Porsche’s dream GT year rolls on at Le Mans

June 19, 2018

Porsche’s dream GT year rolls on at Le Mans

June 19, 2018

Porsche’s 70 Years of Sports Cars celebration continued at Le Mans, as it added its third major endurance race win of 2018, all with Michelin tires.

The first came in March at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. A second followed in May at the 24 Hours of the Nurburgring.

Now, for the first time since 2013, Porsche has scored the GTE-Pro class victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in what was a crushing performance.

There were 10 Porsche 911 RSRs entered, split four GTE-Pro factory cars and six GTE-Am customer cars. They led nearly all 24 hours in both classes.

Incredibly, Porsche’s two Manthey Racing-run factory cars combined to lead 341 of the 344 laps completed in GTE-Pro. The class-winning No. 92 “Pink Pig” car of Kevin Estre, Michael Christensen and Laurens Vanthoor led 316 of those laps, including the last 291 of the race. Meanwhile the sister No. 91 “Rothmans” car of polesitter Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Makowiecki and Richard Lietz led the other 25 laps.

They finished 1-2 in class with a one-lap margin of victory.

“An absolutely perfect weekend for Porsche,” said Dr. Wolfgang Porsche, Chairman of the Supervisory Board. “You can’t wish for more than this in our anniversary year. It’s impossible to plan such a thing, but when it happens it’s an indescribable feeling. Congratulations to the drivers, the teams and all the employees who made this success possible. It makes me very proud.”

“I obviously also want to congratulate Porsche who celebrated its 70th anniversary in style by winning the fiercely-fought LM GTE Pro class,” said Michelin Motorsport Director Pascal Couasnon. “And last but by no means least, a big bravo to Dempsey-Proton Racing for its success in LM GTE Am.”

VANTHOOR, CHRISTENSEN, ESTRE ACHIEVE LE MANS DREAM

All three of the winning drivers have extensive U.S. racing experience but all now have their first wins at Le Mans. Estre and Christensen have been off-and-on in terms of driving for one of the CORE autosport-run Porsches in IMSA’s GT Le Mans class.

Vanthoor was the only one of the full-season IMSA drivers to be placed as a third driver in one of the Manthey-run FIA World Endurance Championship cars. Fittingly, the Belgian driver won in a race where his countryman, six-time Le Mans winner Jacky Ickx, was grand marshal.

“Today is one of the most beautiful, no, the most beautiful days of my career: I’ve won Le Mans,” Vanthoor said. “I can’t describe my emotions and I still can’t believe it. Kevin, Michael and I complemented each other perfectly. The entire team was just brilliant today.”

His younger brother Dries Vanthoor won the GTE-Am class last year in a Ferrari. Now, both Vanthoor brothers are on top.

CHARACTER-BUILDING LE MANS FOR PORSCHE’S U.S. SQUAD

Vanthoor enjoyed the spoils of victory in one of the Manthey-run cars. However it was a tough week for two U.S. entered cars with the North American crews, as Jon Bennett’s CORE autosport team made its Le Mans debut.

The No. 93 car of Vanthoor’s regular IMSA teammate, Earl Bamber, with Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy finished in 10th in GTE-Pro. An alternator change delayed them and they were among many cars that got caught out by an early race Safety Car period.

Le Mans threw the kitchen sink at the No. 94 car of Sven Mueller, Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas. Mueller’s incident at Indianapolis on Thursday required a rebuild of a new chassis. The car later retired with a rear suspension failure.

WIN IN GTE-AM PLUS SEVERAL OTHER SOLID RUNS

Porsche achieved more this Le Mans beyond the GTE-Pro 1-2 finish. Its Dempsey Proton Racing team enjoyed a similarly dominant run in GTE-Am. Matt Campbell, Julien Andlauer and Christian Ried led 300 of 335 laps in the No. 77 Porsche 911 RSR for that win. Campbell and Andlauer are two names to monitor for the future. Campbell, an Australian, is a Porsche Young Professional while Andlauer, an 18-year-old Frenchman and Porsche Junior, is now the youngest class winner in Le Mans history.

This trio delivered the win for Patrick Dempsey, co-owner of Dempsey Proton Racing. The actor/racer finished on the podium as a driver here in 2015.

“I’m lost for words. Everyone did a fantastic job, it was a victory for the whole team. The race was incredible, we made no mistakes and our work was rewarded with this great success. I can’t tell you how incredibly proud and happy I am for Porsche, too,” he said.

Porsche nearly got another car on the podium in this class, too. The all-American lineup of Tim Pappas, Patrick Long and Spencer Pumpelly finished fourth in the No. 99 Proton Competition Porsche, run in partnership with Pappas’ Black Swan Racing team.

Christina Nielsen, a Porsche Selected Driver this year, was sixth in the No. 80 Ebimotors Porsche she shared with two others. Joerg Bergmeister and Patrick Lindsey were seventh in the No. 56 Project 1 Porsche they shared.

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