WEC: Porsche GT Team further extends world championship lead

Their works driver colleagues, Kévin Estre (France) and Michael Christensen (Denmark), achieved fifth place in the ca. 510-hp sports car from Weissach. After the sixth of this season’s eight races, the duo in the No. 92 car holds a clear championship lead. In the manufacturer’s classification, Porsche has succeeded in further extending its top position. In the GTE-Am class, the Dempsey Proton Racing squad notched up its second straight win.

The Sebring race (USA), which was capped at eight hours, on the 6.02-kilometre circuit ran without incident over long stretches for Bruni (Italy) and Lietz (Austria). Thanks to flawless drives, good tactics and perfect teamwork, the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR was running in second place. When rain set in about 25 minutes before the finish, making an additional pit stop necessary, the Manthey-Racing factory crew did a perfect job and ensured that the car driven by Bruni and Lietz moved into the lead. With this, the winning driver squad have improved their ranking in the championship and moved up to second place. Their world-championship-leading teammates experienced a race of mixed fortunes. Estre was unable to defend his pole position after the start, collided with an opponent in the ensuing chase and was thrown far down the field by a stop-and-go penalty. The few overtaking manoeuvres possible on this infamously bumpy track hampered him from catching the leading pack. Rain in the closing phase did not change this situation. 

In the GTE-Am category, the Dempsey Proton Racing team celebrated another win. Porsche Young Professional Matt Campbell (Australia), Porsche Junior Julien Andlauer (France) and Christian Ried (Germany) were rewarded for their consistent and flawless drive with first place. The Porsche customer team Project 1 with works drivers Jörg Bergmeister (Germany), the American Patrick Lindsey and Egidio Perfetti (Norway) secured third place at the Sebring race to defend their position in the overall classification. Gulf Racing with Porsche Junior Thomas Preining (Austria) and the two British racing drivers Ben Barker and Michael Wainwright achieved fourth. The No. 88 car fielded by Dempsey Proton Racing driven by Porsche Young Professional Matteo Cairoli (Italy) and his compatriots Giorgio Roda and Gianluca Roda concluded the race on seventh place.

Fritz Enzinger (Vice President Motorsport): “I’m totally delighted. After clinching pole position in both the WEC and IMSA and now winning the first of two races in Sebring, and in such difficult conditions in the closing stages – you don’t get it better than this. I’m also very proud of our customer teams who did brilliantly in the GTE-Am class. Now we face the IMSA twelve-hour race, which we also take up from pole position. It can continue exactly as it has been.”

Pascal Zurlinden (Director GT Factory Motorsport): “What a perfect day. First pole position in both series, now victory at the 1,000-mile race – it doesn’t get better than this. At the last pit stop in the rain, our team did an immaculate tyre change and, with the better strategy, managed to make up more than five seconds over the previously leading BMW. Congratulations to the mechanics – they made this victory possible. A one-two result would also have been possible today. Unfortunately a penalty threw our number 92 car down the field. Still, we’ve extended our lead in the world championship and we’re extremely pleased.” 

Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “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.”

Richard Lietz (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “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.” 

More quotes in the press release (downloads).

GTE-Pro class
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

GTE-Am class
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

Piloting their ca. 510-hp race car with starting number 91, Richard Lietz (Austria) and Gianmaria Bruni (Italy) will take up round six of this year’s Sports Car World Endurance Championship (WEC) from eighth on the grid. In the GT-Am category, customer teams Dempsey Proton Racing (#77) and Project 1 (#56) locked out the first grid row.

The Porsche GT Team kept both factory cars in the pit lane during the opening phase of the qualifying in an attempt to avoid heavy traffic during the hunt for top times. Christensen made the best use of the situation with a fast lap time; his teammate Estre turned a perfect lap utilising all the grip of his fresh tyres. The combined time of 1:57.500 minutes put the duo at the top of the time sheet and earned them an additional championship point. Bruni at times encountered heavy traffic during his qualifying attempt. Porsche Young Professional Matt Campbell was the fastest in the GT-Am class. The Australian, who won the Bathurst 12-hour race in Australia at the beginning of February, will take up the race over 1,000 miles (or eight hours) from the first grid spot with his teammates Christian Ried (Germany) and Porsche Junior Julien Andlauer (France).

Pascal Zurlinden (Director GT Factory Motorsport): “It’s simply perfect when you score pole position with the world-championship-leading car and earn an additional point for it. That’s how we imagined our Sebring performance. It’s also a great pleasure to see how well our customer teams have positioned themselves for the long race, with first, second and fifth on the grid. A huge compliment to the Project 1 squad. They had to build up a completely new car after an incident in the test prior to the race weekend.”

Richard Lietz (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “We managed to find an excellent balance for the car. Our changes to the suspension setup were perfect. The car ran very well in qualifying. As opposed to our competitors, we didn’t use the second set of fresh tyres. We hope that this strategy will pay off for us in the race and that we can make the most of this advantage.”

Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “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.”

GTE-Pro class
1. Christensen/Estre (DK/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 1:57.500 minutes
2. Priaulx/Tincknell/Bomarito (GB/GB/USA), Ford GT, + 0.115 seconds
3. Mücke/Pla/Johnson (D/F/USA), Ford GT, + 0.214 seconds
8. Lietz/Bruni (A/I), Porsche 911 RSR, + 0.613 seconds

GTE-Am class
1. Ried/Andlauer/Campbell (D/F/AUS), Porsche 911 RSR, 1:59.790 minutes
2. Bergmeister/Lindsey/Perfetti (D/USA/N), Porsche 911 RSR, + 0.145 seconds
3. Dalla Lana/Lamy/Lauda (CDN/P/A), Aston Martin Vantage GTE, + 0.286 seconds
5. Roda/Roda/Cairoli (I/I/I), Porsche 911 RSR, + 0.627 seconds
8. Wainwright/Barker/Preining (GB/GB/A), Porsche 911 RSR, + 4.007 seconds