The No. 6 Porsche 963 will tackle the six-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps from the sixth grid spot. In qualifying for round three of this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship WEC, Frenchman Kévin Estre was the fastest driver at the wheel of a hybrid prototype “Made in Flacht”. His fellow countryman Frédéric Makowiecki qualified the sister car fielded by Porsche Penske Motorsport on the fifth grid row. The customer squad Hertz Team Jota gave a convincing performance in the hunt for top times in Belgium with seventh place.
The Porsche Penske Motorsport works team experienced a disappointing 15-minute qualifying session at the Circuit Spa-Francorchamps. With an air temperature of 17 degrees Celsius and more clouds moving in, almost all teams struggled to get their Michelin tyres into the ideal operating window. As a consequence, there were many spins and an accident involving Brendon Hartley’s Toyota, which saw the session red-flagged. In the remaining twelve minutes after the restart, Kévin Estre improved lap by lap at the wheel of his No. 6 car but ultimately had to settle for P6. Frédéric Makowiecki was unable to beat the time of his second flying lap and remained in P10.
“On paper, this result doesn’t look convincing. We’re still not where we want to be,” states Urs Kuratle. However, the Director of Factory Motorsport LMDh feels positive about the upcoming third round of the season. “The qualifying result doesn’t mean a lot for the race. We need to make sure we continue to improve our setup to ensure a steady performance on Saturday. I’m very pleased with the result of our customer squad Hertz Team Jota. The crew competes with its Porsche 963 for the very first time this weekend, so seventh on the grid is a very strong result.”
“We’d hoped to do a little better but our car still lacks pace,” explains Jonathan Diuguid, Managing Director Porsche Penske Motorsport. “The weather and track conditions were extremely changeable over the first two days. Facing such conditions, trying to find an ideal setup was hard. Until race day, we still need to work on some improvements. Let’s see what we can achieve in the six-hour race on Saturday.”
Hertz Team Jota customer squad qualifies in seventh place at its debut
Hertz Team Jota gave a convincing performance in the first qualifying session with Porsche 963 on Friday. Will Stevens from the UK posted the fastest lap time in 2:02.907 minutes, just half a second slower than the works driver Estre in the No. 6 car. “We’re very pleased – not only with the qualifying result but also with the entire process this weekend,” beams Dieter Gass, team principal Hertz Team Jota. “We improved from session to session and that’s simply great to experience. We’re constantly learning and now we’re keen to drive a solid race – if possible, without incidents.”
Best Porsche 911 RSR takes on GTE-Am category from position two
In the GTE-Am class qualifying, Sarah Bovy again put in a strong drive at the wheel of Iron Dames’ pink Porsche 911 RSR. In a last-ditch attempt, the local star from Belgium put in a blistering lap and planted her No. 85 car on P2. Ryan Hardwick from the USA qualified just one place behind her in an identical model campaigned by Proton Competition. The 911 entries from Dempsey-Proton Racing, GR Racing, Iron Lynx and Project1-AO Racing tackle the race from positions ten, eleven, twelve and 14 respectively.
Round three of the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC will be contested over six hours. The last race before the season highlight in Le Mans (10/11 June) gets underway on Saturday, 29 April at 12:45 pm local time.
During the FIA WEC weekend in Belgium, Porsche Penske Motorsport introduced a new partner. The global group Heller, which has its headquarters in Germany’s Nürtingen, develops and produces state-of-the-art CNC machine tools and manufacturing systems for machining operations. Heller combines the tradition and experience of a medium-sized family-owned company with the integrated solution-based approach of a global player. The enterprise supports Porsche Penske Motorsport as an official technology partner.
Drivers’ comments after the qualifying
Kévin Estre (Porsche 963 #6): “It was okay. The track was dry for my first qualifying laps, which wasn’t easy. The car was fine but I didn’t get it right in every corner. Plus I was missing some important information on our display. All in all, I’m happy to have found a bit of a rhythm. This is important for the race.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (Porsche 963 #5): “Overall, that wasn’t very impressive. Our car was extremely hard to drive. The handling changed from corner to corner. Under such conditions, it’s hard to find enough trust in the car as a driver. We need to take a close look at what’s causing this. Hopefully, we can improve in the race.”
Will Stevens (Porsche 963 #38): “The start of the first qualifying with Porsche 963 was like jumping in the deep end. And it was really very good considering. I was four to five seconds faster in qualifying than in the previous practice sessions. We hardly know the car and this was the first time we tried to push to the limit. It worked well. This result is a wonderful reward for our team, who are doing an incredible job this weekend. We’re continuing to learn and we’ll certainly keep improving.”
Ryan Hardwick (Porsche 911 RSR #88): “This is my best qualifying result since I started in the FIA WEC. Third on the grid at the first outing on a tricky track like Spa-Francorchamps – that’s simply fantastic. I learned more about how to drive here on every lap. Our Porsche 911 RSR is well prepared and I’m looking forward to the race. Spa is now my favourite racetrack!”
1. Conway/Kobayashi/Lopez (UK/J/ARG), Toyota #7, 2:090.812 minutes
2. Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen (I/E/DK), Ferrari #50, 2:00.836 minutes
3. Pier Guidi/Calado/Giovinazzi (I/UK/I), Ferrari #51, 2:00.973 minutes
6. Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor (F/D/B), Porsche 963 #6, 2:02.306 minutes
7. Félix da Costa/Stevens/Ye (P/UK/CHN), Porsche 963 #38, 2:02.907 minutes
10. Cameron/Christensen/Makowieki (USA/DK/F), Porsche 963 #5, 2:03.650 minutes
1. Al Harthy/Dinan/Eastwood (OMN/USA/IRL), Aston Martin #25, 2:17.216 minutes
2. Bovy/Gatting/Frey (B/DK/CH), Porsche 911 RSR #85, 2:19.150 minutes
3. Hardwick/Robichon/Heylen (USA/CDN/), Porsche 911 RSR #88, 2:19.481 minutes
10. Ried/Pedersen/Andlauer (D/DK/F), Porsche 911 RSR #77, 2:21.247 minutes
11. Wainwright/Pera/Barker (UK/I/UK), Porsche 911 RSR #86, 2:22.469 minutes
12. Schiavoni/Cressoni/Picariello (I/I/B), Porsche 911 RSR #60, 2:23.097 minutes
14. Hyett/Jeannette/Cairoli (USA/USA/I), Porsche 911 RSR #56, no lap time
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