Victory for Porsche at Le Mans
The success story of the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR continues: After winning the 24 hour race in Dubai and holding the championship lead of the Le Mans Series and the American Le Mans Series, the most successful GT racer of 2009 has now won the GT2 class of the Le Mans 24 hour race. This victory at the 78th running of the 24 hour race in Le Mans marks the 98th success for Porsche at the prestigious long distance classic. For the ninth time, a race car based on the street legal 911 GT3 prevailed over its rivals. Positions three, five, seven and eight also went to drivers of the 450 hp Porsche. Moreover, the winning 911 also clinched the environmental “Michelin Green X Challenge” award as the GT car with the best efficiency.
The basis of Porsche’s success was this year again the reliability of the 911 GT3 RSR. Refuelling, new tyres, driver changes – the mechanics of the winning German Felbermayr-Proton had nothing more to do from start to finish. With consistent lap times, works drivers Marc Lieb (Germany), Richard Lietz (Austria) and Wolf Henzler (Germany) held a two-lap advantage over the second-placed Ferrari. “Pivotal for victory was that we had no technical problems and spent the least amount of time in the pits. This win was a team effort,” said Marc Lieb, who celebrated his third Porsche GT2 win in Le Mans after 2005 and 2006. Richard Lietz took home the coveted winners’ trophy for the second time after 2007.
Porsche’s success is all the more remarkable due to the fact that the 78th edition of the 24 hour race was one of the toughest in the history of the classic. The GT3 class in particular was excellently supported and fiercely contested with seven manufacturers and 18 race vehicles. With this victory, Porsche relegated its strong opponents Ferrari, BMW, Chevrolet Corvette, Jaguar and Spyker to spots further down the field.
Celebrations were also in full swing in the Porsche camp with the overall victory of Porsche works drivers Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Romain Dumas (France), who manned the cockpit of an Audi R15 TDI with the former Porsche Junior and ex-Porsche works driver Mike Rockenfeller (Germany). At the flag, they held a one-lap advantage over the second-placed Audi.
Hartmut Kristen, Head of Porsche Motorsport, commented: “We experienced an incredibly exciting race this weekend, especially in the GT2 class. I’m delighted that the Felbermayr-Proton squad won both the GT2 class as well as the “Michelin Green X Challenge”. This shows that we’re on the right path with our philosophy of Porsche Intelligent Performance. I’m also thrilled with the results of the other Porsche customer teams. They put up a great fight and earned their good positions. I’m proud as well of the three drivers in the winning Audi. Congratulations to them and the entire Audi team.”
Porsche Junior Marco Holzer (Germany) and his teammates in the BMS Scuderia Italia team, Richard Westbrook (Great Britain) and Timo Scheider (Germany), were also over the moon with their third in class. All three drivers contested the Le Mans 24 Hours for the first time. For the double DTM champion Scheider, this was his first outing with a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. “For us, it’s a dream come true,” said 21-year-old Holzer. “Le Mans is the most important long distance race in the world – and we climbed the podium at our debut. That’s sensational.”
The crew of the French IMSA Performance Matmut team had mixed feelings about their fifth position. Works drivers Patrick Pilet (France) and Patrick Long (USA) with teammate Raymond Narac (France) had kept up with the winning Porsche trio until the morning hours only to be held up by a clutch problem. “Today is a great day for Porsche and I’m pleased about that,” said Pilet. “But of course we’re a little disappointed not to celebrate a podium result at our home race.”
Elation amongst the driver squads of both 911 GT3 RSR that finished seventh and eighth as well: Both 911 were manned by gentlemen drivers. Finishing seventh were Dutchmen Paul van Splunteren and Niek Hommerson as well as Belgian Louis Machiels for the ProSpeed Competition team, followed by the second Felbermayr 911 with drivers Horst Felbermayr Senior and Junior (both Austria) and Slovakia’ s Miroslav Konopka in eighth.
Only one of the six 911 GT3 RSR to contest the race didn’t manage to reach the flag: The 911 of the American Flying Lizard Motorsport squad with drivers Darren Law, Seth Neiman (both USA) and works driver Joerg Bergmeister (Germany) retired after an accident.
Result of the 24 hour race GT2 class
1. Lieb/Lietz/Henzler (D/A/D), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 338 laps
2. Farnbacher/Simonsen/Keen (D/AUS/USA), Ferrari F430 GT, 336
3. Holzer/Westbrook/Scheider (D/GB/D), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 327
4. Alesi/Fisichella/Vilander (F/I/FIN), Ferrari F430 GT, 323
5. Pilet/Long/Narac (F/USA/F), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 321
6. J.Müller/Farfus/Alzen (D/BR/D), BMW M3 GT2, 320
7. Van Splunteren/Hommerson/Machiels (NL/NL/BE), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 317
8. Felbermayr Sen./Felbermayr Jun./Konopka (A/A/SK), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 304
Facts and figures
The 55-strong grid line-up for the Le Mans 24 Hours is made up of two different sports car categories: Sports prototypes and modified standard sports cars. The technical regulations of the long distance classic are the basis for the European Le Mans Series (LMS) and the American Le Mans Series (ALMS). All race cars take off at the same time in Le Mans. There is an overall classification and classifications for each class.
The four classes in Le Mans:
LMP1 class: Sports prototypes with up to 700 hp and a minimum weight of 900 kilograms. Power to weight ratio: ca. 1.3 kg/hp.
LMP2 class: Sports prototypes with around 440 hp (with normally aspirated engines) and an 825 kilogram minimum weight. Power to weight ratio: ca. 1.8 kg/hp.
GT1 class: Heavily modified standard sports car with up to 650 hp and a minimum weight of 1,125 – 1,325 kilograms.
GT2 class: Slightly modified standard sports cars with 450 to 460 hp and a minimum weight of 1,145 – 1,345 kilograms. The Porsche 911 GT3 RSR competes in this class.