Porsche concludes Le Mans preparations with best times in both GTE classes

Test day

With a lap time of 3:52.901 minutes, the 911 RSR driven by Kévin Estre (France), Neel Jani (Switzerland) and Michael Christensen (Denmark) set the best time in the GTE-Pro class during this morning’s session. The No. 91 sister car shared by the works driver trio Gianmaria Bruni (Italy), Richard Lietz (Austria) and Fréderic Makowiecki (France) concluded the two sessions in second with 3:52.904 minutes – a time almost identical to their brand colleagues’. The two Porsche customer teams WeatherTech Racing and Hub Auto Racing wrapped up the day in third and sixth place out of the eight participants in this category. The WeatherTech car crewed by the Belgian works driver Laurens Vanthoor, Cooper MacNeil (USA) and Earl Bamber (New Zealand) finished the afternoon session as the fastest in the Pro category.

In the GTE Am division, the No. 99 entry fielded by Proton Competition and Project 1’s No. 56 car secured positions one and two with their identical 911 RSR. In this class, amateur drivers with FIA “bronze” or “silver” status share the cockpit with professionals. At the wheel of Dempsey-Proton Racing’s No. 77 car, Hollywood actor Michael Fassbender celebrated his GTE debut at Le Mans. However, the Irish-German will not contest the race.

The season highlight of the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC takes off this Saturday at 4pm. The test day is the only opportunity before the start of the actual Le Mans week to fine-tune the mechanical and aerodynamic setup on the 13.626-kilometre combination of permanent circuit and public roads. At the pre-test in high summer, teams faced hot asphalt temperatures of almost 50 degrees Celsius. On Sunday, the twelve 2019-generation 911 RSR turned a total of 991 laps, which corresponds to a distance of 13,503 kilometres.

With 19 outright victories and 108 class wins, Porsche is by far the most successful manufacturer at the French 24-hour classic. The most recent win for a nine-eleven in the GTE-Pro class on the storied racetrack was in 2018. At that time, Kévin Estre, Michael Christensen and Belgium’s Laurens Vanthoor sat in the cockpit. In addition to the factory delegation, seven customer teams with a total of seven works drivers as well as the Porsche Young Professional Julien Andlauer (France) will tackle the 89th edition of the famous endurance race. They can earn twice as many points towards the world championship as in the shorter FIA WEC races. After clinching two class wins from the first three races this season, the works drivers Estre and Jani currently lead the drivers’ classification. Porsche ranks second in the manufacturers’ world championship, just seven points behind the leader.

Comments on the test day

Alexander Stehlig (Porsche Head of Operations FIA WEC): “The test day went well for us. The racetrack had surprisingly decent grip, which we hadn’t expected, and we found some very typical conditions in the morning session. We can already see that it’ll be a very close race – seven of the eight cars in the Pro category are within three-tenths of a second. The team and the car that can achieve the best performance with the fewest mistakes will be at the front in the end. We managed to systematically tick off all items on our to-do list. We now have two days to work on the 911 RSR and analyse all the data before we continue on Wednesday afternoon.”

Richard Lietz (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “We were able to implement what we learned from the morning session in the afternoon and thus further improve the car’s balance. Ultimately, this resulted in a more stable rear axle in fast corners. Now we just have to find a little more grip on the front axle in the slow corners, and we’ll be good.”

Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “Today was okay. We worked through our job sheet and tried a few things to see how they went. I made a minor mistake on the last stint – I tried something new on the first lap and lost the car. But not much happened.”

Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “Compared to previous years, the track was very clean with good grip. The Le Mans organisers did a great job here. We managed to start work on the setup very early – and that’s generally not the case. Our Porsche felt really good from the get-go and we quickly got up to speed. Still, we went through our checklist and found a few things. We now have a lot of data to analyse and discuss. It’s always difficult to know what the competition is doing, but we’ll concentrate on our own business. We’re pleased because we’ve learned a lot and we were always up with the play in terms of balance and lap times.”

Neel Jani (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “My first laps in a GT racer at Le Mans were a new experience, but they were also great fun. It was very hot today, I can’t remember the last time we had such temperatures at Le Mans. It’s forecast to be very warm on the race weekend, but the high temperatures suited us. We may have to do some work on the car so that we can cope with the heat better.”

Florian Latorre (Porsche 911 RSR #99): “I think we got a good start into the race week. All drivers set a good pace. We didn’t make any mistakes and we were able to give the car a few additional tweaks. This was my first time in the 911 RSR. We’re very satisfied with today’s test sessions.”

