The opening round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) took place in sunny Florida this afternoon. Thanks to a clean performance, solid strategy and competitive driving, the newly-formed Porsche Penske Motorsport team finished the 1000 Miles of Sebring in fifth and sixth in their debut WEC race.
The FIA World Endurance Championship 1000 Miles of Sebring was the first competition for the Mannheim-based WEC arm of Porsche Penske Motorsport. And after a mountain of preseason testing, struggle and struggle-free practices throughout the week, the team managed eight hours of problem-free running to take fifth and sixth in the event, earning 18 valuable championship points and sitting in third place in the new category’s standings.
The landmark moment in sportscar racing history was also a proud moment for newly-formed Porsche Penske Motorsport, established to take on this exciting new category with the purpose-built Porsche 963. After more than a week of long test and preparation days, the Mannheim-based WEC squad entered the race with the goal of getting into a rhythm and keeping it clean.
The hard-working team, which started the 1000 Miles of Sebring in sixth and seventh, put in a strong team performance to minimize lost time and maximise track position. With a total of 12 near-perfect pitstops, 470 laps of trouble-free running and some world-class racing, General Manager Bernhard Demmer is happy with the execution: “When I look at this team here and remember that we’ve only really got to know each other over the past few months I’m extremely proud of them. Each team member has given this programme their all and today was a outstanding performance under difficult conditions. Yes, we have many areas of improvement as a team, but the foundations are getting stronger and stronger with every day and I’d like to thank everyone in Mannheim, Mooresville and Weissach for their commitment and dedication. After packing up and going home, we’ll have a couple of days rest before the cars arrive at our next test and we continue this momentum.”
While today’s race pace was more in line with the competition than yesterday’s qualifying speed, the team had to settle for fifth and sixth with its pair of Porsche 963. The #5 car of Dane Cameron (USA), Michael Christensen (DK) and Frédéric Makowiecki (F) squeezed just inside the top five, with the sister car of Kévin Estre (F), André Lotterer (D) and Laurens Vanthoor (B) finishing within 25 seconds to take sixth.
Christian Eifrig, Technical Project Leader commented: “We’ll be honest that we didn’t get the track result that we hoped for but there are positives – if you look at the reliability issues of Daytona in January and compare this to 16 hours of pretty much trouble-free running today you can see that a lot of our hard work has proven fruitful. Another positive is that there is not one major issue that is hampering our performance, we just need to keep working on the car and set-up and understanding how to get the most out of it. Tomorrow’s 12-hour race will hopefully give us better results, more experience and improved data that we can take back to Europe to continue with our test programme ahead of Portimao and Long Beach.”
The WEC team tested for the first time in Portugal last month and now heads to further testing ahead of the 6 Hours of Portimao next month. However, before returning the WEC cars to Europe, Porsche Penske Motorsport’s IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship (IMSA) crew will take on tomorrow’s Sebring 12 Hours with its #6 and #7 Porsche 963 after qualifying in second and seventh earlier today.
Jonathan Diuguid, Managing Director Porsche Penske Motorsport said: “It was a hot day and the team did a great job – no mistakes in the pit stops, no penalties and minimal on-track incidents. I think we’re still struggling for pace a little bit that we need to work on but all in all a really good day and we came home with two cars and a lot to learn and build on. I think we can take some knowledge, for example tyres learnings, to the IMSA paddock. We got some good data on how to get the most out of the tyres in different temperatures, which we didn’t have at the start of today.”
Sebring 12 Hours takes place on Saturday 18 March at 10:10 on the historic Sebring International Raceway.
Frédéric Makowiecki (Porsche 963 #5): “First of all a big thanks to the team. If you see all of the work and low amount of sleep they have had you would see why I am very proud of these people – I’m quite sure that this shows we’ll have a strong year. This race was a big test for us and now we need to look forward. But honestly, I trust all of these people.”
André Lotterer (Porsche 963 #6): “So that was the debut race for us. We brought it home in sixth for our car and fifth for the sister car. It was a smooth race, we just need to work a bit on the pace but it’s a good performance from the crew. Everyone has been working very hard to pull all of this together. The mechanics have been working very hard on very little sleep but we brought it to the finish and now we move forward.”
1. Conway/Kobayashi/Lopez (UK/J/ARG), Toyota #7, 239 laps
2. Buemi/Hartley/Hirakawa (CH/NZ/J), Toyota #8, 239 laps
3. Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen (I/E/DK), Ferrari #50, 237 laps
5. Cameron/Christensen/Makowiecki (USA/DK/F), Porsche 963 #5, 235 laps
6. Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor (F/D/B), Porsche 963 #6, 235 laps
1. Keating/Varrone/Catsburg (USA/ARG/NL), Corvette #33, 221 laps
2. Ried/Pedersen/Andlauer (D/DK/F), Porsche 911 RSR #77, 219 laps
3. Kimura/ Huffaker/Serra (J/USA/BR), Ferrari 488 GTE Evo, 219 laps
6. Schiavoni/Cressoni/Picariello (I/I/B), Porsche 911 RSR #60, 219 laps
7. Wainwright/Pera/Barker (UK/I/UK), Porsche 911 RSR #86, 218 laps
8. Bovy/Frey/Gatting (B/CH/DK), Porsche 911 RSR #85, 218 laps
12. Hyett/Jeannette/Cairoli (USA/USA/I), Porsche 911 RSR #56, 215 laps
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