ON THE TRACK: Strong Performance by Porsche at Le Mans

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After a strong performance by both 919 Hybrids, the Porsche Team was left empty handed on the Stuttgart marque’s return to the top LMP1 category at Le Mans after a dramatic final stage of the race. After more than 22 hours, the crew of car no. 20 (Timo Bernhard/Brendon Hartley/Mark Webber) suffered a powertrain problem at the most famous sports car endurance race in the world.

Earlier in the race, the car was leading for a significant period. The second innovative and highly complex 919 Hybrid prototype – in the hands of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb – likewise proved to be very competitive, but was hampered by a drivetrain problem in the closing stages. However, their no. 14 car crossed the finish line under its own power.

After a thrilling start to the race with changing weather conditions, numerous accidents and a relatively calm night, Timo Bernhard took the lead in the Porsche 919 Hybrid. This was after 20 of the 24 hours. At 12:36 on Sunday he handed the leading car over to Mark Webber. Less than 20 minutes later, the Australian was forced to slow down and drove solely on electric power back to the pits. The team could not repair the damaged powertrain.

Not even half an hour later, the sister car with Marc Lieb at the wheel had a gearbox failure. Car no. 14 was lying fourth before it was pushed into the garage at 12:54. Shortly before the chequered flag was waved, the Porsche 919 Hybrid returned to track, but in the end was not classified.

Comments after the race:

Matthias Müller, Chairman of the Executive Board of Porsche AG: “Our return to Le Mans has been a strong team effort. It almost happened that our secret dream came true to crown the debut of the Porsche 919 Hybrid with a podium finish. For a remarkable period we were leading the race. I want to thank everyone who contributed with hard work. Now we keep our heads up and will plan an even stronger return for 2015.”

Wolfgang Hatz, Board member for Research and Development Porsche AG: “It was our declared target to finish this race. This didn’t really work out, but at least we have managed to show the huge potential of the 919 Hybrid and its innovative powertrain. We believe in our courageous concept and we will develop it further. We have already started work on the 2015 race car.”

Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1: “This result is not the reward our team deserved after this intense time of preparation work. We have had an unbelievable and unforgettable race with its highs and lows. Everyone in the entire team was working to the limits and never gave up. I am very proud of our team.”

Andreas Seidl, Team Principal LMP1: “At the moment, of course, there is a lot of disappointment. But if anyone would have told us before the race that the outcome would be what it was, we would have been very happy with it. We have learned a lot for next year and tomorrow we start to prepare for 2015. The drivers and the entire crew – everyone did a great job. We are proud to have brought one car to the finish line. To be able to fight with the other one for the silverware until shortly before the end was the icing on the cake.”

Alexander Hitzinger, Technical Director LMP1: “Congratulations to Audi for the well-deserved victory. Certainly we are disappointed, because such a good result seemed to be within reach for us too. But still we can be proud of what we have achieved. We have proven that we have got a fast car and our competition has taken notice of the 919 Hybrid. It was our target to finish the race, but in a different way than we did. I am looking forward to the remaining races of the FIA World Endurance Championship and to Le Mans 2015. Today the car was not always easy to handle and our drivers did a great job. I want to thank them for that.”

Porsche 919 Hybrid (car no. 14)
Neel Jani: “Our car ran really well. At times we have been right at the front. Because such a huge potential was there, I am very disappointed about the result. On the other hand, we always knew that sustainability was crucial and difficult to achieve quickly.”

Marc Lieb: “I am rather lost for words, because it is hard to deal with incidents like those that occurred during the race. The no. 20 Porsche 919 Hybrid had a really fantastic race. They had no problems at all until shortly before the end. On the other hand, our no. 14 car was slowed down by some minor technical failures, which forced us to stop several times in the pits. Nevertheless, we did the best we could. Some one and a half hours before the chequered flag there was a bigger problem. The team managed to get the car running again and we finally managed to cross the line.”

Porsche 919 Hybrid (car no. 20)
Timo Bernhard: “I think, after all, it was a great return for Porsche – to come back to Le Mans and to the WEC after such a long time. But for me it is very sad because we were fighting very hard – at the end, in fact, also for the victory. It would have been a podium at least. It is hard to take, the guys did a great job. The car was running well. We had some difficult issues with the balance of the car, and it was not easy to drive. But in the end, I was saving fuel and keeping away from the kerbs. And then we had a broken engine, which happened in first gear. But I think the bottom line is, it’s a great return by Porsche.“

Mark Webber: “That was tough for everyone. It would have been such an amazing achievement to go through to the finish. I think we never expected to be in such a great position towards the end of the race. What Porsche did is a very big feather in its cap. Few people know how hard it is to get the cars to this point in the race. I’m really sorry for the guys. There is never ever a good retirement in Le Mans, but today is one of the best you could probably have in a way, because we went so far and we learned so much. If you stop early you learn nothing and it’s tough. When you stop with a lap to go it’s probably even more brutal. It was our first time here at Le Mans and we were very close to the podium.“

Porsche 911 RSR finishes 24 hour marathon at Le Mans third in GT class

The sports car race on the 8 mile (13.269 km) Circuit des 24 Heures kept over 250,000 spectators on the edge of their seats with enthralling fights for positions and spectacular overtaking manoeuvres.

When two heavy rain showers left parts of the track underwater several hours after the start, Porsche Team Manthey initiated the perfect pit stop strategy which put the 470 hp, flat-six, rear-engined Porsche 911 RSR in positions one-two in class.

However, the winning car from last year, based on the seventh generation of the iconic 911 sports car and double winner of the Sports Car World Championship WEC season-opener, was unable to defend these positions over the rest of the marathon. In addition, during the night a fuel pressure problem cropped up with the 911 RSR driven by works drivers Joerg Bergmeister (Germany), Patrick Pilet (France) and Nick Tandy (Great Britain) which required an extra pit stop and finally threw the trio back to seventh place after their strong performance.

