Porsche 963, Porsche Penske Motorsport (#6), Kevin Estre (F), Andre Lotterer (D), Laurens Vanthoor (B)
Porsche Penske Motorsport starts from positions five and seven
Works team feels well prepared for the Portimão race
Pink Porsche 911 RSR of Iron Dames sets second fastest GTE time
The Porsche 963 tackle this year's first FIA World Endurance Championship WEC race on European soil from grid rows three and four. Kévin Estre posted the fifth-best lap time in the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve. As such, Porsche Penske Motorsport has established itself as the third major player. Within the 11-strong Hypercar class, the works team fields the fastest hybrid prototype complying with the LMDh regulations. In the sister car, Frenchman Frédéric Makowiecki qualified in seventh. Of the six Porsche in the GTE Am category, the Iron Dames 911 RSR was among the fastest. Sarah Bovy, Michelle Gatting and Rahel Frey tackle the six-hour race from the second grid spot in their class.
Frenchman Kévin Estre and his works driver teammates André Lotterer from Germany and Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) take up round two of the FIA WEC season from P5 on Sunday. In the 15-minute qualifying, Estré clocked a lap time session of 1:32.404 minutes, thus beating the Hypercars from Peugeot and Cadillac, among others. At the wheel of Porsche Penske Motorsport’s second Porsche 963, his fellow countryman Frédéric Makowiecki was only slightly slower on the 4.653-kilometre rollercoaster track with a time of 1:32.560 minutes. He shares the cockpit with Michael Christensen (Denmark) and the American Dane Cameron.
“Our Porsche 963 was the fastest LMDh racing car in today’s qualifying,” states Urs Kuratle, Director Factory Motorsport LMDh. “The systematic work in the practice sessions paid off in the lap times. We were able to make the best of the opportunities here in Portimão and did a great job overall. We’ve made progress but we’re definitely still too far off the LMH vehicles. Our solid performance makes us optimistic for tomorrow’s race, even though the nice weather and warmer racetrack don’t particularly play into our hands. Right now, we wish our guys the best of luck for round three of the IMSA season.”
In the GTE-Am category, the pink Porsche 911 RSR fielded by the Iron Dames squad once again gave a gripping show for pole position in this class. At the season opener in Sebring, Sarah Bovy beat the Corvette driven by Ben Keating from the UK. In Portimao, the Belgian and her teammates Michelle Gatting (Denmark) and Rahel Frey (Switzerland) line up on the second grid spot, just 0.217 seconds off the pole-sitter. Her top time in the second sector of the track remained unbeaten. In the second-best Porsche, local hero Miguel Pedro Ramos planted the racing car campaigned by Project1 – AO on position eight. The Portuguese driver shares the No. 56 cockpit with the former Porsche Junior Matteo Cairoli from Italy and his young compatriot Guilherme de Oliveira. Position nine in the GTE Am class is occupied by Dempsey Proton’s No. 77 Porsche driven by team boss Christian Ried (Germany), Mikkel Pedersen (Denmark) and Julien Andlauer. The Frenchman also came up through the ranks via the Porsche Junior initiative.
The six-hour endurance race on the 4.653-kilometre rollercoaster circuit close to Portugal’s Algarve coast takes off at noon on Sunday (1:00 pm CEST). The TV station RTL Nitro broadcasts the last race hour live on free TV. Large segments of the WEC season opener can also be viewed live on pay-TV Eurosport 2. For a fee, the FIA WEC app provides a live stream and live timing.
Also today, round three of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will get underway in Long Beach (USA). There, the two Porsche 963 fielded by the Porsche Penske Motorsport works team tackle a sprint race over just 100 minutes at 2:05 pm local time (CEST: 11:05 pm). Outside the USA and Canada, the entire race can be viewed live on the website IMSA.tv.
Drivers’ comments after the qualifying
Kévin Estre (Porsche 963 #6): “Not a bad session. We’re certainly still too far off pole position, but we managed to further improve our qualifying package. At the moment we’re behind Toyota and Ferrari. But unlike in Sebring, we’re now ahead of Cadillac, and that’s an improvement. Our race preparations are going well and that’s definitely different from the qualifying. Peugeot and Cadillac are currently our closest rivals. Let’s see if we can do better than Ferrari over the race distance.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (Porsche 963 #5): “The qualifying was acceptable. However, I made two or three little mistakes and didn’t quite pull a perfect lap together. All in all, our performance was good. Our preparation and the choice of tyres are geared towards the race. Let’s see what we can achieve tomorrow.”
Sarah Bovy (Porsche 911 RSR #85): “Second on the grid for tomorrow’s race is definitely a great spot given the extremely high level of competition. This distance suits me and the other two ladies very much. We’ve already won the ELMS in Portimão. Still, it’s very easy to make a mistake here. We’ll stay focused and try to get the best out of it.”