at first. The test went well and I’m confident that we’ve laid the foundations for a successful race,” said Earl Bamber.
With an overcast sky and at first rather cool temperatures of around 15 degrees Celsius, more than 22,000 spectators came to witness the tests. In the two sessions, each scheduled over four hours (the second was stopped 30 minutes before the end due to an accident), all works drivers competing for the Porsche Motorsport team had a chance at the wheel. The 911 RSR with the starting number 91, in which Nick Tandy and the Frenchmen Patrick Pilet and Kévin Estre topped the time sheets in the GTE Pro class for a long time before ultimately being clocked as the second fastest, covered a total distance of 823 kilometers. In the second 911 RSR with the number 92, Earl Bamber, Frédéric Makowiecki and Jörg Bergmeister completed 944 test kilometers without incident. They too held the top test time to eventually rank third.
Nick Tandy: “Le Mans is unique. What fascinates me is not just the immense challenge but also the special atmosphere. When you drive through the gate to the paddock in the morning it’s always a very emotional moment, and not just for me as the title defender. Even though today was just a test, it felt amazing to be back.”
Remarkably, Bergmeister flew in overnight after placing 2nd in the GTD class of the IMSA SportsCar Championship in Detroit, landing at the airfield next to the track just in time for the practice session. With 14 starts under his belt, Bergmeister is the Porsche GT pilot with the greatest Le Mans experience.
Jörg Bergmeister had this to say, “Although I’ve contested Le Mans 14 times now, nothing is routine. You always have to be on guard. Especially after driving the 911 GT3 R recently, for instance at the Detroit race on Saturday, this test was very welcome for me to adapt back to the 911 RSR – despite all the strains of travel.”
For the four Porsche customer teams who will also contest the race with the seventh generation of the iconic 911 sports car based on the 911 RSR. Obviously, the main priority at the test day was on setting up the vehicles. In particular focus was the #77 nine-eleven fielded by Dempsey Proton Racing, with driving duties shared by Austrian Richard Lietz, the WEC winner of the FIA World Endurance Trophy in 2015 as the best GT pilot, and his works driver colleague Michael Christensen. Supporting them as the third driver is Le Mans newcomer Philipp Eng, the 2015 winner of both the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup and the Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland. They will also tackle the GTE-Pro class and covered 810 test kilometres. In the GTE-Am class, four other customer teams and two Porsche works drivers took part in tests for the race with the 911 RSR: Abu Dhabi Proton Racing with Patrick Long and KCMG with Wolf Henzler , as well as Gulf Racing and Proton Competition.
Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser, Head of Porsche Motorsport daid this about the day, “The test day proved very productive for us. We started the session this morning as scheduled and the processes within the team worked well. This was important to me because this crew hasn’t yet worked together during the WEC season. Our 911 RSR were immediately fast. Over the course of the tests we looked closely at the tyres and the fine-tuning of the setup in terms of the extremely high demands of the race. All in all we’re making good progress.”
The Le Mans 24-hour race takes off on Saturday, 18 June, at 15.00 hours CEST. Eurosport 1 and Eurosport 2 broadcast the entire race live. The free practice and the three qualifying sessions will also be aired live. Moreover, the “24 Minutes of Le Mans” magazine televises the latest news and interviews over the entire week