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Le Mans

Witness One of the Rarest Porsche Racers Grazing Goodwood’s Haybails

It’s a bit strange to think that twenty-five years ago, Porsche planned to take the 959 into international sports car racing. Especially for its time, the tech-heavy 959 was so sophisticated that running one in an endurance race must’ve made the engineers weep and kiss their family lives goodbye. However, it was indeed built to fit into the Group B series of the day.

Porsche initially planned to build these 959-based cars for customer racing teams running to FISA Group B circuit racing regulations. By the time the car reached fruition, however, FISA had shifted Group B to suit rally racing instead, and the circuit Group B customer program was dead in the water. However, development continued on their lone chassis No. 10016. They had to put all that effort and research to good use.

The 961, as it came to be known, did not live an unfulfilled life. Two somewhat successful attempts at Le Mans and one showing at Daytona verified its potential. Not only was it faster than the contemporary BMW M1s at Le Mans, but it was faster than some of the C1 and C2 prototypes, and finished seventh in 1986. Despite its complexity, it was one of the more reliable cars in the field that year.

With 4WD, 680 horsepower, and only 2.25 tons to push around, the 961 inhales straightaways.

Power came from a 935 engine, and its 650 horsepower was put to the ground via a modified version of the 959’s drivetrain which favored the rear axle more than the road version did. It also sported a set of brakes from the 962, and benefited from considerable weight loss. In race trim, the 961 weighed only 2,535 pounds. Those states were enough for it to reach an astounding 207 miles an hour down the Mulsanne Straight.

Though Chris Harris’ enthusiasm is visible in the video above, it’s the celebratory cheers made by Roger Green in the footage below that gets the thrill of the 961 across. Though laggy, once the turbos spool around 4,500 rpm, the 961 simply pulls the horizon towards it.

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Barks of the 996 GT3 RSR Bounce Off Monza’s Trees

Though not the fastest car through Parabolica, the 996 RSR’s baritone bellow is very entertaining.

The signature bark of the 996 GT3 RSR is unmistakable to the sonically sensitive Porschephile. They recognize the dry blat-blat-blat of the 3.6-liter under deceleration and heel-toe and from years ago when they heard those same sounds bounce off the walls at places like Sebring and Daytona. The rasp, the throatiness, and the absence of gearbox noise help it stand out as a distinct piece of music in the Porsche anthology.

The varied soundtrack accompanies a motor that screams to a tick over 8,000 rpm, and made ~445 horsepower while up there. Just a hair under 300 lb-ft was the churning force this motor produces, and though that’s not an exceptional amount by today’s standards, it is plenty of shove to propel a car weighing ~2,400 pounds. With a six-speed sequential to row through, it reaches a much higher top speed than one would imagine after watching it accelerate seemingly casually out of Monza’s hairpins.

Great stability on the brakes is one of this car’s obvious strong suits.

Fortunately, these two RSRs brake very well and exhibit great stability while decelerating. The 380mm and 355mm discs front and rear, respectively, bring the Porsche to a halt without much fidgeting. To run at somewhere like Le Mans for 24 hours, the car had to be reasonably stable. The big wing and diffuser help, but by modern standards, the 996 RSR’s areo doesn’t look like that a factory racer.

Still, after Looking at the body movement and the comparatively simplistic bodywork you get a sense of how far GT cars have come in the last fifteen years Body control, downforce, and braking performance are simply different level. Now, GT3 cars are built more like prototypes with an emphasis on aero grip, while back then, cars had to be managed more at lower speeds and slid in a subtle fashion. The steady forward march of progress, right?

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Porsche Loses Out On Le Mans Glory, But Grabs Both GT Class Championships

While Porsche didn’t quite get the victory that they were hoping for in either GTE Pro or GTE Am, the sports car maker managed to secure all four of the FIA WEC GTE class championships. This season, unlike any before it, held a pair of Le Mans 24 hour events, last June and the weekend past. Porsche won last year, but only managed to take three podium positions from the two classes this event, not the top step mind you, but anyhow. Porsche had a good and bad Le Mans, some minor failures cropped up, but the team persevered to make everything work out in the end. They may have lost this particular battle, but they won the season-long war.

