Porsche GT Team claimed a third-place finish at the 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans in the GTE-Pro class, while Chinese outfit Absolute Racing took seventh in GTE-Am on its event debut.
The works #92 Porsche 911 RSR of Kévin Estre, Neel Jani and Michael Christensen ended the 89th running of the world’s great motor race at the Circuit de la Sarthe on the podium, one place ahead of the sister #91 car of Gianmaria Bruni, Richard Lietz and Frédéric Makowiecki.
Meanwhile, the #18 Absolute Racing “Underducks” car overcame difficulties early in the race after losing 17 minutes in the pits following contact with another car. The trio of Indonesia’s Andrew Haryanto, Alessio Picariello and Marco Seefried persevered to take seventh in the GTE-Am field as the second-best Porsche in class.
It was a maiden 24 Hours of Le Mans appearance for Haryanto and Picariello. The latter, in his second year as the Porsche Motorsport Asia Pacific Selected Driver, completed his programme of competing in two of the world’s biggest endurance races following his outing at the Nürburgring 24 Hours earlier this year.
GTE-Pro’s first Asian team HubAuto Racing made an incredible statement at the pinnacle of GT racing when Dries Vanthoor claimed pole position in class. The Belgian racer set a 3:46.982 in Thursday’s Hyperpole session to amaze the endurance racing community.
Unfortunately for Vanthoor and team-mates Maxime Martin and Álvaro Parente, the #72 machine was spun round at the start by an LMP2 car and struggled to regain ground before retiring with a technical issue in the early hours on Sunday.
Thailand’s Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak competed in his second Le Mans race, but the 2019 Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia Pro-Am champion’s #99 Proton Competition car retired with a suspension issue.
In Shanghai, the Porsche Motorsport Asia Pacific team, its customers and VIP guests gathered at the Porsche Experience Centre for a watch party to show support for the Porsche teams at the legendary event. On display was a selection of iconic Porsche cars from the marque’s 70-year history at Le Mans, including Porsche’s first challenger at the 24 Hours, the 356 SL, and the 919 Hybrid LMP1 car.
Andrew Haryanto, #18 Absolute Racing: “I’m completely overwhelmed. That was our first outing at Le Mans and seventh is definitely very impressive. For me, a dream has just come true. I am really happy for the team, to have finished this race is an incredible achievement. It was an experience I will never forget. I am grateful to have been given this opportunity.”
Alessio Picariello, Porsche Motorsport Asia Pacific Selected Driver, #18 Absolute Racing: "As we expected, it was a tough race, especially in the first couple of hours when a lot of things went wrong. In the end we pulled it together and had a very clean night, and we had a very good race all the way to the finish line. We showed that we were one of the strongest, if not the strongest, of the Porsche GTE-Am teams. At one point, after four hours, we were last, but we bounced back. I think that for the first time at Le Mans we can be satisfied with this result.”
Marco Seefried, #18 Absolute Racing: "As always, it was a tough race, but the 24 Hours of Le Mans is never easy. I think it was one of the most competitive I can remember, with 23 cars in the class. It's no secret, but it was hard to fight the Ferraris and Aston Martins. I think if we had stayed out of trouble, without the long repairs and minor setbacks, we might have been P5 or P4, all things considered. But I have to say that we still achieved something good, because we were the second best Porsche in the field, and I am happy we finished the race.”
Ingo Matter, Team Director, Absolute Racing: "Of course it was a difficult start to the race with a lot of little problems, which is normal when you have rookie drivers. We had contact and gravel excursions that we did not need, which put us at the back of the field. After that complicated start, we slowly got back on track, but then we had four punctures, all at the wrong moments. We still take a number of positives from this weekend. We finished the race, that was the goal, and were P7 which is pretty good in this field, especially when you have two rookies in the driver line-up."
Morris Chen, Team Principal and Owner, HubAuto Racing: “We came to Le Mans with big goals. It was a massive test for our team to step up against the experience and budget of the works outfits, but I think we left a remarkable impression. We have shown that privateer teams can compete and perhaps we have inspired others looking to step up too. Having only taken control of the Porsche 911 RSR two weeks prior to Le Mans, this was a huge learning curve and we surprised everyone by claiming pole position. We have shown our capabilities despite the mammoth hill we have had to climb to get here. Many thanks to our team partner at Le Mans - Project One Motorsport, Porsche AG, Porsche Motorsport Asia Pacific and especially our sponsors who believed in us and backed us from the start.”
Alexandre Gibot, Managing Director Porsche Motorsport Asia Pacific Ltd.: “The 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans has come to a close and we couldn’t be prouder of the efforts from our two regional customer teams. HubAuto Racing claimed a historic pole position while making history as the first Asian team in the GTE-Pro class, and although it did not work out for them in the race, they have certainly proved themselves to be a top outfit competing against factory entries. For Absolute Racing, making the finish at this race is an achievement in itself but they also did so competitively in GTE-Am so congratulations to them. Of course, it’s also fantastic to see the Porsche GT Team factory efforts rewarded with a podium.”