With a podium finish at the start of the 2014 World Endurance Championship (WEC) season at Silverstone and pole position in Belgium at Spa-Francorchamps, Porsche has progressively made its way back into the premier league of sports car racing this season.
This represents a successful start for the newly-founded factory Porsche Team, which in the light of the brave innovations in the new 919 Hybrid was not a foregone conclusion. Such technological breakthroughs herald a new era in the WEC and also at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The racing car is a technology platform and test laboratory for future series production road cars. No other race car on the WEC starting grid has such an efficient and complex hybrid system as the new Porsche.
The two Porsche 919 Hybrid cars with start numbers 14 and 20 will be driven by two trios of drivers: Romain Dumas (France), Neel Jani (Switzerland), Marc Lieb (Germany) and Timo Bernhard (Germany), Brendon Hartley (New Zealand), Mark Webber (Australia). These six world-class drivers have between them a total of 37 appearances at Le Mans. Despite being a record holder at Le Mans with 16 overall victories, this year the sports car manufacturer has no recent experience of racing at the top LMP category to benefit from. For the first year of the company’s LMP1 project, the target is to get one of the fast Porsche 919 Hybrids to the finish line at the French 24 hour marathon.
Quotes before the race
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1: “Porsche is facing the biggest moment of the LMP1 project – its first start in the top category at Le Mans in 16 years. Whatever the results, we have successfully completed a lot of stages to get here. Above all, we have established a strong, innovative engineering team in the Porsche Development Centre in Weissach. The new know-how generated in-house by the great efforts of all those involved is something that no one can take away from Porsche. The pole position in Spa showed that the Porsche 919 Hybrid is fast, and, as newcomers, we earned respect for this achievement. I am very proud of this young team, which is as competent in its technology as it is in its drivers. I wish each individual the best of luck and success in this marathon.”
Alexander Hitzinger, Technical Director LMP1: “The challenge of developing a car for Le Mans was always to build a fast yet durable car. The constraints of the new race regulations have made this task even more difficult, but fascinating as well. Even in areas that were routine for the competition, we had no experience whatsoever. Nonetheless, we chose the boldest solution for our drive concept, because it offered the best future potential. In the pre-testing period, the aerodynamics that were once again modified to achieve lower air drag for the Le Mans event proved themselves, as did advanced developments that enhanced durability. The Porsche 919 Hybrid is our first LMP1 race car design. It is fast – but not all of its potential has been realised yet; that is the reality.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal LMP1: “The operating task for a Le Mans team is enormous. We had to build an organisation with new personnel from the ground up. They are all excellent people. But even a hundred top soloists must first learn to play together as an orchestra. Responsibilities, communication, procedures, manual tasks – everything must mesh together perfectly. We have only competed in two races so far: in Silverstone and in Spa-Francorchamps. Everything went remarkably well. Our training was intensive. The team will have carried out 1,573 pit stops up to race week at Le Mans. We have also tested at night. Nonetheless, we have not yet experienced the stresses of a 24 Hour race as a team. Everyone is looking forward to this challenge.”
Drivers, 919 Hybrid number 14
Romain Dumas – 36, France.
(13 races: overall victory 2010, 3rd place overall 2007, class victory GTE 2013, 2nd place GT class 2001 and 2002, 3rd place GT class 2004)
“Le Mans is the most famous and toughest race in the world, and it is even more special for me as a Frenchman. I have been driving here since 2001, and I also lived here. In 2010 I won the race; I would love to repeat that one day – together with Porsche. So many people have been anticipating this return to LMP1 by Porsche. It makes me very proud to be one of the six drivers here. I have wanted to be with Porsche ever since my father put me in a 962 as a child. My favourite part of the track is the Porsche Curves. Not because of their name, but because they are so quick and difficult. When you race down the Hunaudières at 330 km/h at night – all by yourself in your own world – you live a dream. You see and smell what is happening around the track. But you have to remain focused. We want to get to the finish line.”
Neel Jani – 30, Switzerland.
(5 races since 2009)
“Le Mans is living motorsport history. That is more true of Porsche than with any other brand. To be part of the return to the top class after 16 years is a dream come true for me. Most racing car drivers would agree. It is a great honour, but also a tremendous responsibility. My best result at Le Mans was in 2012 when I finished fourth with a privateer team. I knew I could only improve on that result in a good factory team. Now I have reached that point. But, regardless of which class or which car, this race stirs up an emotional feeling. I will never forget my first time racing at night; it was awesome. Yet, it is important to block out all of that and concentrate on doing your best – for yourself and your team-mates. We want to be competitive in our first year.”
Marc Lieb – 33, Germany.
