Porsche 963, Porsche Penske Motorsport (#6), Kevin Estre (F), Andre Lotterer (D), Laurens Vanthoor (B)
Porsche Penske Motorsport works team delivers a solid performance
Flawless team effort yields positions five and six
Dempsey-Proton Racing second in the GT class with Porsche 911 RSR
Young Chinese up-and-coming driver Yifei Ye wins the LMP2 category
The Porsche Penske Motorsport works team has wrapped up the season-opening round of the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC with positions five and six. Dane Cameron, Michael Christensen and Frédéric Makowiecki started the 1,000-mile race at the Sebring International Raceway from P7 in their Porsche 963 hybrid prototype and made up two positions in the race. Behind them, Kévin Estre, André Lotterer and Laurens Vanthoor crossed the finish line in sixth place. In the GTE Am category, the Porsche customer squad Dempsey-Proton Racing brought home a podium result, with drivers Christian Ried, Mikkel Pedersen and the former Porsche-Junior Julien Andlauer claiming second in the Porsche 911 RSR. Supported by Porsche Motorsport Asia-Pacific, Yifei Ye from China won the LMP2 class with the prototype fielded by Hertz Team Jota. The team will campaign one of the first customer-run Porsche 963 during the 2023 WEC season.
The No. 6 Porsche 963 helmed by Estre, Lotterer and Vanthoor managed to gain a position at the start of the race on the 6.02-kilometre circuit. Early pit stops by some of the rivals at the end of an extended caution phase, caused by an accident involving a GTE car, propelled the hybrid prototype shared by the French-German-Belgian crew up to third place. For the best-placed Porsche 963, strategy was the main focus for the rest of the race. However, after seven hours of racing, a fleeting electrical issue cropped up during a pit stop, which cost time and threw the racing vehicle back one position behind their teammates’ Porsche 963.
After the start, Dane Cameron (USA), Michael Christensen from Denmark and Frenchman Frédéric Makowiecki managed to keep their No. 5 Porsche right behind their teammates. However, a drive-through penalty at the beginning of the fourth hour due to a regulation infraction during a full course yellow shuffled the trio down the field. The rest of the race ran without incident for the three and concluded with fifth place.
“The entire team and our drivers did their absolute best and fought to the very end. Our brand new FIA WEC squad deserves huge respect,” concludes Thomas Laudenbach. The Vice President of Porsche Motorsport adds: “We did the best we could with what we currently have today and made significant progress compared to the IMSA series season opener at Daytona. The reliability of our two Porsche 963 was not an issue this weekend. However, it became very obvious that we still have some catching up to do in many areas. Compared to the competition, we lack performance. We have to work on this systematically and intensively over the coming weeks.”
“Congratulations to the team! They had an extremely tough week with the prologue and preparation week behind them, but remained calm during the race and made no mistakes during pit stops – a big thank you for that. It makes me proud to be a part of it,” emphasises Urs Kuratle, Director Factory Motorsport LMDh. “With fifth and sixth place, the result is definitely not yet what we want. Nevertheless, it’s been a good start into a new era for us in the WEC. Congratulations to Toyota, Ferrari and Cadillac. With the crew here we’ll definitely catch up, the team has enormous potential. We trust our very strong driver squad and have the required infrastructure.”
In the GTE Am category, the all-female line-up in the 911 RSR fielded by the Porsche customer team Iron Dames tackled the WEC season opener from pole position. Belgian Sarah Bovy, Michelle Gatting from Denmark and Rahel Frey from Switzerland initially defended their lead in the 13-car class and maintained their position in the top group. However, a short trip off the track required an unscheduled pit stop for repairs. Ultimately, the pink No. 85 Porsche fought its way through the field to cross the finish line eighth in the GTE class.
As the best of the five nine-elevens that competed, the Dempsey-Proton racer reached the finish line after 219 laps. Teaming up with former Porsche-Junior Julien Andlauer (France) and Mikkel Pederson from Denmark, team boss Christian Ried (Germany) delivered a flawless race, which saw the trio catapult from eleventh on the GTE Am grid to clinch a podium finish in second place. The Iron Lynx squad with drivers Alessio Picariello, Claudio Schiavoni and Matteo Cressoni (all Italian) battled their way to sixth place, while the two UK racers Michael Wainwright and Benjamin Barker as well as Italian Riccardo Pera finished seventh in GR Racing’s 911 RSR. Alongside former Porsche Junior Matteo Cairoli from Italy, the two Americans Gunnar Jeannette and PJ Hyett finished the incident-filled home race in twelfth place at the wheel of Project 1 AO’s Porsche.
The “Super Sebring” weekend on the storied racetrack in the heart of the “Sunshine State” of Florida continues on Saturday. At 10.10 am local time (3.10 pm CET), round two of this year’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship starts with the 12-hour race.
Drivers’ comments after the race
Michael Christensen (Porsche 963 #5): “The race was hot and challenging. We’re taking a lot of important insights home with us. Tyre management played a really important role today to keep us in the game. We’ll come back stronger at the next race in Portimao.”
Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 963 #6): “That was not an easy race for us. Initially, we tried to fight against the Cadillac. That worked at times, but ultimately, they were too strong for us. At the moment it’s the best we can do. Now we need to figure out where we’re lacking speed and work hard to improve.”
Christian Ried (Porsche 911 RSR #77): “I’m really happy with our strong start to the season. After getting caught up in a rival’s accident with our number 88 Porsche, it’s been a tough week for the entire Proton team. Now all of the cars we were responsible for reached the finish line and we’ve achieved second place. That’s so sad for the Iron Dames team, who were hampered by damage and relegated far down the field.”
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