Four Porsche 963 Hypercars debut at 24 Hours of Le Mans

Four Porsche 963 Hypercars debut at 24 Hours of Le Mans

On the week of its historic 75th anniversary celebrations, Porsche made its much-anticipated return to the top class of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with four Porsche 963 Hypercars taking on the centenary running of the French enduro.

Despite showing strong pace and competing at the front during the early stages, the marque faced several obstacles during the twice-around-the-clock event, with the #5 Porsche Penske Motorsport entry the highest finisher.

Among the drivers in the quartet of Porsche LMDh cars was Porsche Motorsport Asia Pacific Selected Driver Yifei Ye for the #38 Hertz Team JOTA entry. The Chinese driver showed superb pace on Saturday evening, taking the lead at the second Safety Car restart, following a strong triple stint by teammate António Félix Da Costa. Ye built a 15-second advantage over the car behind, before an incident at the Porsche Curves forced him into the pits for repairs. Further incidents overnight and in the morning prevented the crew from recovering, eventually crossing the line 13th in class.

In the LMGTE-Am category, GR Racing secured a podium finish in third with the #86 Porsche 911 RSR.

On the night of Thursday 8th June, the day of Porsche’s 75th anniversary, the brand revealed the Mission X, a brand-new concept car, during a stunning live show at Porscheplatz in Zuffenhausen. A look into the future of lightweight hypercars, the Mission X features Le Mans-style doors and high-performance electric drive, and is Porsche’s vision of the fastest road-legal car on the Nürburgring Nordschleife.

Following the event, Ye’s striking one-off helmet, inspired by 100 years of Le Mans and Porsche’s 75th anniversary, is set to be auctioned. The money raised will go to the Corporate Social Responsibility programme, which is supported by Porsche China.

Yifei Ye, #38 Hertz Team JOTA Porsche 963: "Overall, we’ve come a really long way in a short amount of time. The team built a strong car, our pace in practice was great. We had a technical issue in qualifying which meant we had to start the race from the back, but thanks to the speed of the car and strategy from the team, I managed to take the lead and build a comfortable gap over the rest of the field. Unfortunately, we had a few incidents and technical issues that delayed us. I feel sorry for the team because they did an incredible job since Spa and we weren’t able to clinch the result we hoped for. We still learned a lot and we’re early in this journey, so we can be proud of what we’ve achieved so far and look forward to being competitive at Monza.”

Sam Hignett, JOTA Sport Team Co-Owner: “It was a good week, we learned and achieved a lot and for a while early on we led the race. Yifei did a fantastic job, he jumped in, dominated the restart and built a 15 second lead. The incident was unfortunate, but we proved what the team, the drivers and the car are capable of and we’re in a good place moving forward.”

Alexandre Gibot, Managing Director Porsche Motorsport Asia Pacific Ltd.: “It’s amazing to have Porsche back in the top category at Le Mans. Yifei running in a Porsche 963 was also special, and he proved how quick he can be throughout the week. To build a 15-second lead is not easy, it was a great performance until the incident at the end of the stint. He can still take positives from this week, his speed and consistency were really impressive. We also enjoyed entertaining our guests here this weekend, with the Porsche China management, Porsche dealers and those on our Road to Le Mans drive from Stuttgart to the circuit. Hopefully this can continue to develop the popularity of the event in China and I’m sure they’re looking forward to being back next year!”

Porsche Motorsport Asia Pacific Ltd. provides access to Porsche’s extensive line-up of GT models to the growing market in the region. In addition to being the organising body of Porsche Carrera Cup Asia and Porsche Sports Cup China, Porsche Motorsport Asia Pacific supplies support engineering, technical & after-sales and marketing support to teams and drivers competing in numerous regional championships.

Team Principal Tom Ferrier said: “The result is a testament to the Aston Martin Vantage GTE. It’s the ultimate GT car for Le Mans and always seems to fly around here. There were times in the race when I didn’t think we were going to be anywhere near it because the start was messy and we dropped back. But we have enough experience of Le Mans now to know that if we just stay calm and look at the way the race is most likely to unfold, we can usually make good decisions. Charlie did an awesome job to get us up to second and from there the challenge from behind faded away. It’s a great result and very good for us in the WEC points too.”

North American partner team The Heart of Racing scored a strong sixth-place finish on its first appearance at Le Mans, fighting back from 18th place at the start and a one-lap delay in the pits (in the second hour) to repair damage caused by contact.  Driver and team principal Ian James (USA) was joined by Le Mans rookies Daniel Mancinelli (ITA) and Alex Riberas (ESP); the trio combining to add to the major accolades they have achieved with Vantage outside Europe.

D’station Racing’s crew, operated by TF Sport, impressively readied the #777 Vantage for action around a replacement chassis that was brought to Le Mans on Thursday morning following a crash in practice. Satoshi Hoshino (JPN), Tomonobu Fujii (JPN) and Casper Stevenson (GBR) suffered bad luck at several points and retired in the 15th hour with an electrical issue.

A third TF Sport entry carrying an all-French crew of Arnold Robin, Maxime Robin and Aston Martin works driver Valentin Hasse Clot was also entered for the event. An excellent triple opening stint by Hasse Clot helped the blue Vantage climb as high as third in class before it dropped out of contention.

Le Mans debutants GMB Motorsport topped GTE Am in the opening practice session thanks to reigning FIA WEC GTE Am Drivers’ Champion Marco Sørensen (DEN) and impressively made it into hyperpole. Sadly the #55 Vantage, which was shared with Gustav Birch (DEN) and Jens Moller (DEN), was eliminated in the second hour following contact.

Huw Tasker, AMR Head of Partner Racing, said: “It’s great to see Vantage on the podium at Le Mans, and not just any Le Mans, but the centenary event that truly is the biggest race in the world. ORT by TF did an excellent job. Ahmad followed up his history-making pole position at Spa with a front-row hyperpole result and he, Michael and Charlie drove brilliantly to stay in contention even after dropping back early on. The Vantage GTE now has seven class podiums at Le Mans in four years, which is an excellent run of successes. Finishing sixth on their Le Mans debut was an excellent achievement for Heart of Racing, D’station Racing did a fantastic job to get to the start after their practice incident, the third TF Sport car was extremely fast in the hands of all its French drivers while GMB Motorsport made hyperpole on their Le Mans debut. All the crews look to have everything they need to score many strong results with Vantage through the rest of 2023.”

The FIA WEC continues with its final Europe-based event of the year – the 6 Hours of Monza – on July 7-9. After Monza come flyaway events at Fuji Speedway, Japan, and the Bahrai International Circuit in the Middle East.

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