The Porsche GT Team fields two Porsche 911 RSR at round seven of the Sports Car World Endurance Championship WEC on the Fuji Speedway in Japan on 15 October. The 510 hp race car was designed from scratch by Porsche Motorsport in Weissach for the 2017 season and will tackle the GTE-Pro class on the storied racetrack at the foot of Mount Fuji against strong opposition from Aston Martin, Ferrari and Ford. The fight for the world championship in this category – in which Porsche currently ranks second in the drivers’ classification with Richard Lietz (Austria) and Frédéric Makowiecki (France), within striking distance of the title – is particularly fierce. In the GTE-Pro class, the Balance of Performance regulation aims to achieve a level playing field for the different vehicle concepts to ensure balanced and fair races, making this category particularly competitive. Equally as close is the title fight in the GTE-Am class. In this class, Porsche’s customer squads Dempsey Proton Racing and Gulf Racing successfully field two 911 RSR from the 2015 model year.
Sports car racing has enjoyed a long tradition on the Fuji Speedway. Fans in the Land of the Rising Sun are knowledgeable and enthusiastic. This challenging racetrack, which hosted Formula 1 for many years, features 16 corners and lies in the picturesque town of Oyama, with Mount Fuji as the backdrop. In the 1980s, Porsche celebrated major successes with its sports cars at the legendary 1,000-kilometre races held here.
The Porsche drivers
The Porsche GT Team aims to defend its title chances at Fuji with four works drivers. Richard Lietz (Austria) and Frédéric Makowiecki (France) share the cockpit of the #91 Porsche 911 RSR. Their team colleagues Michael Christensen (Denmark) and Kévin Estre (France), who scored their top result so far this season recently in Austin with second place, drive the second new 911 RSR with the starting number 92. In the GTE-Am class, two Porsche customer squads field 2015-spec 911 RSR racers: Dempsey Proton Racing campaigns the #77 car with the Porsche Young Professional Matteo Cairoli (Italy) as well as Christian Ried and Marvin Dienst from Germany. Achieving victories at the Nürburgring and in Mexico City, they currently rank second in the FIA Endurance Trophy. Ben Barker and Michael Wainwright from Great Britain join forces with Nick Foster from Australia to compete in 911 RSR fielded by Gulf Racing.
The Porsche 911 RSR
Porsche Motorsport built the 911 RSR a completely new development on the basis of the high-performance 911 GT3 RS sports car: the suspension, body structure, aerodynamic concept, engine and transmission have all been designed in Weissach from scratch for this season. Depending on the size of the restrictor, the motor, which is now positioned in front of the rear axle, puts out around 375 kW (510 hp). Thanks to the particularly large rear diffuser combined with a top-mounted rear wing, the level of downforce and the aerodynamic efficiency were significantly improved. The new RSR scored its maiden victory at the American IMSA SportsCar Championship race at Lime Rock on 22 July.
The six-hour race in Fuji starts on Sunday, 15 September, at 11.00 hrs local time (04.00 hrs CEST).
Comments before the race
Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser, Vice President Motorsport and GT Cars: “After the strong team effort in Austin and second place after a sensational charge through the field, we’re heading to Fuji full of confidence. In Japan, we aim to build on this strong performance and bring home another top result from our new 911 RSR’s first outing in Asia. This would put us in an even better position in the gripping fight for the world championship in the lead-up to the final two rounds in Shanghai and Bahrain.”
Marco Ujhasi, Director GT Factory Motorsports: “The important thing in Fuji is to carry plenty of speed onto the long straight after the start and get the tyres up to the perfect working temperature before the first corner so that the brakes and tyres perform optimally. This scenic racetrack is good for surprises, particularly when it comes to the weather. We have to be ready for anything.”
Richard Lietz (911 RSR #91): “Fuji is one of my favourite races. It’s not only because of the racetrack; I also find the country fascinating. I love Japan. In recent years we’ve experienced many close races at Fuji. After our bad luck at Austin, I hope we can fight again for a podium result.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (911 RSR #91): “This race means a great deal to me. I contested the Japanese GT Championship for many years and I still have a lot of friends and fans there. Japan is virtually my second home. The important thing for us is to again bring home as many points as possible in the fight for the world championship. I’m curious to see how we come to terms with this tricky circuit with our new 911 RSR.”
Michael Christensen (911 RSR #92): “I’m looking forward to returning to Japan. It’s a fascinating country. Fuji is a very demanding racetrack, and it’s great fun competing there. The races there are mostly very exciting. After scoring second in Austin, I can hardly wait to climb back into the 911 RSR. I hope we can perform just as well.”
Kévin Estre (911 RSR #92): “This is my first race in Japan. It’s always an interesting experience to travel to a new country and face an unfamiliar racetrack. Obviously I know the photos with Mount Fuji in the background, but my teammates have also told me about the challenges of this circuit. We’ll work hard to underline the full potential of our 911 RSR there.
Matteo Cairoli (911 RSR #77): “Fuji is new terrain for me. I only know it from the simulator, but I’m confident that it’ll suit us well. I’m excited about my first race in Japan and I hope that we can achieve a top result and reclaim the lead in the FIA Endurance Trophy after our bad luck in Austin.”
Balance of Performance (BoP)
The Balance of Performance applies to the GTE-Pro class of the WEC Sports Car World Endurance Championship as well as the GTLM class of the IMSA SportsCar Championship. BoP was introduced by the FIA with the aim of achieving a level playing field for the different vehicle concepts, and thus ensuring balanced and fair races. The intention is that it should not make a fundamental difference if a vehicle is powered by a turbocharged or normally aspirated engine, or if the engine is mounted on the front axle or in front of the rear axle. The basic aerodynamic shape of the vehicles should also not play a decisive role. After an initial grading by the FIA, the balance of performance is adjusted at the races by means of telemetry – not only using lap times, but also acceleration profiles and engine mappings. This data input is automatically analysed and incorporated into the Balance of Performance. The most frequently used means of adjusting the performance level is through adding or subtracting weight. In keeping with the rule-makers’ intention, the key to success on the racetrack is not about the individual potential of a vehicle, instead it’s about the performance of the drivers, the race strategy, a perfect setup or the skill of the team with their pit stops.
The Sports Car World Endurance Championship WEC
Sports prototypes and GT vehicles contest the Sports Car World Endurance Championship (WEC) in four classes: LMP1 (eg. Porsche 919 Hybrid), LMP2, LMGTE-Pro (eg. 911 RSR) and LMGTE-Am (eg. 911 RSR model year 2015). They all compete together in one race but are classified separately. At Le Mans, double points are awarded in all classes towards the championship.