Porsche factory drivers Michael Christensen and Kévin Estre have secured the GTE drivers’ championship, and Porsche as a GTE manufacturer had already won the manufacturer’s championship at the prior round. In fact, their car wore a gold-accented livery to commemorate that crown. In the GTE Am category, Porsche also secured the drivers’ and teams’ championships, but that’s a bit of a longer story that we’ll cover a little later.

Comments on the race
Dr Michael Steiner (Porsche R&D Board Member): “It was a dream season that could not have been more successful. Everyone at Porsche can be very proud of what has been achieved in the Super Season of the FIA WEC. Our successes have shown very clearly that the Porsche 911 is still the measure of all things in the sports car world.”

Fritz Enzinger (Vice President Porsche Motorsport): “To win all titles at the last race of the season and to witness three driver crews on the podium is an incredible story. We’ve concluded the FIA WEC Super Season with the greatest possible success. Now we aim to secure more titles in the North American IMSA series. This is already one of the most successful seasons in the history of Porsche Motorsport. My thanks go to all the team members at the racetrack and to all the employees in Zuffenhausen and Weissach as well as all other locations who’ve made these successes possible.”

Pascal Zurlinden (Director GT Factory Motorsport): “We were determined to win this race. Unfortunately, bad luck and minor mistakes prevented this. Still, we have two cars on the podium in the GTE-Pro class and one in the GTE-Am category. Porsche has won all four GT titles in the FIA WEC Super Season. What more do you want? I can only thank everyone in the team. It was a season I’ll remember for a very long time.”

Porsche in the GTE Pro Class

This, the 87th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans saw four Porsche 911 RSRs start in the GTE Pro category. The newly crowned world champions Christensen, Estre, and their teammate Laurens Vanthoor, ran quite well in the first half of the race, and ran up at the front until the wee hours of the morning. At exactly 3:47 AM local time, the #92’s exhaust manifold cracked, and the engine was down significantly on power. The team called the car into the pits and rolled it back into the garage to affect repairs. The repairs took exactly 20 minutes, which is impressive in itself, but that 20 minute repair was a lifetime of sitting stationary, costing the leading Porsche 6 laps to the leaders of the class. The car ultimately finished in 10th position in class, just enough to net them the championship they so desperately hoped for.

The #91 of Gianmaria Bruni, Richard Lietz, and Fred Makowiecki ran without flaw to second place in class behind the winning Ferrari of AF Corse. The #93 car of Earl Bamber, Patrick Pilet, and Nick Tandy joined them on the podium to make it a Porsche double. Both of the 911 RSRs on the podium finished about 1 minute and 10 seconds behind the leading Ferrari, which won a decisive lead with some good luck with safety car positioning. It doesn’t do well to dwell on the bad, so we’ll celebrate the double podium in good spirits.

Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “Like last year, we were very unlucky with the safety car phases. Because of these, we lost more than a minute to the top on two occasions – much more than our gap to the winners at the flag. This shows that we could’ve won. We’ve made the most out of the conditions and achieved second place. Hopefully it’ll be our turn next year to win the race.”

Michael Christensen (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “What a rollercoaster ride! We were on track for victory, everything was perfect, but then we had to pit during the night for repairs to the exhaust. You feel as if the world has fallen out from under your feet. Still, we won the world championship and that’s what counted for us; that was our aim. So we have very good reason to celebrate.”

Earl Bamber (Porsche 911 RSR #93): “We tried everything, but even though we had a very fast car, we couldn’t do more. That’s Le Mans, you simply have to have luck on your side. We’re pleased with the podium finish and now we look ahead. Our focus is now on extending our points’ lead in the IMSA series and to win more titles for Porsche.”

