The Porsche GT Team has locked out the first grid row with the two 911 RSR for the season-opening round of the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC. Works driver Michael Christensen turned the fastest qualifying lap in the GTE-Pro class for the 1,000-mile race on the Sebring International Raceway in the US state of Florida. The ca. 378 kW (515 PS) Porsche 911 RSR remains unbeaten after topping the timesheets in a WEC final qualifying session for the tenth time in a row. Christensen shares the No. 91 nine-eleven racer with Frenchman Kévin Estre. In the No. 91 sister car, Gianmaria Bruni posted the second quickest time just 0.15 seconds off the polesitter. This season, the Italian again joins forces with Richard Lietz from Austria. In the GTE-Am class, the American Brendan Iribe set the best time, planting the 911 RSR fielded by the Project 1 team on the third grid spot.
“A perfect start to the season!” says a delighted Alexander Stehlig, Director Factory Motorsport FIA WEC. “We’re on the front row with both cars, the two 911 RSR were at exactly the same level. We were already pretty thrilled in the practice sessions. We finally worked out a perfect setup in the third free practice – that was an important step. With a view to tomorrow’s race, there can only be one objective: we want to win.”
The first qualifying session of the 2022 WEC season got underway on Thursday at 7 pm local time. As the sun started to set, the summery air and track temperatures still hovered around 30 degrees Celsius. The Porsche GT Team had tweaked the two 911 RSR to the special characteristics of the Sebring International Raceway during the three practice sessions and the two test days of the previous weekend: the circuit includes a former military airfield, with about a third of the track made of concrete slabs. The hefty bumps put enormous stress on the car and drivers.
The qualifying was interrupted early in the ten-minute session when a privateer 911 RSR slid off the track. At the restart, Bruni promptly set the fastest lap in 1:57.383 minutes. Literally in the last second, Christensen trumped this result in 1:57.233 minutes after a series of top sector times, which was enough to earn the Dane pole position for the race.
In the GTE-Am class, Brendan Iribe was the fastest driver of a Porsche 911 RSR. The American achieved P3 at the wheel of the No. 56 campaigned by the Project 1 customer team and was a mere 0.079 seconds off a front row spot in this category. The two identical nine-eleven models run by Dempsey-Proton Racing take up the race from positions six and ten. Project 1’s No. 46 entry takes up the first WEC race of the year from position twelve.
Drivers’ qualifying quotes
Michael Christensen (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “That was a tough qualifying. When the red flags came out I wasn’t sure if I could keep the tyres warm enough. Afterwards, I simply focussed on getting two clean laps in. I made a few minor mistakes on the first lap, at times the wheels locked up under braking. The second lap went really well, it was clean and fast, even though the tyres were no longer in the best condition. I hope we can turn our pole into a race win. We have a tough job ahead of us.”
Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “Michael put in a strong drive, but my lap wasn’t too bad either – the gap was tiny. We now have a promising starting position for the long race ahead of us. Let’s see what we can do. One thing is certain: it’ll be a hot and demanding first race of the year.”
Brendan Iribe (Porsche 911 RSR #56): “I really enjoyed my first qualifying session in a GTE car – the Porsche 911 RSR is great to drive. I felt more and more comfortable in the car from session to session – and everything simply came together perfectly in the qualifying.”
1. Estre/Christensen (F/DK), Porsche GT Team, Porsche 911 RSR #92, 1:57.233 minute
2. Bruni/Lietz (I/A), Porsche GT Team, Porsche 911 RSR #91, 1:57.383 minute
3. Milner/Tandy (USA/GB), Corvette Racing, Corvette C8.R #64, 1:57.696 minute
4. Calado/Pier Guidi (GB/I), AF Corse, Ferrari 488 GTE Evo #51, 1:59.299 minute
5. Fuoco/Molina (I/E), AF Corse, Ferrari 488 GTE Evo #52, 1:59.388 minute
1. Keating/Latorre/Sörensen (USA/F/DK), Aston Martin Vantage AMR, #33, 1:59.204 minute
2 Dalla Lana/Pittard/Thiim (CDN/GB/DK), Northwest AMR, Aston Martin Vantage AMR, #98, 2:00.570 minute
3. Iribe/Millroy/Barnicoat (USA/GB/GB), Team Project 1, Porsche 911 RSR #56, 2:00.649 minute
6. Ried/Priaulx/Tincknell (D/GB/GB), Dempsey-Proton Racing, Porsche 911 RSR #77, 2:02.079 minute
10. Poordad/Lindsey/Andlauer (USA/USA/F), Dempsey-Proton Racing, Porsche 911 RSR #88, 2:03.560 minute
12. Cairoli/Pedersen/Leutwiler (I/DK/CH), Team Project 1, Porsche 911 RSR #46, no time