It was a debut made to order: At its first ever outing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans last year, the Porsche 911 RSR brought home a double victory. At the 82nd edition of the world’s most famous long distance race, contested on the Circuit des 24 Heures on 14/15 June, Porsche Team Manthey will again field a pair of 911 RSR in the GTE-Pro class. Taking up the challenge alongside the factory squad, Porsche customer teams from Europe and America again contest the GTE-Am class, which Porsche also won last year. The classic event in provincial France, where Porsche is chronicled as the most successful manufacturer with 16 overall victories, is regarded as the highlight of the Sports Car World Endurance Championship (WEC).
First contested in 1923, the 24 Hours of Le Mans is the toughest automobile race in the world and represents the greatest challenge motorsport has to offer. What makes this classic so unique is also the 13.65 kilometre “Circuit des 24 Heures”, one of the oldest and fastest race tracks in the world with 38 corners and the legendary five-kilometre long Mulsanne straight. Almost 75 percent of a lap is driven at full throttle.
Double points are awarded for round three of the Sports Car World Endurance Championship WEC at Le Mans. Tackling the GTE-Pro class in the number 91 Porsche 911 RSR are Porsche factory pilots Joerg Bergmeister (Germany), Patrick Pilet (France) and Nick Tandy (Great Britain). Sharing the #92 cockpit are their works driver colleagues Marco Holzer (Germany), Frédéric Makowiecki (France) and last year’s winner Richard Lietz (Austria). Customer teams take on the GTE-Am class with a pair of 911 RSR: For the Dempsey Racing-Proton outfit, Patrick Dempsey (USA) and Joe Foster (USA) join forces with Porsche works driver Patrick Long (USA). Christian Ried (Germany), Porsche junior Klaus Bachler (Austria) and Khaled Al Qubaisi (Abu Dhabi) compete for Proton Competition. The customer squads IMSA Performance Matmut and Prospeed Competition each bring two Porsche 911 GT3 RSR in last year’s spec to the start. IMSA Performance Matmut has contracted an all-French driver line-up with Erik Maris, Jean Marc Merlin and Eric Hélary as well as Raymond Narac, Nicolas Armindo and David Hallyday. Taking on the challenge for Prospeed Competition are Cooper MacNeil (USA), Bret Curtis (USA) and Jeroen Bleekemolen (Netherlands) as well as Frenchmen Francois Perrodo and Emmanuel Collard.
The Porsche 911 RSR
The Porsche 911 RSR which Porsche has campaigned in the Sports Car World Endurance Championship since 2013 is based on the seventh generation of the iconic 911 sports car. At its race debut last year the 470 hp winning racer from Weissach scored a brilliant double victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. For 2014, the 911 RSR received improvements in many areas. In addition to winning the WEC season opener at Silverstone, this racer has also clinched victories at the long distance classics at Daytona and Sebring. Through the balance of performance ruling, the 911 RSR for Le Mans must now weigh 25 kilograms more than last year’s contender, with the restrictors reduced from 29.6 to 29.3 millimetres.
Free practice on the Circuit des 24 Heures is held on Wednesday, 11 June, from 16.00 to 20.00 hrs, followed by the first qualifying session from 22.00 hrs to midnight. Two more qualifying sessions follow on Thursday, 12 June, from 19.00 to 21.00 hrs and from 22.00 hrs to midnight. The start flag for the 24 hour pursuit drops on Saturday, 14 June, at 15.00 hours. The 56-strong field is sent on its way by ex-Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso.
Eurosport International and Eurosport 2 alternately broadcast the complete race live. The last two hours of free practice as well as the three qualifying sessions and the warm-up are also televised live. Also aired during the week are various programmes highlighting the world’s most famous long distance race with news, interviews, portraits and background reports. Detailed TV information is available on www.eurosport.com.
Quotes before the race
Hartmut Kristen, Head of Porsche Motorsport: “Le Mans is the highlight of the year. For our teams and drivers this race represents an exceptional challenge – and we’re feeling highly motivated and very well prepared. After our double victory at the season-opener in Silverstone, our car now has to carry 25 extra kilograms of ballast and the diameter of the two restrictors is now 0.3 millimetres smaller than last year’s. When considering the additional changes made, as against 2013, at one or the other competitor one has to question to what extent is the Balance of Performance actually balanced. We feel it is a matter of utmost urgency in the spirit of the sport to find a regulation for the classification of vehicles where you don’t have to fear being punished for a good performance, like what happened to us after Silverstone. Nevertheless, we’ll work extremely hard to do a good job at Le Mans – just like last year.”
Joerg Bergmeister (#91): “I’ve raced at Le Mans since 2002 and it’s a fantastic feeling to be back again this year. It’s the season highlight for me. This race has a very special atmosphere and it’s always incredibly demanding. More than anything I enjoy the extremely fast corners, they’re the most fun. Last year we came second behind our teammates and I wouldn’t mind at all if we switch positions this year.”
Patrick Pilet (#91): “Le Mans is a very special race, especially for me as a Frenchman. It’s always an incredible feeling to go racing on such an extreme circuit in front of so many fans. Aside from the Indy 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans is the greatest race on Earth. We are well prepared and our 911 RSR is a strong contender, especially on the long straights. It would be fantastic if we could turn this into a win. We were so close last year.”
Nick Tandy (#91): “Ever since I began racing for Porsche at Le Mans in 2010 it has been my goal to secure a podium spot here. You only get this chance once a year and I’ll do everything within my power to make it happen. For a race driver, Le Mans is a magical place. Even when you arrive in the paddock you get a sense of the great history. And the Circuit des 24 Heures is something very special with its unique combination of race track and normal country roads. It’s an honour for me to drive again for Porsche at Le Mans this year.”
Marco Holzer (#92): “At my first race in Le Mans in 2010 we managed to achieve a podium finish with third place. When I think back to the cheering crowds at the award ceremony it still sends shivers down my spine. I’d very much like to experience this feeling again and our chances don’t look too bad. We have a great car and a strong team behind us. But in Le Mans you can’t afford to make one mistake. You have to be totally focussed otherwise you can forget it.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (#92): “As a Frenchman you simply have to race at Le Mans. And you want to win. Your family is watching at the track, your friends are there supporting you. This makes it hugely motivating to achieve everything you’ve set out to do. As a child I dreamed of Porsche. I launched my racing career with Porsche. If I could now win Le Mans with Porsche, well that would just be the best thing in the world. But first we have to face 24 gruelling hours where pretty much anything can happen.”
Richard Lietz (#92): “I have many wonderful memories of Le Mans, especially my wins in 2007, 2010 and 2013. It’s the greatest race in the world. I love it. If I couldn’t be here as a driver, I’d buy a ticket and watch the race as a spectator. Earlier, only victory in Le Mans counted. Since 2013, it has become part of the Sports Car World Endurance Championship which means that if you can’t win then you have to make sure you bring home as many points as possible. The connection between Porsche and Le Mans is pure racing fascination. Getting the chance to compete at Le Mans for Porsche, the most successful manufacturer in the history of this race, is motivation enough. You automatically do your absolute best to win.”
Patrick Long (#77): “Le Mans is always a huge challenge. Everyone wants to win, regardless of the category they’re contesting. I’m really looking forward to racing with Patrick Dempsey and Joe Foster and helping the whole team to fulfil their dreams at Le Mans. Last year we narrowly missed out on a podium spot. This time we’re determined to make it.”