(8 races: class victory GTE 2013, class victory GT2 2010, class victory GT 2005, 2nd place GT class 2003)
“Porsche took me on board in 2000 when my bank account was empty and the prospects for my single-seater Formula racing career had almost run out. It means a lot to me to now be part of a return to the top class, especially since we have this incredible technology that our engineers have created for the 919 Hybrid. Starting in the LMP1 class changes your perspective entirely compared to racing in the GT categories. You look less in the rear-view mirror and more at the cars out front that you are going to lap. Radio contact with the pit crew is also much more intensive to achieve efficient energy usage. The racing is incredibly tough for everyone involved. Whenever I won class victories, the most enjoyable thing for me was to look down from the podium and gaze at the tired but happy faces of the mechanics.”
Drivers, 919 Hybrid number 20:
Timo Bernhard – 33, Germany.
(7 races: overall victory 2010, class victory GT 2002, 2nd place GTE class 2013, 2nd place GT2 2005)
“In my first start for Porsche in 2002, Le Mans was stunning. And people always asked me: When will you return to the top league? I was involved with the building of the LMP1 team right from the start, and in 2013 I drove at the roll-out, then did testing and development work. The entire time I had the big goal in mind; I can hardly express how much I am ready for it now. The week leading up to the race will still be intensive, right up to the starting ceremony. I always found it satisfying to be the starting driver, and to finally close the door after all the pre-race show was over. And then at some point on this long circuit you find a very special rhythm. Especially at night when everything gets even faster, and when it might drizzle or rain … It is indescribable; there is a certain magic to it.”
Brendon Hartley – 24, New Zealand.
(2 races since 2012)
“For me, Le Mans is my whole passion. I have the feeling that racing here fulfils the entire reason I climbed into a kart for the first time at six years of age. To now start as a Porsche factory driver, for the greatest sports car icon is like a dream. And then there is this special project with technology that never existed before. Hybrid systems, all-wheel drive, intuitive operating systems – the Porsche 919 is fantastic. Sometimes I can hardly believe that I have been chosen to sit in this car. I especially like Le Mans at night; that is the best. The lights fly past you, and everything feels a lot faster. You nearly get tunnel vision – that is when the cockpit is the perfect place for me. I also have a sporting score to settle at Le Mans.”
Mark Webber – 37, Australia.
(participated 1998 and 1999 at Le Mans but not in the race; 9 Formula 1 victories)
“To return to Le Mans is emotionally very special for me. Le Mans stands for endurance, trial of man and machine, an incredibly long day, often with changing conditions and, above all, there is the teamwork. Naturally, I want to leave here with happier memories than previously, which should not be too difficult. And, of course, I want to win this race sometime. We have a fast car with fantastic technology. I also like the seating position, tucked behind the windscreen, and I am looking forward to the night-time driving at Le Mans. The team is still very young, but the bonding in the team has been very quick. If we were to come up with a good result in our first year that would be a massive statement for Porsche as a brand.”
- Porsche Team Manthey tackles the Le Mans 24 Hours with two 911 RSR in the GTE-Pro class
- With a rear-mounted 470 hp flat-six engine, the ‘Type 991’ RSR is the latest example of the iconic 911 coupe participating in GT sports car racing
- Porsche customer race teams will also campaign the RSR
- US movie star Patrick Dempsey returns to Le Mans with Porsche, driving a 911 RSR for the Dempsey-Proton Racing team
It was a debut made to order. At its first ever outing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans last year, the Porsche 911 RSR brought home a double victory. At the 82nd edition of the world’s most famous long distance sports car race, contested on the Circuit des 24 Heures on 14/15 June, Porsche Team Manthey will again field a pair of 911 RSR in the GTE-Pro class.
Taking up the challenge alongside the factory squad, Porsche customer teams from Europe and America again contest the GTE-Am class, in which Porsche was also victorious last year. The classic event in provincial France, where Porsche is chronicled as the most successful manufacturer with 16 overall victories, is regarded as the highlight of the Sports Car World Endurance Championship (WEC).
First contested in 1923, the 24 Hours of Le Mans is the toughest automobile race in the world and represents the greatest challenge motorsport has to offer. What makes this classic so unique is also the 13.65 kilometre Circuit des 24 Heures, one of the oldest and fastest race tracks in the world with 38 corners and the legendary five-kilometre long Mulsanne straight. Almost 75 percent of a lap is driven at full throttle.
Double points are awarded for round three of the sports car World Endurance Championship (WEC) at Le Mans. Tackling the GTE-Pro class in the number 91 Porsche 911 RSR are Porsche factory pilots Joerg Bergmeister (Germany), Patrick Pilet (France) and Nick Tandy (Great Britain). Sharing the #92 cockpit are their works driver colleagues Marco Holzer (Germany), Frédéric Makowiecki (France) and last year’s winner Richard Lietz (Austria).
