Image: Porsche 911 RSR, Porsche GT Team (#91), Richard Lietz (A), Gianmaria Bruni (I), Frederic Makowiecki (F)
Kévin Estre, Michael Christensen and Laurens Vanthoor claim fourth after a strong race
The WeatherTech Racing customer team reach the podium with the 911 RSR
Porsche has won the GTE-Pro class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Works driver Gianmaria Bruni from Italy, Richard Lietz from Austria and Frédéric Makowiecki from France crossed the finish line in first place after an intensive and gripping race over 350 laps.
At the wheel of the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR, the trio set a new distance record for GTE vehicles: 4,769 kilometres. The sister car driven by Kévin Estre (France), Michael Christensen (Denmark) and Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) wrapped up the 90th edition of the long-distance classic in fourth place. In the GTE-Am category, the Porsche customer team WeatherTech Racing from finished the race on the podium.
“The Porsche GT Team has upheld our great tradition at the 24 Hours of Le Mans today. This success makes me very proud,” says Michael Steiner, Member of the Board for Research and Development at Porsche AG. “A big thank you to the team, the drivers and everyone else who contributed their expertise and passion to make this 109th class victory possible for Porsche.”
“Victory at the final outing of the 911 RSR at Le Mans: that’s an indescribable feeling,” said a delighted Thomas Laudenbach, Vice President Porsche Motorsport. “When our No. 92 got a puncture while running in the lead, I thought it might all be over. But our Corvette rivals also experienced bad luck. At the exact moment, we were where we needed to be with our No. 91 car – because no one gave up: neither the team nor the drivers. We’ve been rewarded for the hard and systematic work that was also done behind the scenes. It simply feels great!”
Watched by large crowds, the 24 Hours of Le Mans took off on Saturday in sunshine and summer temperatures. With a track temperature of up to 40 degrees Celsius, the two Porsche 911 RSR initially moved into positions three and four and remained within striking distance of the leader. The critical hours began as the sun dipped below the horizon. In cooler temperatures, the two ca. 378 kW (515 PS) racers managed to make the best use of the tyres over large stretches to progress through the field. In the evening, the successful crew sharing the No. 91 car experienced a setback: Makowiecki was handed a drive-through penalty for exceeding the track limit. The winning car then covered the distance without further incident and benefited from their competitors’ bad luck, among other things, on the way to class victory. At its final factory mission at Le Mans, the 911 RSR took the flag with a lead of 42.684 seconds.
Meanwhile, the No. 92 car was plagued by misfortune. Kévin Estre, Michael Christensen and Laurens Vanthoor put in a strong drive through the night to take the lead. By sunrise, the trio from France, Denmark and Belgium – who were also the 2018 Le Mans class winners – had eked out a lead of more than two minutes. Then came the blow: Shortly before 8 am on Sunday, the front right tyre of the 911 RSR blew out and damaged a large section of the front. Due to the slow drive back to the pits and the subsequent 10-minute repairs, the team lost three laps. The No. 92 car ultimately crossed the finish line in fourth place.
“What we witnessed was a classic long-distance race. Those who experience the least number of incidents end up on top of the podium – today, that was our No. 91 car,” concluded Alexander Stehlig, Director Factory Motorsport FIA WEC. “I’m delighted for the victorious crew, who have often not had luck on their side in the past. The No. 92 crew had bad luck with a puncture, but they never gave up. Fourth place earns us many important points in the championship. I’m also thrilled that we finally won at Le Mans with the latest version of our car, the RSR-19.”
In the GTE-Am class, five Porsche 911 RSR were candidates for victory. Ultimately, however, only one team managed to survive the gruelling 24-hour race without major setbacks. The No. 79 entry from WeatherTech Racing driven by Julien Andlauer from France and the two Americans Cooper MacNeil and Thomas Merrill, turned 343 almost flawless laps to claim second place. GR Racing’s No. 86 car achieved fourth place. With 75 minutes left on the clock, all hopes of a podium finish were dashed for the Hardpoint crew. Andrew Haryanto from Indonesia slid into the gravel trap and lost four laps. The No. 99 vehicle ultimately finished eleventh.
Fortune was also not with Dempsey-Proton Racing with the American actor and team co-owner Patrick Dempsey. The No. 88 entry took the flag in fifth place, with the No. 77 sister car dropping out of the top five about two hours before the end of the race due to a broken wishbone and ultimately finishing the race in 14th place. The No. 93 car, in which Hollywood star Michael Fassbender celebrated his Le Mans debut, reached the flag in 16th place. The Project 1 squad from Germany’s Lower Saxony experienced the worst luck: The cars fielded by the experienced customer team had to retire early.
