At its first Le Mans 24 Hours outing, the best Porsche 911 RSR takes up the race on Saturday from the second grid row in the GTE-Pro class. In qualifying for the long distance classic in France, which was held for the first time 90 years ago, Porsche works drivers Romain Dumas (France), Marc Lieb (Germany) and Richard Lietz (Austria) improved their time in the last lap and planted the #92 Porsche 911 RSR on third place. Their factory pilot colleagues Joerg Bergmeister (Germany), Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Patrick Pilet (France) concluded the qualifying in seventh at the wheel of the number 91 vehicle. Both 911 RSR are fielded by Porsche AG Team Manthey.
As the best Porsche in the GTE-Am class, the 911 GT3 RSR of the Proton Competition team in which Christian Ried (Germany) shares driving duties with his Italian teammates Gianluca Roda and Paolo Ruberti, achieved the second quickest time. The 911 fielded by IMSA Performance Matmut with Porsche works driver Wolf Henzler (Germany) as well as Frenchmen Pascal Gibon and Patrice Milesi set the fifth quickest time. At his first Le Mans start with Porsche, Hollywood star Patrick Dempsey (“Grey’s Anatomy”) starts from seventh on the grid with support from Porsche works driver Patrick Long and Joe Foster (all USA).
The Le Mans 24 Hours takes off of Saturday at 15.00 hours. Eurosport broadcasts the entire race live on its channels Eurosport International and Eurosport 2. On the internet, the long distance classic can be followed live on www.fiawec.com.
Wolfgang Hatz, Board Member for Research and Development at Porsche AG: “We are quite pleased with this result. Our aim was to beat Ferrari and we have achieved this. We’re only five-hundredths of a second shy of the first grid row which gives us hope for the race.”
Hartmut Kristen, Porsche Head of Motorsport: “The changing weather conditions and many interruptions made for a pretty exciting qualifying. You could actually forget about a normal programme. Marc’s improvement to third place in the final lap has shown how important it was to push to the end today.”
Joerg Bergmeister (# 91): “My qualifying was quite messed up. I went out on the first set of tyres but got held up by slower cars and had to reduce speed because the yellow flags came out. The same happened with my second set – first traffic, then yellow-flagged. In my third fast lap I went all out and was a bit late on the brakes in the first corner. That was the end of my qualifying. But Marc’s time underlined what would have been possible. This makes me confident for the race.”
Patrick Pilet (# 91): “Our chances look good for the race. For me as a Frenchman Le Mans is the highlight of the year. To win here would be the greatest. We have a good car and we’ll do our utmost in the race.”
Timo Bernhard (# 91): “The conditions were wrong today to learn anything significant about our car. I drove my five mandatory night laps. We could face such mixed conditions in the race, so it was important to see if everything was okay with the car. At the time I was sitting in the car it made no sense to risk too much.”
Marc Lieb (# 92): “I spent about an hour at the wheel and was able to get used to the difficult conditions. The track was almost dry towards the end, only slightly damp in the second chicane. There I had to be careful on the brakes. Our car's balance is good, not yet perfect, but we have definitely made great progress. That I drove over the finish line three seconds before the end of the session and achieved the third fastest lap time was of course perfect timing. This is also a big motivation for the race. A huge thank you to my team. The boys have worked really hard over the last weeks and months to make our new 911 RSR even better.”
Richard Lietz (# 92): “A good grid position in Le Mans is a matter of prestige, even if it doesn’t play a major role in the race. But when you come with a new car, like us, you naturally want to be as far up the front as possible, so we are delighted with third place. Marc has made it more exciting and drove a great time right when everyone thought it was over.”
Romain Dumas (#92): “In Le Mans the regulations stipulate that all competitors must turn five qualifying laps during the night. Since I didn’t get to drive yesterday, I turned my five laps today. At the time I went out, the track half dry, half wet. That wasn’t much fun.”
Wolf Henzler (#67): “I was on wets, but the track was too dry for that towards the end. I should actually have gone out on slicks, but when the conditions are so difficult and it is night time, you obviously don’t want to take any unnecessary risks.”
Jean-Karl Vernay (#76): “It’s not decisive whether you take up a 24 hour race from fifth, sixth or seventh place. That’s why we didn’t go all out to try and improve our time under such tricky conditions. We’ve added many new parts for the race and will attempt to finish as far up the field as possible.”
Christian Ried (#88): “These conditions made it tough for everyone. You drive out, it starts to rain, you come in, the rain stops – this doesn’t give you the insights you need for the race. Today, it was really just a matter of us all turning our mandatory laps at night.”
1. Bell/Makowiecki/Senna (GB/F/BRA), Aston Martin, 3:54.635 minutes
2. Dumbreck/Mücke/Turner (GB/D/GB), Aston Martin, 3:55.445
3. Dumas/Lieb/Lietz (F/D/A), Porsche 911 RSR, 3:55.491
4. Fisichella/Bruni/Malucelli (I/I/I), Ferrari F458 Italia, 3:55.909
7. Bergmeister/Bernhard/Pilet (D/D/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 3:56.573
1. Nygaard/Poulsen/Simonsen (DK/DK/DK), Aston Martin, 3:57.776 minutes
2. Ried/Roda/Ruberti (D/I/I), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 3:58.889
3. Campbell/Goethe/Hall (GB/D/GB), Aston Martin, 3:59.805
5. Henzler/Gibon/Milesi (D/F/F), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 4:00.053
6. Collard/Perrod/Crubile (F/F/F), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 4:00.682
7. Dempsey/Long/Foster (USA/USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 4:00.916
8. Narrac/Bourret/Vernay (F/F/F), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 4:01.713
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