Sebring is signaling great things for Porsche, with victories at both the WEC and IMSA events. In Friday's 1,000 Miles of Sebring, the weekend's WEC event, Porsche managed first place finishes in both GTE-Pro and GTE-Am. The winning Pro car, #91 driven by Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz, finished a lap ahead of their teammates Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen in the #92 car. The winning GTE-Am Dempesy-Proton 911 RSR was piloted by Porsche Young Professional Matt Campbell, Porsche Junior Julien Andlauer, and Christian Ried.
Porsche's qualifying results were surprisingly mixed for the GTE-Pro cars, with one pole and an eighth place result. Michaelson and Estre ran a near-perfect qualifying session in the #92 car, achieving pole position with a blistering 1:57.500 lap. During qualifying the Porsche GT Team kept both cars in the pits during the early phases of qualifying. This allowed the team to avoid the heavy traffic evident early in the session, and emerge into a more open track on fresh tires.
This performance gained an additional championship point for the Michaelson and Estre. Lietz and Bruni qualified in eighth place, 0.613 seconds down from the leaders. According to eventual race-winner Gianmaria Bruni;
“We’re probably the only team who opted out of using another set of fresh tyres. That was the right decision, because early on in my qualifying stint the track was so dirty that the first lap was only good for cleaning up the rubber. In the second lap I caught up to an Aston Martin. Otherwise I would have definitely done better than position eight.”
The lead GTE-Am cars of Dempsey Proton and Project 1 locked out the first row on the grid. Australian Matt Campbell proved to be the fastest in GTE-Am, with a qualifying time of 1:59.790. The Project 1 911 RSR of Bergmeister, Lindsey, and Perfetti qualified second, 0.145 seconds behind the leaders.
The 1,000 Miles of Sebring was subject to numerous changes prior to the beginning of the season, being shortened from 1,500 miles to 1,000, and ultimately capped at just 8 hours. These quirks made the Sebring event the only event of its length in the 2018-2019 WEC calendar.
Unfortunately Lietz and Estre were unable to continue their qualifying success through the 8-hour event. Early race collisions, first involving a pair of AF Corse Ferraris, and then the Aston Martin of Darren Turner resulted in a drive-through penalty for the #92 car, costing Lietz and Estre their lead. Due to limited overtaking opportunities at Sebring, the #92 car was unable to regain their lead.
A remarkably rapid pit stop for tires evaporated the leading BMW's lead with less than 25 minutes left in the race. The #91 car of Bruni and Lietz were able to move into the lead, which they would retain through the end of the race. From Gianmaria Bruni:
“It’s a fantastic result for us drivers and for Porsche. The way the team managed to catapult us to the front at the last pit stop was simply sensational. This shows just how special our crew is. The fact that we were able to win the 1,000-mile race at the return of the WEC to Sebring is incredible. For me personally it’s even more special: it’s the first time I’ve won a race for Porsche. That means so much to me.”
The rain at the end was a blessing. Gimmi managed to keep the car steady on the wet track, and the team worked at lightning speed. That was the decisive factor in the race. Everything ran perfectly for us. I’m totally over the moon with my first win of this season.
In the GTE-Am category, Dempsey Proton Racing brought the marque a second victory. Porsche Young Professional Matt Campbell, Porsche Junior Julien Andlauer, and Christian Ried performed consistently, moving from pole position to ultimate victory. Project 1, with drivers works drivers Jörg Bergmeister, Patrick Lindsey, and Egidio Perfetti secured a third place finish, with the Gulf Racing car of Thomas Preining, Ben Barker and Michael Wainwright finished Fourth. Porsche's appearance at Sebring was rounded out by a seventh place finish by the #88 Dempsey Proton car of Mattero Cairoli, Giorgio Roda, and Gianluca Roda.
Results and Gallery
Following this race the #92 car of Christiansen and Estre retain their points lead in the championship, with the #91 car still in second position. In the manufacturer's standings Porsche has a lead of 100 points over Ferrari, and 102 over Ford.
1. Lietz/Bruni (A/I), Porsche 911 RSR, 226 laps
2. Tomczyk/Catsburg/Sims (D/NL/GB), BMW M8 GTE, 226 laps
3. Priaulx/Tincknell/Bomarito (GB/GB/USA), Ford GT, 225 laps
5. Christensen/Estre (DK/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 225 laps
1. Ried/Andlauer/Campbell (D/F/AUS), Porsche 911 RSR, 221 laps
2. Flohr/Castellacci/Fisichella (CH/I/I), Ferrari 488 GTE, 221 laps
3. Bergmeister/Lindsey/Perfetti (D/USA/N), Porsche 911 RSR, 221 laps
4. Wainwright/Barker/Preining (GB/GB/A), Porsche 911 RSR, 221 laps
7. Roda/Roda/Cairoli (I/I/I), Porsche 911 RSR, 219 laps