Porsche Penske Motorsport has wrapped up round two of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve with a podium result. After six hours of racing, Laurens Vanthoor, Kévin Estre and André Lotterer crossed the finish line third with their Porsche 963. For the works team, this marks the second major success with the LMDh prototype within a few hours: In Long Beach, California, their team colleagues had won the 100-minute sprint race in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship, with the sister Porsche 963 securing third place. In the GTE-Am class, a Porsche also clinched a podium result in Portugal. At the wheel of their Iron Dames’ 911 RSR, Sarah Bovy, Rahel Frey and Michelle Gatting fought hard for victory over long stretches and ultimately reached the flag in third place.
This was the first time that the Porsche Penske Motorsport works team contested two races on two continents almost at the same time on one weekend. The transatlantic teamwork between the IMSA and World Endurance Champion crews paid off for the sports car manufacturer. In Long Beach, Nick Tandy (United Kingdom) and Matthieu Jaminet (France) drove to victory in the Porsche 963 after a highly dramatic 100-minute sprint. Their teammates Felipe Nasr (Brazil) and Matt Campbell (Australia) were celebrated for their hard-fought third place.
The two Porsche 963 campaigned by the WEC team headed into the six-hour race on the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve from positions five and seven. In the first few metres, Laurens Vanthoor promptly overtook one of the two Ferrari in his No. 6 hybrid prototype, however after ten minutes, the Belgian had to relinquish his fourth place. The strategic gamble after the first stint yielded greater rewards: Both Porsche 963 opted against changing the tyres during a refuelling stop. The time saved in the pits gave them a good ten seconds, which put them in third and eighth place.
While problems hampered several of their rivals in the first three hours, the No. 6 car was still on course for a podium result and the sister car managed to progress to fifth place up until midway through the race. With a good 100 minutes left on the clock, a problem involving the power steering forced the No. 5 prototype into the pits for a longer repair stop. Just under an hour later, it rejoined the race in P11 in the hypercar class.
At the beginning of the final hour of racing, the safety car was deployed for the first time so that a vehicle could be salvaged. For André Lotterer in his Porsche 963, the timing could not have been worse: For the No. 6 car, which had reclaimed third place, a pit stop was almost due. After the race restarted at about 5:10 pm local time, the No. 51 Ferrari directly behind him also had to pit. Lotterer managed to defend his position. With only a few laps to go, another refuelling stop added extra suspense: At the previous pit stop, not enough fuel had been pumped into the car due to a faulty sensor. However, the advantage over the now fourth-placed Cadillac was enough for the Porsche to cross the finish line behind the victorious Toyota driven by Brendon Hartley (New Zealand), Sébastien Buemi (Switzerland) and Ryo Hirakawa (Japan) as well as the Ferrari of Antonio Fuoco (Italy), Miguel Molina (Spain) and Niklas Nielsen (Denmark).
“A first and two second places on the same race weekend: This fantastic result shows that our parallel commitment in the WEC and the IMSA is bearing fruit – we’ve picked up speed,” explains Urs Kuratle, Director Factory Motorsport LMDh. “We had to fight here in Portimão, but all in all it worked out and we’re more than happy with third place. Our No. 5 car had a problem with the power steering and we now need to analyse this. We also need to take another close look at the reason behind the last refuelling stop that our No. 6 Porsche 963 had to make shortly before the finish. Still, it was great to see how focussed and goal-oriented the crew reacted under such tricky conditions in both cases.”
In the GTE-Am category, the 911 RSR fielded by the Iron Dames customer team put in an impressive performance over long stretches at round two of the WEC season. Sarah Bovy headed into the race from second on the grid but initially lost one position. After a lengthy duel with Ben Keating (UK) in his Chevrolet Corvette, the Belgian fought her way to the front after 45 minutes and then again after the first pit stop. The Swiss racer Rahel Frey extended the lead. It was only in the final third of the race that the pink Porsche had to let the Corvette and the No. 83 Ferrari pass. The 911 RSR of Project 1 – AO shared by Matteo Cairoli (Italy) and the two Portuguese Miguel Ramos and Guilherme de Oliveira reached the flag in sixth place. They were followed over the line by the identical No. 77 model driven by Julien Andlauer (France), Mikkel Pedersen (Denmark) and Dempsey-Proton team boss Christian Ried (Germany).
Drivers’ comments after the race
Kévin Estre (Porsche 963 #6): “This podium finish is really cool. That was hard work! Our mechanics have had very short nights. Third place is the reward for that. Honestly, this feels like a victory. But we still have to develop and improve the car. And we also have to maintain a flawless performance in the future.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (Porsche 963 #5): “Congratulations to our sister car! I’m happy that a Porsche 963 is on the podium. Our race was very tough. We couldn’t match the pace of the others and now we have to take some time to analyse what caused it, what’s right and what’s wrong. We want to be back up with the play at the next race in Spa.”
Rahel Frey (Porsche 911 RSR #85): “We’ll happily take this podium, of course. The points are important. However, we thought there was more in it for us. Unfortunately, we again made some minor mistakes. We have to eliminate them before Spa, and most importantly, Le Mans. Still, our pace was good and I’m proud of the girls. Despite us going all out on the track today, the Corvette and the Ferrari were slightly faster. We still have to find a bit of speed.”
1. Buemi/Hartley/Hirakawa (CH/NZ/J), Toyota #8, 222 laps
2. Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen (I/E/DK), Ferrari #50, 221 laps
3. Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor (F/D/B), Porsche 963 #6, 221 laps
10. Cameron/Christensen/Makowiecki (USA/DK/F), Porsche 963 #5, 189 laps
1. Keating/Varrone/Catsburg (USA/ARG/NL), Corvette #33, 206 laps
2. Perez Companc/Wadoux/Rovera (ARG/F/I), Ferrari #83, 206 laps
3. Bovy/Frey/Gatting (B/CH/DK), Porsche 911 RSR #85, 206 laps
6. Ramos/de Oliveira/Cairoli (P/P/I), Porsche 911 RSR #56, 205 laps
7. Ried/Pedersen/Andlauer (D/DK/F), Porsche 911 RSR #77, 205 laps
9. Hardwick/Robichon/Tincknell (USA/CDN/UK), Porsche 911 RSR #88, 204 laps
11. Wainwright/Pera/Barker (UK/I/UK), Porsche 911 RSR #86, 204 laps
12. Schiavoni/Cressoni/Picariello (I/I/B), Porsche 911 RSR #60, 203 laps
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