Mathieu Jaminet (Porsche 911 RSR #94): “We delivered a clean and strong performance. There were factors beyond our control that hampered us. That simply belongs to Le Mans. I thoroughly enjoyed my debut at this sensational race and I very much want to return next year.”

Porsche in the GTE Am Class

With Porsche down to 5 bullets in the GTE Am class gun after Tracy Krohn crashed one of them in pre-qualifying practice, the game was on from the drop of the flag. The various Porsche flagged teams knew it would be a tough old fight, and they gave it everything.

The pole-winning number 88 Dempsey Proton entry was retired after just 79 laps when Am driver Satoshi Hoshino had been involved in multiple accidents and allegedly declared he was unwilling to go back out on track. Teammates Porsche driver Matteo Cairoli and Giorgio Roda could do no more. Without Hoshino finishing his minimum drive time, the team saw no purpose in continuing to battle and retired the battered car instead. The other Dempsey Proton car, #77 of Matt Campbell, Julien Andlauer, and Christian Ried ran quite well early on, even leading the class for long stretches, but ultimately fell down the field with a carbon under tray issue that cost them several long minutes in the pits.

Ultimately it was down to the brand new for 2019 Project 1 Racing team of Joerg Bergmeister, Patrick Lindsey, and Egidio Perfetti to bring home the Porsche laurels in second place for the GTE Am field. The team looked good for the win as the class leading Ford of Ben Keating was handed a 30 second stop-and-hold penalty for wheel spin leaving his pit box. Keating came in, served his penalty, and returned to the track just a handful of seconds in front of a hard-charging Joerg Bergmeister. Unfortunately the Ford had the legs on the Porsche and Bergmeister could not close on the bright purple Keating car. The gap at the finish was still well under a minute. Because the Keating car is an American one-off entry for Le Mans, it was not eligible for season long points, and Project 1 was awarded the season points for the victory.

With this Le Mans podium, the Project 1 Racing team clinched both the drivers’ and teams’ championships in GTE Am. Porsche very nearly swept the 8-event super season in GTE Am, grabbing seven class wins, failing only at Spa-Francorchamps some 13 months ago. The Dempsey Proton #77 team actually won five of the races, including Le Mans 2018, Silverstone, Shanghai, Sebring, and Spa 2019, but following an excellent race at Fuji the team was found to have not followed the regulation for minimum fueling time during pit stops. After an investigation, it was found that the data loggers for that car’s fuel rig were found to have been tampered with for the prior three races. The team was disqualified from the Fuji round, and all of its points prior to that were nullified. Even still, the Dempsey Proton team finished second in points on 110 to Team Project 1’s championship winning 151 points.

Jörg Bergmeister (Porsche 911 RSR #56): “We won both titles in our maiden season. You don’t get better than that – sensational. Towards the end, it may have looked from the outside as if we could still win the race, but unfortunately we had to come into the pits once more to refuel. The Ford deserved to win. With our podium result and after winning the title, we have plenty of reason to celebrate.”

Matt Campbell (Porsche 911 RSR #77): “We wanted to win and we came fifth. It’s not ideal, but that’s just the way it is at Le Mans. The competition is intense, the rivals are incredibly strong and the race is very demanding. The effort in making it to the finish under such circumstances definitely deserves high respect.”

Louis Prette (Porsche 911 RSR #78): “We came here as greenhorns. My dad and I and our teammate Vincent tackled this mighty race as rookies. We didn’t care about where we placed, we just wanted to reach the finish line. But in the end we finished on seventh – crazy! One thing is certain: We definitely want to return to Le Mans in 2020, because there’s nothing better!”