Michael Fassbender (Porsche 911 RSR #77): “That was my first attempt in the 911 RSR here at Le Mans. I’m taking it step by step. It feels great to be here and a part of this event.”

Results, GTE-Pro class:

1. Estre / Jani / Christensen (F/CH/DK), Porsche GT Team, Porsche 911 RSR #92, 3:52.901 minutes
2. Lietz / Bruni / Makowiecki (A/I/F), Porsche GT Team, Porsche 911 RSR #91, 3:52.904 minutes
3. MacNeil / Bamber / L. Vanthoor (USA/NZ/B), WeatherTech Racing, Porsche 911 RSR #79, 3:52.938 minutes
6. Martin / Parente / D. Vanthoor (B/P/B), HubAuto Racing, Porsche 911 RSR #72, 3:53.221 minutes

GTE-Am class

1. Inthraphuvasak / Latorre / Tincknell (T/F/GB), Proton Competition, Porsche 911 RSR #99, 3:54.472 minutes
2. Perfetti / Cairoli / Pera (N/I/I), Team Project 1, Porsche 911 RSR #56, 3:54.502 v
4. Andlauer / Bastien / Arnold (F/USA/D), Dempsey-Proton Racing, Porsche 911 RSR #88, 3:54.619 minutes
6. Wainwright / Barker / Gamble (GB/GB/GB), GR Racing, Porsche 911 RSR #86, 3:54.668 minutes
9. Haryanto / Picariello / Seefried (RI/B/D), Absolute Racing, Porsche 911 RSR #18, 3:55.011 minutes
14. Renauer / Ineichen / Bohn (D/CH/D), Herberth Motorsport, Porsche 911 RSR #69, 3:55.595 minutes
18. Ried / Campbell / Evans / Fassbender (D/AUS/NZ/IRL), Dempsey-Proton Racing, Porsche 911 RSR 3:55.895 minutes
20. Olsen / Buchardt / Foley (N/N/USA), Team Project 1, Porsche 911 RSR #46, 3:56.190 minutes

The preview

So far in this season’s FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), the factory squad has secured two class wins from three races. The legendary Circuit de la Sarthe hosts round four on 21/22 August, when Porsche again relies on a three-driver crew in each of its cars.

In total, 12 911 RSR racers will tackle the GTE-Pro and GTE-Am classes at the 89th edition of the world’s fastest endurance race. The event starts this Sunday (15 August) with the pre-test on the 13.626-kilometre course, which takes in the circuit and public roads. With 19 overall victories and 108 class wins to its credit, Porsche is by far the most successful manufacturer at the 24-hour race in France.

“We contested Le Mans for the first time last year with the Porsche 911 RSR-19 and we struggled a bit against the fierce competition in the GTE-Pro class,” recalls Pascal Zurlinden, Director Factory Motorsport. “I’m positive we’ll be significantly more competitive this year. We’ve gathered a huge amount of data and experience with our works team and our customer squads, who get the chance this year to field the latest version of the 911 in the WEC. These insights help us find the perfect setup. We also performed strongly on the high-speed track at Monza. Our success there gave us an extra boost for Le Mans.”

The 24 Hours of Le Mans is extremely popular with motor racing fans and is the highlight on the FIA World Endurance Championship calendar. Situated south of the 150,000-inhabitant city, the course consists mainly of public roads, with hundreds of trucks and cars driving the legendary Mulsanne straight every day on their way between Le Mans and Tours. Treacherous ruts present special challenges, especially in the rain.

While the long-distance classic was originally set for June, the 89th 24-hour race is being contested in August this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike last year, up to 50,000 fans will be able to watch the action live from the racetrack as the latest generation Porsche 911 RSR tackles the world’s greatest endurance race for only the second time.

“I’m convinced that we’ll be much more competitive this year,” says Alexander Stehlig, Head of Operations FIA WEC. “In the meantime, we’ve gathered considerably more experience with the car, and the successes at Spa and Monza have been hugely encouraging. There’s no better incentive for us than a win on the high-speed circuit in Italy. What’s important at the 24-hour race is to maintain contact with the leading pack at all times so that we’re in a position at the end to fight for victory. This means that we have to attack right from the start. I think this a promising recipe for success.”

Due to the length of the 24-hour race, double the usual points are awarded compared to a conventional six-hour WEC race. As such, the race has often proven to be decisive in terms of the WEC manufacturer and driver standings. The highlight of the year also features a special qualifying rule: in the Pro class, only the six fastest cars from the one-hour qualification session on Wednesday (18 August) are permitted to take part in the Hyperpole held the following day. This session then determines the best grid positions for the race.

