Porsche Penske Motorsport tackles the season opener of the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC from positions six and seven. At the Sebring International Raceway in the US state of Florida, Kévin Estre turned a qualifying lap in 1:47.193 minutes at the wheel of his No. 6 Porsche 963. Hot on his heels, his teammate Michael Christensen posted a time of 1:47,210 minutes in the No. 5 hybrid prototype. In the GTE Am category, Sarah Bovy underlined the powerful form of the Iron Dames team’s Porsche 911 RSR with pole position. The 1,000-mile race over eight hours gets underway on Friday at noon local time (5 pm CET).
The Porsche works team wrapped up the first qualifying of the new FIA WEC season with a midfield result in the hypercar class. The two new Porsche 963 hybrid prototypes qualified on positions six and seven for the eight-hour 1,000-mile race. Qualifying driver Kévin Estre from France, his German teammate André Lotterer and Laurens Vanthor from Belgium will start from the third grid row. Michael Christensen from Denmark, Dane Cameron from America and Frédéric Makowiecki from France line up next to them on P7.
“We’re definitely not happy with our performance. The fact is we’re not squeezing the upper limit out of our Porsche 963. We are convinced that the car is better than what we showed today,” explains Urs Kuratle, Director Factory Motorsport LMDh. “One aspect is the braking. We know for certain that we need to improve in that area. But we also can’t tap into the whole car package yet. This is especially true for qualifying. We anticipate our performance in the race to be much better but we still have work to do there, too. We’ll get the full picture tomorrow evening after the race.”
In the GTE-Am class qualifying, Sarah Bovy repeated the blistering pace of the Iron Dames Porsche from free practice. At the wheel of the pink 911 RSR, the Belgian topped the qualifying time sheet with 1:58.949 minutes. She starts the 1,000-mile race on Friday from pole position in her class with teammates Michelle Gatting from Denmark and Rahel Frey from Switzerland. In the second fastest Porsche, American PJ Hyett planted the vehicle fielded by Project 1 AO on P6. Proton Competition’s No. 88 Porsche could not take part in the qualifying after becoming entangled in an accident caused by another competitor. Ryan Hardwick (USA), Zacharie Robichon (CAN) and Harry Tincknell (UK) are also unable to contest the race on Friday.
The 1,000-mile race on the revered 6.02-kilometre racetrack in the heart of the “Sunshine State” of Florida gets the green light at noon local time (5 pm CET) on Friday. The free TV station Eurosport 1 broadcasts the final phase of the WEC season opener live. RTL Nitro also televises a comprehensive report from Sebring. For a fee, the FIA WEC app provides a live stream and live timing. Just one day later, the second round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship gets underway on the Sebring International Raceway. On Saturday, 18 March, the storied 12 Hours of Sebring will be contested for the 71st time.
Qualifying quotes from the drivers
Kévin Estre (Porsche 963 #6): “We didn’t make any mistakes. The car wasn’t fantastic, but considering the overall package we have this weekend, it was pretty good. My lap wasn’t perfect, but it definitely wasn’t bad either. Now we need to look at where we’re losing time. It felt much faster in the car than any lap we’ve done here in the past. But performances in qualifying and in the race are two very different things. It’s obvious that our competitors have the upper hand, that’s for sure. We need to get through the race unscathed and learn as much as possible, then maybe we’ll stand a chance.”
Michael Christensen (Porsche 963 #5): “The qualifying showed that we aren’t quite where we want to be yet. We’re missing some power, especially compared to the LMH cars, but even the Cadillac is slightly ahead of us. Now we need to understand what’s missing and how to improve. The Porsche actually feels good, even though I’m lacking some grip. We’ll keep working on it, the race is long.”
Sarah Bovy (Porsche 911 RSR #85): “I knew it was going to be very close. I wanted to attack as hard as possible. But it’s my first qualifying session with the Porsche 911 RSR, so it took me a while to find the limit. In the last lap, I actually felt really good – even though I nudged another car and was afraid of losing time while overtaking. I’m really happy about pole position. As a team, we managed to prove that we mean business with the new car. We worked hard towards that. Now, we’re concentrating on the race. Even though we secured a good qualifying result, the most difficult task is still ahead of us tomorrow.”
PJ Hyett (Porsche 911 RSR #56): “The Porsche handles phenomenally. I can hardly wait for the race tomorrow. Let’s see what we can do then. The track offered a lot of grip in qualifying. My tyres overheated a bit at the beginning, but I managed to get them back into the temperature window. All in all, it went well for us.”
1. Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen (I/E/DK), Ferrari #50, 1:45.067 minutes
2. Buemi/Hartley/Hirakawa (CH/NZ/J), Toyota #8, 1:45.281 minutes
3. Conway/Kobayashi/Lopez (UK/J/ARG), Toyota #7, 1:45.548 minutes
6. Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor (F/D/B), Porsche 963 #6, 1:47.193 minutes
7. Cameron/Christensen/Makowiecki (USA/DK/F), Porsche 963 #5, 1:47.210 minutes
1. Bovy/Frey/Gatting (B/CH/DK), Porsche 911 RSR #85, 1:58.949 minutes
2. Keating/Varrone/Catsburg (USA/ARG/NL), Corvette #33, 1:59.345 minutes
3. Al Harthy/Dinan/Eastwood (OMN/USA/IRL), Aston Martin #25, 1:59.657 minutes
6. Hyett/Jeannette/Cairoli (USA/USA/I), Porsche 911 RSR #56, 2:00.588 minutes
11. Ried/Pedersen/Andlauer (D/DK/F), Porsche 911 RSR #77, 2:01.054 minutes
12. Wainwright/Pera/Barker (UK/I/UK), Porsche 911 RSR #86, 2:02.588 minutes
13. Schiavoni/Cressoni/Picariello (I/I/B), Porsche 911 RSR #60, 2:02.820 minutes
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