Their factory colleagues in the no. 92 Porsche 911 RSR continued on their podium course. With three hours to the flag, they had moved up the order to lie in second place before losing a position in the dramatic final phase. The podium result was a well-deserved reward for a strong performance under difficult conditions.

Klaus Bachler celebrated a strong GTE-Am class result. Sharing the cockpit of the Proton Competition customer team 911 RSR with team-mates Christian Ried (Germany) and Khaled Al Qubaisi (Abu Dhabi), the Porsche Junior driver saw the flag at his Le Mans debut in second place. In the 911 RSR campaigned by Dempsey Racing Proton, Porsche factory driver Patrick Long and his American compatriots Patrick Dempsey and Joe Foster delivered consistently fast lap times to finally finish in fifth place.

Comments after the race
Hartmut Kristen, Head of Porsche Motorsport: “Although it was enough for a podium spot, this year’s Le Mans was a little disappointing. Minor technical problems cropped up in both our 911 RSR, but as a total they were decisive. The crew and the drivers have done an excellent job and brought the cars safely home. I praise them for this. Congratulations as well to the Proton Competition squad for second place in the GTE-Am class. Given the performance rating, there was no better result possible for us.”

Olaf Manthey, Team Principal Porsche Team Manthey: “We tackled the race with other expectations, but small technical gremlins can always turn up all the time. That’s nothing new for me. I’ve been doing this for 40 years. Both cars reached the finish line and third place is good. You win some, you lose some. You just have to make it through.”

Marco Holzer (911 RSR no. 92): “It was a long and demanding race. We faced all weather conditions you could possibly imagine. At times it was dry, then it poured with rain, half the track was wet and half dry. The car ran like clockwork until we had to pit unexpectedly shortly before the finish. That cost us second place. But the team did a great job and we earned vital points for the WEC.”

Frédéric Makowiecki (911 RSR no. 92): “Thank you to my pit crew. They were very fast and didn’t make one mistake. We constantly tried to push to the max and get everything we could out of the car. I regard this podium spot as a basis for even better results in the second half of the season.”

Richard Lietz (911 RSR no. 92): “After scoring first and second last year we were all expecting more. But some of our rivals were bluffing at tests and only displayed their actual race speed here. We tried to keep up and my team-mates really went flat out. The podium spot is the just reward for this. I’m certain we’ll return next year even stronger.”

Joerg Bergmeister (911 RSR no. 91): “That’s unfortunately not the result we wanted and were hoping for. We experienced a problem that relegated us back down the order. Other than that the car ran well. A podium result would definitely have been possible. Unfortunately, of all places we had this bad luck was here where double points are awarded.”

Patrick Pilet (911 RSR no. 91): “Our car was perfectly prepared for the race, but we experienced a problem during the night. Okay, we solved it but it cost us a lot of time. For this reason we couldn’t do a thing about the outcome of the race. But still, we can be proud of our team and Porsche. Now we have to concentrate on the rest of the season.”

Nick Tandy (911 RSR no. 91): “It wasn’t the best race, but with the exception of this one problem the car ran very well. The entire crew did a fantastic job. If the second twelve hours had run as well as the first, we would have achieved a fabulous result.”

Klaus Bachler (911 RSR no. 88): “Second place is awesome. A dream has come true for me. We did everything right, kept out of trouble at the start, only refuelled and changed the tyres. That’s how we got ahead. Now we’re all over the moon.”

Christian Ried (911 RSR no. 88): “The race was good, technically everything went smoothly. The car was great and so were the tyres – it simply all worked well. I’m really happy that we scored a podium spot.”

Patrick Long (911 RSR no. 77): “We certainly could have done more this year. Still, I’m satisfied with our performance as a team. Our car didn’t have the slightest technical problem and Patrick improved constantly and posted super times. Not everyone can climb the podium at Le Mans. If it was that easy, then everyone would have a Le Mans trophy at home.”

Patrick Dempsey (911 RSR no. 77): “I drove really well, didn’t make any mistakes and my pace improved constantly. We all did a great job against such tough competition and I’m happy with the result and the team’s great performance. I’ll definitely be back at Le Mans next year.”

Race result – GTE-Pro class
1. Bruni/Vilander/Fisichella (I/SF/I), Ferrari 458 Italia, 339 laps
2. Magnussen/Garcia/Taylor (DK/E/USA), Chevrolet Corvette, 338
3. Holzer/Makowiecki/Lietz (D/F/A), Porsche 911 RSR, 337
4. Gavin/Milner/Westbrook (GB/USA/GB), Chevrolet Corvette, 333
5. Bleekemolen/MacNeil (NL/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 319
6. Turner/Mücke/Senna (GB/D/BRA), Aston Martin Vantage, 310
7. Bergmeister/Pilet/Tandy (D/F/GB), Porsche 911 RSR, 309

Race result – GTE-Am class
1. Poulsen/Heinemeier-Hansson/Thiim (DK/DK/DK), Aston Martin, 334 laps
2. Ried/Bachler/Al Qubaisi (D/A/UAE), Porsche 911 RSR, 332
3. Perez-Companc/Cioci/Venturi (RA/I/I), Ferrari 458 Italia, 331
4. Montecalvo/Roda/Ruberti (I/I/I), Ferrari 458 Italia, 330
5. Dempsey/Foster/Long (USA/USA/USA), Porsche 911 RSR, 329
6. Dalla Lana/Lamy/Nygaard (CAN/P/DK), Aston Martin Vantage, 329

Round four of the Sports Car World Endurance Championship (WEC) takes place on 20 September in Austin, Texas, USA.

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