Porsche GT Team drivers

The regular WEC drivers Gianmaria Bruni from Italy and Richard Lietz from Austria join forces with Frenchman Frédéric Makowiecki in the cockpit of the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR. The Frenchman, who contested this year’s eight-hour race in Portugal, brings a wealth of experience with him. Makowiecki has contested the Le Mans classic a total of ten times – for the last four years sharing driving duties in the factory-run vehicle with Bruni and Lietz. In the No. 92 sister car, Frenchman Kévin Estre and Neel Jani from Switzerland receive reinforcement from Danish racer Michael Christensen. The trio used the WEC race in Portimão in June to get in sync with each other. Estre and Jani currently lead the drivers’ championship after scoring two class wins from three races. In the manufacturers’ classification, Porsche ranks second just seven points behind the leader.

The customer teams

Two customer teams tackle the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the Porsche 911 RSR in the GTE-Pro class – a category that is usually the domain of factory teams. WeatherTech Racing puts its trust in Laurens Vanthoor from Belgium, Earl Bamber from New Zealand and the American amateur driver Cooper MacNeil. Sharing the cockpit of the identical vehicle campaigned by HubAuto Racing from Taiwan are Maxime Martin from Belgium, Alvaro Parente from Portugal and Belgian Dries Vanthoor – the younger brother of Porsche works driver Laurens Vanthoor.

A total of eight of the latest generation Porsche 911 RSR racers will contest the GTE-Am category, in which amateur drivers with a Bronze or Silver FIA status share a car with professionals. Dempsey-Proton Racing runs two 911 from Weissach. The German customer team also fields another vehicle under the name Proton Competition. Project 1 has also registered two entries. The customer squads Absolute Racing, Herberth Motorsport and GR Racing will also campaign a car each at Le Mans.

An overview of the teams and drivers

GTE-Pro class
Porsche GT Team #91 – R. Lietz (A) / G. Bruni (I) / F. Makowiecki (F)
Porsche GT Team #92 – K. Estre (F) / N. Jani (CH) / M. Christensen (DK)
HubAuto Racing #72 – M. Martin (B) / A. Parente (P) / D. Vanthoor (B)
WeatherTech Racing #79 – C. MacNeil (USA) / E. Bamber (NZ) / L. Vanthoor (B)

GTE-Am class
Absolute Racing #18 – A. Haryanto (RI) / A. Picariello (B) / M. Seefried (D)
Team Project 1 #46 – D. Olsen (N) / A. Buchardt (N) / R. Foley (USA)
Team Project 1 #56 – E. Perfetti (N) / M. Cairoli (I) / R. Pera (I)
Herberth Motorsport #69 – R. Renauer (D) / R. Ineichen (CH) / R. Bohn (D)
Dempsey-Proton Racing #77 – C. Ried (D) / M. Campbell (AUS) / J. Evans (NZ)
GR Racing #86 – M. Wainwright (GB) / B. Barker (GB) / T. Gamble (GB)
Dempsey-Proton Racing #88 – J. Andlauer (F) / D. Bastien (USA) / L. D. Arnold (D)
Proton Competition #99 – V. Inthraphuvasak (T) / F. Latorre (F) / H. Tincknell (GB)

Porsche’s outright victories at Le Mans

1970 – Herrmann (D) / Attwood (GB) – Porsche 917 KH
1971 – Marko (A) / Van Lennep (NL) – Porsche 917 KH
1976 – Ickx (B) / Van Lennep (NL) – Porsche 936
1977 – Ickx (B) / Haywood (USA) / Barth (D) – Porsche 936/77
1979 – Ludwig (D) / Whittington (USA) / Whittington (USA) – Porsche 935 K3
1981 – Ickx (B) / Bell (GB) – Porsche 936
1982 – Ickx (B) / Bell (GB) – Porsche 956
1983 – Schuppan (AUS) / Haywood (USA) / Holbert (USA) – Porsche 956
1984 – Pescarolo (F) / Ludwig (D) – Porsche 956
1985 – Barilla (I) / Ludwig (D) / Krages (D) – Porsche 956
1986 – Bell (GB) / Stuck (D) / Holbert (USA) – Porsche 962C
1987 – Bell (GB) / Stuck (D) / Holbert (USA) – Porsche 962C
1994 – Dalmas (F) / Haywood (USA) / Baldi (I) – Dauer Porsche 962 LM
1996 – Wurz (A) / Reuter (D) / Jones (USA) – TWR Porsche WSC-95
1997 – Kristensen (DK) / Alboreto (I) / Johansson (S) – TWR Porsche WSC-95
1998 – Aiello (F) / McNish (GB) / Ortelli (F) – Porsche 911 GT1
2015 – Bamber (NZ) / Tandy (GB) / Hülkenberg (D) – Porsche 919 Hybrid
2016 – Jani (CH) / Lieb (D) / Dumas (F) – Porsche 919 Hybrid
2017 – Bernhard (D) / Hartley (NZ) / Bamber (NZ) – Porsche 919 Hybrid