Porsche 911 RSR, Team Project 1 (56), Joerg Bergmeister (D), Patrick Lindsey (USA), Egidio Perfetti (N)

Race result
GTE-Pro class
1. Pier Guidi/Calado/Serra (I/GB/BRA), Ferrari 488 GTE, 342 laps
2. Lietz/Bruni/Makowiecki (A/I/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 342 laps
3. Pilet/Bamber/Tandy (F/NZ/GB), Porsche 911 RSR, 342 laps
8. Müller/Jaminet/Olsen (D/F/N), Porsche 911 RSR, 339 laps
10. Christensen/Estre/Vanthoor (DK/F/B), Porsche 911 RSR, 337 laps

GTE-Am class
1. Keating/Bleekemolen/Fraga (USA/NL/BRA), Ford GT, 334 laps
2. Bergmeister/Lindsey/Perfetti (D/USA/N), Porsche 911 RSR, 334 laps
3. Segal/Baptista/Lu (USA/BRA/CAN), Ferrari 488 GTE, 334 laps
5. Campbell/Ried/Andlauer (AUS/D/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 332 laps
7. Prette/Prette/Abril (I/I/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 332 laps
9. Wainwright/Barker/Preining (GB/GB/A), Porsche 911 RSR, 331 laps
DNF. Hoshino/Roda/Cairoli (J/I/I), Porsche 911 RSR, 79 laps

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A FAN’S GUIDE TO THE 2019 24 HOURS OF LE MANS: THE PORSCHE PERSPECTIVE

Since Porsche has been out of the LMP1 game, ending the program at the conclusion of the 2017 season, our favorite German sports car maker has been pushing their GTE programs to the top of the heap. After winning both GTE Pro and GTE Am classes at Le Mans last year, the team is looking to repeat that feat this weekend. They have a very strong group of teams and drivers, but the competition is extremely heavy. So here we stand, at the end of the 2018-19 « Superseason » with Porsche running a quartet of factory-backed GTE Pro cars, hoping to bring the heat.

Porsche in GTE Pro

 

Porsche’s GTE Pro team has either won or been on the podium at each of the seven FIA WEC rounds this season. Not only does that add up to three victories (including Le Mans) but it secured Porsche the GTE Manufacturers’ championship a few rounds ago. Here in the United States, however, things have been even better, as Porsche has won the last three rounds of the IMSA championship for GTLM cars, the 12 hours of Sebring, Long Beach, and Mid Ohio. Both pairs of cars, the Euro squad run by Manthey Racing and the USA squad run by CORE Autosport, are riding high on a season full of greatness, and hope to carry that momentum through the most important race of their collective seasons.

With all of that said, the GTE Pro grid at Le Mans is about as strong as anyone could ever face. In qualifying this week the top five positions were taken by five different manufacturers. Aston Martin is on Pole, followed by Ford, Corvette, Porsche (4th), and BMW, and they’re all within 1.1 seconds of the Aston’s pole time. There are two Corvettes, two Aston Martins, two BMWs, three Ferraris, and four Ford GTs in this field to battle four Porsches, and every single one of them has a package capable of winning the class. The Porsche’s new exhaust doesn’t sound quite as good as it did last year, but thankfully the GTE Am cars have to run last year’s specs, so they’ll still be roaring up and down the field.

Michael Christensen, driver of the #92 911 RSR, commented after qualifying, “We’re actually better than the qualifying result indicates. On my flying lap I had to let two prototypes pass in the middle sector, and then I had to overtake a GT car. This cost me a lot of time. Of course we would have preferred to start from further up the grid, but our car is really well balanced, which means we’ll be able to make up a lot of ground in the race. I’m heading into the season finale feeling really good.”

Porsche in GTE Am

 

In GTE Am it’s a slightly different story, one of both ups and downs. Porsche nabbed pole in qualifying with the #88 car of Dempsey-Proton Racing. Not only that, but Porsche locked out 1st, 2nd, and 3rd starting positions on the grid, and are supported by two more P-cars starting 5th and 6th. Even better than that, Porsche has netted 6 of 7 WEC round victories this season, including Le Mans 2018. Even better than that, it was the #77 Dempsey-Proton car that has won five of those 6. Team Project 1 won in Fuji when Dempsey-Proton was disqualified for not meeting minimum fuel filling time during pit stops. In any case, Porsche looks very strong for Le Mans this year with an excellent balance of speed and fuel economy.

