The two 911 RSR fielded by the Porsche GT Team have qualified for the Hyperpole at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Works driver Laurens Vanthoor from Belgium and Frédéric Makowiecki from France concluded the qualifying session on the 13.626-kilometre racetrack in positions one and three in the GTE-Pro class.
In the GTE-Am category, the No. 77 car of Dempsey-Proton Racing made it into the top six. Only the six fastest vehicles from each of the two GTE classes are eligible to compete for the best grid positions this Thursday from 8 pm (CEST). The 911 RSR in which Michael Fassbender celebrates his Le Mans debut has not qualified for the shootout. Fassbender had an accident during the qualifying but was uninjured.
“A few drops of rain fell, the red flag came out and then it began to pour – to find the ideal time window for a flying lap under these conditions was anything but easy,” states Alexander Stehlig, Director Factory Motorsport FIA WEC. “Our goal was to qualify both cars for the Hyperpole. We succeeded and so we’re satisfied. A look at the timesheet suggests that it’s close between all manufacturers. That’s exactly what we’d hoped for.”
At the beginning of the qualifying session, Makowiecki in the No. 91 car and his brand colleague Vanthoor in the No. 92 sister car initially waited in the pits for a few minutes. The pit crew then sent the two vehicles out on the track at the most opportune time so that both drivers encountered as little traffic as possible and could get the most out of their ca. 378 kW (515 PS) 911. Setting a time of 3:50.999 minutes, Vanthoor was just 0.383 seconds faster than Makowiecki. Due to the wet track in the second half of the 60-minute session, it was impossible to improve the times.
In the GTE-Am class, Britain’s Harry Tincknell planted the No. 77 fielded by Dempsey-Proton Racing on P5 with a time of 3:54.224 minutes – and thus made it into the Hyperpole. The grid positions for all other Porsche 911 RSR in the amateur category have already been determined. GR Racing’s 911 takes up the race from position seven, with the two Project 1 cars right behind. The 911 entries campaigned by WeatherTech Racing and Hardpoint achieved positions eleven and twelve, with the two Proton cars on the 18th and 21st grid spots.
This Thursday, two free practice sessions are on the programme plus the Hyperpole, in which the battle for the best grid positions is decided in all four classes. On Friday, there will be no further races on the 13.626-kilometre Circuit des 24 Heures, instead, the drivers will take centre stage at the traditional drivers’ parade in downtown Le Mans. The 90th edition of the 24-hour classic starts on Saturday at 4 pm (CEST).
Drivers’ impressions after the qualifying
Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “It was a really good lap, and I hit it lucky. Right before turning onto the long straights, a couple of LMP2 cars overtook me, which gave me a nice slipstream. That certainly helped in achieving a decent top speed. Overall, it was a clean drive, so we deserve to be on the provisional pole position.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “I was able to set a pretty good lap time, which was enough to get into the Hyperpole. At the same time, we gained further insight into how to optimise our car for the long 24-hour race. Our engineers have great ideas and are doing a fantastic job.”
Harry Tincknell (Porsche 911 RSR #77): “For us, it was all about getting into the Hyperpole – and we did it. Our Porsche 911 RSR felt better than ever in qualifying. The team has moved in the right direction on tweaking the setup. Because the pace is so high on this track, the little things make a big difference. If the shock absorbers are altered even slightly, or the rear wing is adjusted by one degree, it’s immediately noticeable. We’re well-positioned. I think we’ll be able to put in a strong lap in the Hyperpole. However, it’s much more important to finish the race well.”
1. Christensen/Estre/Vanthoor (DK/F/B), Porsche 911 RSR #92, 3:50.999 minutes
2. Garcia/Taylor/Catsburg (E/USA/NL), Corvette C8.R #63, 3:51.132 minutes
3. Bruni/Lietz/Makowiecki (I/A/F), Porsche 911 RSR #91, 3:51.382 minutes
4. Tandy/Milner/Sims (GB/USA/GB), Corvette C8.R #64, 3:51.491 minutes
5. Calado/Pier Guidi/Serra (GB/I/BR), Ferrari 488 GTE #51, 3:51.502 minutes
6. Fuoco/Molina/Rigon (I/E/I), Ferrari 488 GTE #52, 3:51.614 minutes
7. Fraga/Bird/Van Gisbergen (BR/GB/NZ), Ferrari 488 GTE #74, 3:54.116 minutes
1. Dalla Lana/Pittard/Thiim (CDN/GB/DK), Aston Martin #98, 3:52.559 minutes
2. Kimura/Schandorff/Jensen (J/DK/DK), Ferrari 488 GTE #57, 3:53.489 minutes
3. Cassidy/Flohr/Castellacci (NZ/CH/I), Ferrari 488 GTE #54, 3:53.690 minutes
5. Ried/Priaulx/Tincknell (D/GB/GB), Porsche 911 RSR #77, 3:54.224 minutes
7. Wainwright/Barker/Pera (GB/GB/I), Porsche 911 RSR #86, 3:54.323 minutes
8. Iribe/Barnicoat/Millroy (USA/GB/GB), Porsche 911 RSR #56, 3:54.510 minutes
9. Leutwiler/Cairoli/Pedersen (CH/I/DK), Porsche 911 RSR #46, 3:54.533 minutes
11. MacNeil/Andlauer/Merrill (USA/F/USA), Porsche 911 RSR #79, 3:54.912 minutes
12. Haryanto/Picariello/Rump (RI/B/EST), Porsche 911 RSR #99, 3:55.076 minutes
18. Poordad/Heylen/Root (USA/B/USA), Porsche 911 RSR #88, 3:56.516 minutes
21. Campbell/Fassbender/Robichon (AUS/IRL/CDN), Porsche 911 RSR #93, 4:07.907 minutes