Porsche and subsidiary Manthey Racing put on a masterclass of how to win at Le Mans this weekend, taking the GTE Pro class victory with gusto. Porsche followed that up with a victory in the GTE Am category for Dempsey-Proton Racing, as if one win weren't enough. In what is supposed to be the world's toughest endurance race, the GTE Pro class-winning #92 Porsche 911 RSR 'Pink Pig' of Kevin Estre, Laurens Vanthoor, and Michael Christensen led 91.9% of the race, staying at the front for 316 laps of 344 (with the #91 Rothmans car leading most of the remainder. Ford led 3 laps, Porsche led the rest). It was a dominant showing in which the chips fell in the Pig's direction, handing them the definitive lead of the race at about hour four, and never looking back. The #91 Porsche of Richard Lietz, Fred Mako, and Gianmaria Bruni rounded out the amazing effort by following their team car home in second. Mako spent about 90 minutes battling with one of the Ford GTs to maintain the second position.
It was that same safety car period early in the race that netted the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche its lead. With the driver trio of Porsche Junior driver Julien Andlauer, Christian Ried, and Porsche Young Professional driver Matt Campbell, the team was able to put in an inspired drive early in the race to be in position to grab the lead at just the right moment. Once the team were gifted a huge lead thanks to the strange three-car safety car procedure at Le Mans, it was just a matter of maintaining that gap to second position. Of the 335 laps the team car completed, exactly 300 of those laps were conducted from the head of the class. Andlauer, at 18 years of age, is the youngest Le Mans class winner in history.
By their own accounting, Porsche notched up their 106th and 107th Le Mans 24 class victories this weekend. A good result by any measure.
In the less-good category for Porsche, the CORE Autosport-run American IMSA competing 911 RSRs, numbers 93 and 94, did not fare nearly so well. The No. 93 Porsche of Patrick Pilet, Earl Bamber, and Nick Tandy suffered a technical issue that cost them 25 minutes in the pits. Once they'd fallen several laps behind, there was no catching up for them, and they ultimately crossed the finish line in 11th. The #94 fared even worse, as Romain Dumas, Timo Bernhard, and Sven Muller were forced to retire at hour seven with a failed suspension component.
Comments on the race
Dr Wolfgang Porsche, Chairman of the Supervisory Board:
“An absolutely perfect weekend for Porsche. You can’t wish for more than this in our anniversary year. It’s impossible to plan such a thing, but when it happens it’s an indescribable feeling. Congratulations to the drivers, the teams and all the employees who made this success possible. It makes me very proud.”
Oliver Blume, CEO of Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG:
“We prepared meticulously for this race and have worked towards this for months. The entire team did a perfect job. We’re incredibly proud of this double victory in the GTE-Pro class and of winning the amateur classification. This is a fantastic achievement from our employees. Porsche belongs to Le Mans and Le Mans belongs to Porsche.”
Michael Christensen (Porsche 911 RSR #92):
“It was an incredible race, I don’t know what to say. The car was fast right from the start. We had a little luck during a safety car phase and we managed to pull clear of the field a little. From that point on we focused on extending our lead. In the final third of the race we simply tried to avoid taking any risks and bring the car home safely. This worked perfectly.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (Porsche 911 RSR #91):
“Our car was very fast, but we simply couldn’t keep up with our sister car, which was incredibly consistent. For over an hour I battled hard with a competitor for second place. That makes my job as a race driver really fun, but we couldn’t make up ground in this phase. I’m thrilled for the team with our second place at Le Mans. We’ll be back next year to fight for victory.”
Nick Tandy (Porsche 911 RSR #93):
“It’s disappointing, of course, not to be further ahead. But we accept the good races with the bad. It was great to see that our car’s pace was good and we could match the frontrunners. Unfortunately, technical problems threw us back considerably. It just wasn’t our race this year.”
Julien Andlauer (Porsche 911 RSR #77):
“At 18 years of age I was given the chance to contest Le Mans for the first time and then we won. I’m very proud of the whole team and I can’t really believe it yet. Now I’m the youngest Le Mans winner, incredible.”
Patrick Dempsey, co-owner Dempsey-Proton Racing:
“I’m lost for words. Everyone did a fantastic job, it was a victory for the whole team. The race was incredible, we made no mistakes and our work was rewarded with this great success. I can’t tell you how incredibly proud and happy I am for Porsche, too.”
1. Christensen/Estre/Vanthoor (DK/F/B), Porsche 911 RSR, 344 laps
2. Lietz/Bruni/Makowiecki (A/I/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 343 laps
3. Hand/Müller/Bourdais (USA/D/F), Ford GT, 343 laps
11. Pilet/Tandy/Bamber (F/GB/NZ), Porsche 911 RSR, 338 laps
1. Ried/Andlauer/Campbell (D/F/AUS), Porsche 911 RSR, 335 laps
2. Flohr/Castellacci/Fisichella (CH/I/I), Ferrari 488 GTE, 335 laps
3. Keating/Bleekemolen/Stolz (USA/NL/D), Ferrari 488 GTE, 334 laps
4. Long/Pappas/Pumpelly (USA/USA/USA), Porsche 911 RSR, 334 laps
6. Babini/Nielsen/Maris (I/DK/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 332 laps
7. Bergmeister/Lindsey/Perfetti (D/USA/N), Porsche 911 RSR, 332 laps
10. Wainwright/Barker/Davison (GB/GB/AUS), Porsche 911 RSR, 324 laps