Matteo Cairoli, who grabbed the pole, had this to say: “This is my second pole position in a row at Le Mans – I’m blown away! My fastest lap was good, but I still lost a little time in some places. At the end I was nervous because it looked as if some other Porsche 911 RSR might still pose a threat. But it was enough. We’re heading into the big race feeling terrific.”

So that’s all the good news sorted then. Now for the bad news. A sixth 911 RSR was planned to enter the 24 Hour race this weekend in GTE Am, a third Dempsey-Proton entry fielded for Krohn Racing. That car’s am driver, Tracy Krohn, crashed the car in practice and while he was given a clean bill of health by the trackside doctors, the FIA put him on a one-week race ban for potential brain injury due to the g-forces involved in the accident. With Patrick Long and Nic Jonsson ascribed to the car to join him, that car, the #99, has been withdrawn from the proceedings. This will mark the first time in 16 years that Patrick Long has not raced at Le Mans. Bummer.

Race Resources for Porsche Fans

Starting at 8AM eastern on Saturday, the cable channel MotorTrend TV (what used to be Discovery/Velocity), and the MotorTrend On Demand app streaming site will broadcast the full 24 hour race live in high definition. What a time to be alive!

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The 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans on Twitter for Porsche Fans

Just like last year, Porsche has amassed a full grid of ten GTE-classed 911 RSR in an attempt to take on the best comers from Ferrari, Ford, BMW, Corvette, and Aston Martin. Because this is a transition season, this weekend’s Le Mans is technically inside the same « super season » as last year’s Le Mans, and will decide a number of FIA WEC championships. Porsche have again recruited four cars in an attempt to defend its LM GTE Pro class victory in 2018, with four factory-entered mid-engine 911 RSRs. The GTE Am category features six cars from four different teams. Both categories feature heavily stacked lineups and incredibly talented drivers. Both categories are really anyone’s game, and you’ll have to watch to find out if Porsche can do it again. Porsche has won three times in the World Endurance Championship GTE Pro class from seven rounds this season, including Le Mans 2018. Astonishingly, the Dempsey-Proton #77 has blitzed the competition winning five of seven rounds, with Team Project 1 grabbing one.

For long endurance races like this one, Twitter can be an invaluable source of information. Not only can Twitter provide an up-to-the-minute view of what’s happening in the race, it can connect you with intimate details and insight from the drivers and teams themselves.  In fact, we know of no other way to stay as closely and accurately informed about what’s happening in the Porsche world before, during and after the race (even if you were at the event itself) than through the « Twittersphere ». You just need to know who to follow.

OFFICIAL INFORMATION

GREAT RESOURCES

PORSCHE DRIVERS ON TWITTER

The GTE Pro Class

Porsche Motorsport Team Manthey #91 @manthey_racing

Porsche Motorsport Team Manthey #92 @manthey_racing

Porsche Motorsport North America #93 @PorscheNARacing

Porsche Motorsport North America #94 @PorscheNARacing

The GTE Am Class

Team Project 1 @Project1_93

Dempsey-Proton Racing #77 @ProtonRacing

  • Julian Andlauer – Not on Twitter
  • Matt Campbell @mattcampbell22_
  • Christian Ried – Not On Twitter

Proton Competition #78 @ProtonRacing

Gulf Racing #86 @Gulf_Racing

Dempsey-Proton Racing #88 @ProtonRacing

  • Matteo Cairoli @Cairoli96
  • Satoshi Hoshino – Not on Twitter
  • Giorgio Roda – Not on Twitter

Dempsey-Proton Competition #99 @ProtonRacing

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