The 24 Hours of Le Mans at a glance.
The Porsche GT Team finishes the 24 Hours of Le Mans in third and fourth place. The best customer racer ranks fifth.
The No. 91 911 RSR is in need of a repair in the Porsche garage.
A little more than four hours to go and the 911 RSR #92 is still ranking third in the GTE-Pro category.
Interim report 2
After a long night at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Porsche GT Team has an excellent chance to score a podium result. As the sun rose on Sunday morning, the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR driven by Kévin Estre, Neel Jani and Michael Christensen was running in third in the GTE-Pro class after 16 hours of racing. The identical No. 91 vehicle currently ranks fourth. However, both factory-run cars have lost contact with the leaders. The reason for this is the special regulations for the deployment of safety cars in the endurance classic in France.
Unlike other racing events, when an incident occurs at Le Mans, three safety cars are sent out onto the track at the same time. This is due to the sheer length of the circuit at 13.626 kilometres. As the result, the field is divided into three groups. If drivers are behind the same safety car as the leader, they can regain lost ground. Those who follow the second safety vehicle are immediately disadvantaged through no fault of their own, losing at least 90 seconds. This happened twice to the works team’s two Porsche 911 RSR. Thus, they lost around three minutes to the leaders in the fiercely contested GTE-Pro class.
“The night is over – and it was relatively quiet for our works cars,” concludes Alexander Stehlig, Head of Operations FIA WEC. “However, the big issue for us was our bad luck with the safety cars. We ended up in the second group and thus lost a lot of ground on the two leading cars. We’re chasing down the frontrunners and fighting hard. We still have eight hours of racing to go. Our cars are running very well and our pace is strong, so we’re still feeling confident.”
The nine-eleven fielded by the customer team HubAuto Racing, which took up the endurance classic from pole position, ranks fifth in the GTE-Pro class after 16 hours of racing. The WeatherTech Racing squad, however, had to throw in the towel. Early on Sunday morning, the chassis of the No. 79 car was damaged in an accident involving the American Cooper MacNeil. Continuing the race proved impossible. Bad luck also plagued Porsche’s customer teams contesting the GTE-Am category. The two cars fielded by the German team Project 1 and Proton Competition’s No. 99 entry also retired. GR Racing’s 911 is 15 laps behind after extensive repairs. The best-placed Porsche 911 RSR at dawn in the amateur class is the No. 77 car campaigned by Dempsey-Proton Racing, in which the Porsche works driver Matt Campbell from Australia competes. The No. 88 sister car and the vehicle run by Absolute Racing are also within the top ten.
Drivers’ comments on the race so far
Neel Jani (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “Overall, it’s a rather difficult race for us. We’re trying to establish ourselves in third place for now. Unfortunately, we can’t do much more at the moment. We don’t always have the ideal vehicle balance on our No. 92 car. I hope this will change as the temperature rises throughout the morning. We’re fighting on relentlessly, but we also need a little bit of luck in this year’s race.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “I always have a lot of fun driving at Le Mans at night. The track builds up more and more grip. That suits us. The competition is definitely strong. They have an obvious advantage, especially in the close duels. We can keep up in the slipstream on the long straights, but we can’t get past due to the differences in top speeds. We have to be patient.”
Matt Campbell (Porsche 911 RSR #77): “After my second triple-stint in this race, I need a bit of a rest now. After a somewhat mediocre start, things are going very well for us now. We’re slowly but surely making up some ground again. The night was eventful. There were many incidents, plenty of yellow flags and several safety car phases. The competition at the top of our GTE-Am class is very strong. We can only try to continue to get the most out of our car. Let’s see what comes of it at the end.”
These are the standings in the GTE-Pro category after 15 hours.
We have reached the half-way point and the two 911 RSR of the Porsche GT Team are running fourth and fifth.
GTE-Pro category standings after nine hours of the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Bad luck for Project 1, but driver Egidio Perfetti gave the thumbs up.