Drivers’ comments before the race

Richard Lietz (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “We were positively surprised that we were so competitive at Monza. The racetrack there needs as much top speed as the Le Mans circuit, so this is a good sign. Still, we know very well from last year how challenging the competition is at this 24-hour race. I’m expecting a very tough fight in the GTE-Pro class. Le Mans is obviously a big highlight for every driver. We’ll do our absolute best. I’m really looking forward to the test and the race week in France.”

Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “Le Mans is always unpredictable. At this event, teams and drivers have to be prepared for every eventuality. That makes a sporting prognosis virtually impossible. I’ve planted our Porsche on pole position for the past three years and I’m eager to continue this streak. I hope that we have a clean race and that we ultimately reap the rewards of our efforts. Our number 91 car has finished the last three races second in class. Hopefully, we’ll now manage to finally climb to the top step of the podium.”

Frédéric Makowiecki (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “At last the big highlight of the year is almost here. I’m always very excited about this race. And I’m even more excited for this year because finally spectators will return to the track – that’s fantastic! It was empty last year. The whole event felt like a test, not the greatest endurance race in the world. These avid fans contribute significantly to the special Le Mans charm. We’re competing with our Porsche 911 RSR in a class with eight other cars, all of which are on the same level. It’ll be a thrilling and wonderful competition and we feel we have a good chance to succeed.”

Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “As a Frenchman, Le Mans is obviously a big highlight on the calendar. We’re heading there leading the drivers’ championship after our class win at Monza – you don’t need more motivation than that! We struggled at Le Mans last year. Now we know our car a lot better and we’re definitely well-positioned. What’s more, a total of four 911 RSR are contesting GTE-Pro class. If we combine the findings of all the squads from the practice sessions, we’ll have a perfect foundation for working out an ideal setup for the race.”

Neel Jani (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “After our Monza win, we’re heading to Le Mans with confidence and in high spirits. Still, everyone knows that anything can happen at any time in this major 24-hour race. I’ve experienced this first-hand both in a positive and negative sense. I’ve contested Le Mans every year since 2009, except last season. So that makes me all the more excited to return to this very special racetrack. We’re well prepared and we can hardly wait for the start of the event with the pre-test a week before the race.”

Michael Christensen (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “I’m delighted to finally compete at Le Mans again. And I’m even more delighted that the fans can return to the track. The grandstands won’t be full, but the Le Mans atmosphere simply lives from the spectators’ passion. I hope that we’ll be competitive. I’d really love to stand at the top of the podium – like in 2018 when we won there with our 911 RSR decked out in the Pink Pig livery.”

The schedule (all times CEST)

Sunday, 15 August
09:00 am to 13:00 – Pre-test session 1
14:00 to 19:00 – Pre-test session 2

Wednesday, 18 August
14:00 to 17:00 – Free practice 1
19:00 to 20:00 – Qualifying
22:00 to midnight – Free practice 2

Thursday, 19 August
14:00 to 17:00 – Free practice 3
21:00 to 21:30 – Hyperpole
22:00 to midnight – Free practice 4

Saturday, 21 August
11:30 to 11:45 – Warmup
16:00 – Start 89th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans

Sunday, 22 August
16:00 – Finish 89th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans

The race on TV, via livestream and on the Porsche Motorsport microsite

The entire event will be televised free by RTL NITRO for the first time after the RTL Group secured the broadcasting rights for the FIA WEC and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Eurosport will also report extensively on the 89th edition of the classic. Via their paid apps, the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and the ACO, which organises the 24 Hours of Le Mans, will offer a livestream and live timing.

Detailed information on the Porsche 911 RSR, the team and the works drivers will be available via the Porsche Motorsport website:  https://media.porsche.com/motorsport, where media multipliers will also find the latest updates and news, background stories, image galleries and numerous video features.