Double points were awarded at the 24 Hours of Le Mans – round three of the FIA World Endurance Championship. Thanks to its success in France, Porsche has extended its lead in the manufacturer’s standings. The new Le Mans class winners Bruni and Lietz have moved into the lead of the driver’s standings. Round four of the season will be contested on 10 July at the Italian Formula 1 circuit in Monza.
Drivers’ comments after the race
Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “A dream has come true for me today. I’ve won Le Mans three times with Ferrari. After my move to Porsche, winning was at the top of my list. I’ve been incredibly close twice with second place – today was finally my day. The era of the GTE-Pro class comes to an end with a victory for Porsche at Le Mans. It doesn’t get better than that.”
Richard Lietz (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “Le Mans has chosen its winners – and this time it was our turn. We were where we needed to be when others ran into problems. I think we made the least mistakes over the 24 hours and therefore deserved to win. I was part of the crew at the first victory for a factory-RSR in 2013 and also for the final outing of the GTE-Pro class at Le Mans today. That’s a wonderful story.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “Finally! I’ve been trying for nine years and now I’m at the top of the podium! I finished second several times and was often the fastest car, but it never quite worked out. Today was different. We weren’t perhaps the ones to shine with top lap times, but we made it over the distance with the fewest mistakes. This win feels so good.”
Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “We were among the frontrunners for a long time but then we had to pit to change the brakes. That threw us back a bit. Afterwards, we pushed and our pace was good – but this time it simply wasn’t meant to be, because a minor puncture had major consequences. The repairs took so long that it threw us out of contention for victory. Still, it’s a great day for Porsche. Congratulations to our teammates in the No. 91 car: They did a great job. And it’s terrific that the Porsche 911 RSR was able to win the last race in the GTE-Pro class at Le Mans.”
Michael Christensen (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “That was definitely not the race I’d hoped for. It wasn’t my day. I made a couple of mistakes which had a major impact. When you lock up the wheel and get a flat spot, it doesn’t normally lead to the tyre blowing out. But unfortunately, that happened today. The team had to do some extensive work, which was unfortunate. We were doing so well in the race and the 911 RSR was running beautifully. Afterwards, the car handled really well but unfortunately, the repairs simply cost us too much time.”
Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “We were super fast with our No. 92, at times we even dominated. Unfortunately, the puncture shattered all our dreams. We finished fourth in the end. That yields some decent points for Porsche and my colleagues who are contesting the whole FIA WEC season. Congratulations to the No. 91 crew: they deserved to win the class.”
Cooper MacNeil (Porsche 911 RSR #79): “The race was eventful, exhausting and anything but easy. We couldn’t do more than second place against such tough competition. Our 911 RSR ran like clockwork and our WeatherTech Racing team did a great job. Thanks for the incredible support, particularly to Porsche. If you finish second, your eyes are always on the top step of the podium. Still, I’m satisfied with my third podium finish at Le Mans.”
1. Bruni/Lietz/Makowiecki (I/A/F), Porsche 911 RSR #91, 350 laps
2. Calado/Pier Guidi/Serra (GB/I/BR), Ferrari 488 GTE #51, 350 laps
3. Fuoco/Molina/Rigon (I/E/I), Ferrari 488 GTE #52, 349 laps
4. Christensen/Estre/Vanthoor (DK/F/B), Porsche 911 RSR #92, 348 laps
5. Fraga/Bird/Van Gisbergen (BR/GB/NZ), Ferrari 488 GTE #74, 347 laps
1. Keating/Chaves/Sörensen (USA/P/DK), Aston Martin #33, 343 laps
2. MacNeil/Andlauer/Merrill (USA/F/USA), Porsche 911 RSR #79, 343 laps
3. Dalla Lana/Pittard/Thiim (CDN/GB/DK), Aston Martin #98, 342 laps
4. Wainwright/Barker/Pera (GB/GB/I), Porsche 911 RSR #86, 340 laps
5. Poordad/Heylen/Root (USA/B/USA), Porsche 911 RSR #88, 340 laps
11. Haryanto/Picariello/Rump (RI/B/EST), Porsche 911 RSR #99, 338 laps
14. Ried/Priaulx/Tincknell (D/GB/GB), Porsche 911 RSR #77, 336 laps
16. Campbell/Fassbender/Robichon (AUS/IRL/CDN), Porsche 911 RSR #93, 329 laps
DNF. Iribe/Barnicoat/Millroy (USA/GB/GB), Porsche 911 RSR #56, 241 laps
DNF. Leutwiler/Cairoli/Pedersen (CH/I/DK), Porsche 911 RSR #46, 77 laps