Difficult weather conditions made an impact on the early phase of the Le Mans 24-hour race. Despite this, the Porsche works team and the customer squad WeatherTech Racing have managed to settle into promising positions. The No. 79 car fielded by the American privateer team held third place over long stretches during the first four hours in the hotly contested GTE-Pro class. Due to an alternative pit stop strategy, the car fell back to fifth place just before the four-hour mark. The two ca. 515 PS Porsche 911 RSR campaigned by the factory squad are running in positions four and seven after four hours. Gianmaria Bruni in the No. 91 and Kévin Estre in the No. 92 sister car were hampered by a less than ideal tyre choice and also became caught up in incidents.
Shortly before the start of the 89th edition of the endurance classic in France, heavy rainfall caused extremely slippery conditions on the 13.626-kilometre racetrack. In the beginning, the stewards of the meeting kept the safety car out on the circuit for two extra laps. The asphalt then dried up so quickly that the rain-tyre-shod works cars came up against insufficient grip. Gianmaria Bruni was unable to avoid a slower LMP2 prototype. The side of the Italian’s No. 91 car sustained minor damages. His works driver teammate Kévin Estre lost ground after a spin and lost even more time with a brief excursion into the gravel trap after switching to slicks. During a safety car phase after about three and a half hours, bad luck hit the crew of Gianmaria Bruni, Richard Lietz and Frédéric Makowiecki and they lost almost two minutes to the top.
“The first hours were extremely eventful. Both factory cars lost positions in the initial phase due to insufficient grip and minor incidents. We’ve been in pursuit mode since the second hour of racing,” states Alexander Stehlig, Head of Operations FIA WEC. “Luckily, during the full course yellow, the No. 92 car ended up behind the same safety car as the leading pack. So the gap is small. Our No. 91 got caught up behind the second safety car and subsequently lost contact with the leaders. We still have many hours ahead of us. The outcome is anything but a foregone conclusion. The situation remains gripping!”
At the wheel of the No. 79 entry from WeatherTech Racing, the works driver Laurens Vanthoor gave a strong performance in the early phase. Faced with changing track conditions, the Belgian systematically worked his way up the order and handed the Porsche 911 RSR off to Earl Bamber after two stints. For the next two hours, the New Zealander was only a few seconds off third place. Because of a longer pit stop, the American Cooper MacNeil is now running in fifth place. The identical vehicle fielded by the HubAuto Racing customer team currently holds eighth place. In the GTE-Am category, the No. 88 pole-setting 911 of Dempsey-Proton Racing with Porsche Young Professional Julien Andlauer at the wheel initially retained the lead. A lengthy pit stop, however, threw the vehicle back. The best-placed 911 RSR in the amateur class after four hours is Project 1’s No. 56 entry in position seven.
Drivers’ comments on the initial phase
Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “Unfortunately we opted for the wrong tyres at the start. That made our first stint extremely difficult. The car’s balance wasn’t great and the grip was poor. I also spun once. When the track quickly dried up, we drove an extra lap compared to our team colleagues in the sister car because we didn’t want to have both vehicles in the pits at the same time. We lost a lot of time on this additional lap because the conditions were no longer suitable for wet tyres. The car ran much better on slicks. I hope that we can fight our way back to the top during the night at the latest.”
Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “The start was totally chaotic. Several cars from the LMP2 class that started ahead of us were really slow on the wet track. In the Esses before Tertre Rouge, one of these cars suddenly appeared in front of us. I dodged to one side, Kévin veered to the other side in the sister car. We couldn’t avoid contact. Our car sustained a few damages on the side, so the balance wasn’t ideal during my stints. When we switched drivers, the team repaired the damage as quickly as they could.”
Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 RSR #79): “Because the track was still very wet at the start, the race director decided to leave the safety car out on the track for two more laps. That suited us perfectly because we’d started on tyres for drying conditions. The longer the first stint lasted, the better we did. Still, I couldn’t keep up with the two Ferraris. They managed to pull away, especially on the straights. That was a big surprise.”
Julien Andlauer (Porsche 911 RSR #88): “The initial phase after the race went green was wild. I couldn’t see anything in the spray. Under these conditions, it was simply a matter of handing the car to my teammate Dominique in one piece. I managed to stay with the frontrunners and the pace was good. If we can continue like this, then a lot is possible.”
Alexander Stehlig, Head of Operations FIA WEC, explains how the Porsche GT Team handles safety car phases.
After two hours of racing at Le Mans, these are the Porsche 911 RSR positions in GTE-Pro.
Green light! Le Mans 2021 has started.