Customer teams take on the GTE-Am class with a pair of 911 RSR. For the Dempsey Racing-Proton outfit, Patrick Dempsey (USA) and Joe Foster (USA) join forces with Porsche works driver Patrick Long (USA).
Christian Ried (Germany), Porsche junior Klaus Bachler (Austria) and Khaled Al Qubaisi (Abu Dhabi) compete for Proton Competition.
The customer squads IMSA Performance Matmut and Prospeed Competition each bring two Porsche 911 GT3 RSR in last year’s spec to the start. IMSA Performance Matmut has contracted an all-French driver line-up with Erik Maris, Jean Marc Merlin and Eric Hélary as well as Raymond Narac, Nicolas Armindo and David Hallyday.
Taking on the challenge for Prospeed Competition are Cooper MacNeil (USA), Bret Curtis (USA) and Jeroen Bleekemolen (Netherlands) as well as Frenchmen Francois Perrodo and Emmanuel Collard.
The Porsche 911 RSR
The Porsche 911 RSR which Porsche has campaigned in the Sports Car World Endurance Championship since 2013 is based on the seventh generation of the iconic 911 sports car. At its race debut last year the 470 hp winning racer from Weissach scored a brilliant double victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
For 2014, the 911 RSR received improvements in many areas. In addition to winning the WEC season opener at Silverstone, this racer has also clinched victories at the long distance classics at Daytona and Sebring. Through the balance of performance ruling, the 911 RSR for Le Mans must now weigh 25 kg more than last year’s contender, with the engine air intake restrictors as dictated by the rules also reduced from 29.6 to 29.3 millimetres diameter.
Drivers, 911 RSR number 91
Joerg Bergmeister: “I’ve raced at Le Mans since 2002 and it’s a fantastic feeling to be back again this year. It’s the season highlight for me. This race has a very special atmosphere and it’s always incredibly demanding. More than anything I enjoy the extremely fast corners, they’re the most fun. Last year we came second behind our team-mates and I wouldn’t mind at all if we switch positions this year.”
Patrick Pilet: “Le Mans is a very special race, especially for me as a Frenchman. It’s always an incredible feeling to go racing on such an extreme circuit in front of so many fans. Aside from the Indy 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans is the greatest race on Earth. We are well prepared and our 911 RSR is a strong contender, especially on the long straights. It would be fantastic if we could turn this into a win. We were so close last year.”
Nick Tandy: “Ever since I began racing for Porsche at Le Mans in 2010 it has been my goal to secure a podium spot here. You only get this chance once a year and I’ll do everything within my power to make it happen. For a race driver, Le Mans is a magical place. Even when you arrive in the paddock you get a sense of the great history. And the Circuit des 24 Heures is something very special with its unique combination of race track and normal country roads. It’s an honour for me to drive again for Porsche at Le Mans this year.”
Drivers, 911 RSR number 92
Marco Holzer: “At my first race in Le Mans in 2010 we managed to achieve a podium finish with third place. When I think back to the cheering crowds at the award ceremony it still sends shivers down my spine. I’d very much like to experience this feeling again and our chances don’t look too bad. We have a great car and a strong team behind us. But in Le Mans you can’t afford to make one mistake. You have to be totally focussed otherwise you can forget it.”
Frédéric Makowiecki: “As a Frenchman you simply have to race at Le Mans. And you want to win. Your family is watching at the track, your friends are there supporting you. This makes it hugely motivating to achieve everything you’ve set out to do. As a child I dreamed of Porsche. I launched my racing career with Porsche. If I could now win Le Mans with Porsche, well that would just be the best thing in the world. But first we have to face 24 gruelling hours where pretty much anything can happen.”
Richard Lietz: “I have many wonderful memories of Le Mans, especially my wins in 2007, 2010 and 2013. It’s the greatest race in the world. I love it. If I couldn’t be here as a driver, I’d buy a ticket and watch the race as a spectator. Earlier, only victory in Le Mans counted. Since 2013, it has become part of the sports car World Endurance Championship which means that if you can’t win then you have to make sure you bring home as many points as possible. The connection between Porsche and Le Mans is pure racing fascination. Getting the chance to compete at Le Mans for Porsche, the most successful manufacturer in the history of this race, is motivation enough. You automatically do your absolute best to win.”
Drivers, 911 RSR number 77
Patrick Long: “Le Mans is always a huge challenge. Everyone wants to win, regardless of the category they’re contesting. I’m really looking forward to racing with Patrick Dempsey and Joe Foster and helping the whole team to fulfil their dreams at Le Mans. Last year we narrowly missed out on a podium spot. This time we’re determined to make it.”