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Porsche defends its World Endurance Championship lead at Spa

The Porsche GT Team has concluded the six-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps in second and fifth place with the two 911 RSR. With this result at round two of the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC, the sports car manufacturer defended its lead in the classification – in the manufacturers’ as well as in the drivers’ categories. The Porsche customer team Dempsey-Proton Racing won the GTE-Am class with the No. 77 car. At the end of an eventful race in Belgium, Christian Ried from Germany and his British teammates Sebastian Priaulx and Harry Tincknell crossed the finish line first in the 378 kW (515 PS) 911 from Weissach.

“We’re a little disappointed. In fact, more was possible because we had a great car,” states Thomas Laudenbach, Vice President Porsche Motorsport. Concerning the early contact between the factory team’s two 911 RSR, Laudenbach added: “In the very first corner the two cars touched. Unfortunately, that meant our No. 91 car was no longer among the frontrunners. All in all, it was a crazy race with a lot of interruptions and constant changes in the class rankings. Congratulations to our customer squad Dempsey-Proton Racing on winning the GTE-Am class. Spectators were certainly given a treat today.”

The six-hour race got underway in sunny conditions on the Spa-Francorchamps Formula 1 circuit. Both works-911 took up the race from the first grid row. At the wheel of the No. 92 car, Frenchman Kévin Estre immediately attempted to squeeze past his Porsche teammate Gianmaria Bruni (Italy). In doing this, the left rear wheel of the No. 91 pole-setting car was hit. Bruni had to slowly return to the pits to repair the damage. As a result, the team lost a lap to the leaders and was thus out of contention for a class win.

“We started from the first two grid spots and had the speed for a major success, so we’re disappointed,” outlined Alexander Stehlig, Director Factory Motorsport FIA WEC. “The fact that our cars collided at the start should not have happened. In a chaotic race with lots of rain and red and yellow flags, ultimately it just wasn’t enough for a class win – that’s a shame!”

Estre defended his lead in the early phase until the first heavy shower arrived in the forested Ardennes region of Belgium. Due to the wet track surface, the officials interrupted the race for the first time after just over an hour. More downpours resulted in the event being red-flagged two more times. Many incidents led to the frequent deployment of the safety car, and caution phases often bunched the field together. In the turbulent game of strategy, the No. 92 car fell back to third place. The Dane Michael Christensen then worked his way up to second place in the final phase, only narrowly missing out on clinching class victory in the very last metres by a mere 0.523 seconds. The No. 91 car crossed the finish line in fifth place.

In the GTE-Am category, Porsche’s customer teams gave strong performances. The squads from Dempsey-Proton Racing and Project 1 spent long stretches in the lead. Only in the last hour was the battle for victory decided. In the final laps, Harry Tincknell successfully fended off attacks from his rivals to cross the finish line first in the No. 77 car. The No. 88 sister car concluded the six-hour race in ninth place. The two 911 RSR fielded by Project 1 took the flag in positions five and 13, with the identical model campaigned by GR Racing achieving sixth place.

Next up on the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC calendar is the big highlight of the year: the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The 90th running of the long-distance classic in France will be contested on 11/12 June. The official pre-test – the only chance for a shakedown on the 13.6-kilometre course – will be held on 5 June. Porsche tackles the classic as the leader of the manufacturers’ classification. Kévin Estre and Michael Christensen rank first in the drivers’ standings.

Drivers’ comments on the race
Michael Christensen (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “It was an extremely difficult race with all conceivable conditions. The state of the track changed constantly. For long periods it was all about keeping the car on the track. Ultimately, I worked my way up the field quite well but it wasn’t enough to win. I don’t particularly like the word luck, but today we didn’t have much of it…”

Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “Gimmi and I got away well off the line. Unfortunately, I made a mistake while braking on cold tyres. I slid straight ahead and slightly nudged the No. 91 car. At the exit of the corner, three cars were side by side and there was hardly any room. Our two cars touched again. It was definitely not handled well on my part. I want to apologise to my teammates in the sister car. It was my mistake. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to earn maximum points for Porsche today.”

Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “Kévin missed the braking point while approaching the first corner, veered too wide and collided with me while merging. Our rear left tyre blew out – game over. It’s a shame because we missed out on a lot of points for Porsche today. As the race progressed, the conditions turned crazy at times. We battled with serious aquaplaning because we’d set the tyre pressure lower expecting a dry patch. The rear of my car got twitchy maybe 20 times – on the straight in third gear. That was insane!”

Richard Lietz (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “Our qualifying was good and we started from pole position but then the incident happened. Such things happen in motor racing. We lost a lap as a result. We tried to fight our way back during the safety car phases, which looked promising at times, but ultimately didn’t work out. All in all, it was a race to forget.”

Christian Ried (Porsche 911 RSR #77): “What a wild race with interruptions and many incidents. At the start I first had to avoid a Ferrari, then Gimmi’s works-911. Once everything had finally sorted itself out, I found a decent rhythm. Sebastian then did a great job in the rain and Harry brought it all safely home. As a team, our strategy worked perfectly. It was anything but easy. I’m delighted with our class win.”

Race result
GTE-Pro class
1. Calado/Pier Guidi (GB/I), Ferrari 488 GTE #51, 102 laps
2. Christensen/Estre (DK/F), Porsche 911 RSR #92, 102 laps
3. Fuoco/Molina (I/E), Ferrari 488 GTE #52, 102 laps
4. Tandy/Milner (GB/USA), Corvette C8.R #64, 101 laps
5. Bruni/Lietz (I/A), Porsche 911 RSR #91, 100 laps

GTE-Am class
1. Ried/Priaulx/Tincknell (D/GB/GB), Porsche 911 RSR #77, 99 laps
2. Keating/Chaves/Sörensen (USA/P/DK), Aston Martin #33, 99 laps
3. Dalla Lana/Pittard/Thiim (USA/GB/DK), Aston Martin #98, 99 laps
4. Leutwiler/Cairoli/Pedersen (CH/I/DK), Porsche 911 RSR #46, 99 laps
6. Wainwright/Barker/Pera (GB/GB/I), Porsche 911 RSR #86, 98 laps
9. Poordad/Heylen/Lindsey (USA/B/USA), Porsche 911 RSR #88, 96 laps
13. Iribe/Barnicoat/Millroy (USA/GB/GB), Porsche 911 RSR #56, 93 laps

Source. Porsche

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