911 in Motorsport: FIA WEC & Blancpain Series report
Porsche AG Team Manthey narrowly missed out on a podium in the FIA World Endurance Championship race at the Circuit of the Americas, while in Europe, the Prospeed 911 GT3 R took ninth place in the highly competitive Blancpain Endurance Series.
The highly unpredictable 2013 season continued to twist and turn its way towards it conclusion with round five taking place at the new Circuit of the Americas in Texas.
A new circuit can often put a spanner in the works, and the weather in the Lone Star state often didn’t play ball as the drivers tried to acclimatise themselves to the unfamiliar ribbon of Tarmac.
The first official practice session was particularly wet however, by the time of the race on Sunday, temperatures were pushing 30 degrees.
In qualifying, the number 91 Porsche 911 RSR of the works Team Manthey squad qualified second. Patrick Pilet and Jörg Bergmeister showed both speed and consistency over their four laps to line up on the front row, behind the Aston Martin of Bruno Senna and Frederic Makowiecki.
The number 92 car, piloted by Richard Lietz and Marc Lieb, entered the Texan round of the championship second in the drivers’ championship, just one point behind the Aston Martin of Darren Turner and Stefan Mücke.
Although fifth place in qualifying was somewhat of a disappointment to the pair, they were still able to outpace their championship rivals, who would line up in sixth.
Of course, qualifying is, in reality, less than half the job in motor racing, with the real work taking place during the race.
After a solid start to the race, the Pilet/Bergmeister 911 RSR’s race went up in flames at the first pitstop. Literally. A small amount of petrol, spilt during refuelling, ignited.
Although the fire was quickly extinguished the number 91 Porsche 911 had lost four laps because of the incident. From that position, a podium finish was always unlikely and Bergmeister eventually brought the car home in fifth position.
From fifth on the grid, Lietz and Lieb battled valiantly throughout the six hours of action on the Texan Tarmac. Despite showing good pace throughout the race (the number 92 car set the second fastest lap of the race), the Le Mans winners had to settle for fourth place.
Lieb thought that the lead Porsche 911 RSR “lacked the consistency for a podium position”. Teammate Lietz however, thought that it was perhaps something more mechanical accounting for the number 92 missing the podium.
“Our pit crew did a great job today. We were incredibly quick in changing the tyres. Unfortunately we couldn’t drive any double stints like many of our opponents”, Lietz explained.
“That cost us a great deal of time. On top of that, we simply lacked the engine power on the straights due to the balance of power classification of our 911 RSR.”
The latter point was echoed by Porsche’s Head of Motorsport, Hartmut Kristen.
While the AF Corse Ferrari’s enjoyed a successful weekend at the Circuit of the Americas, allowing them to take the lead in Manufacturers’ World Cup, Lietz and Lieb retained second in the drivers’ standings thanks to the retirement of the Turner/Mücke Aston Martin.
Heading into the next round in Fuji, Japan, the drivers of the number 92 911 are just three points behind Giancarlo Fisichelli and Gianmaria Bruni’s lead Ferrari.
In the GTE-Am class, despite taking a third place finish, the drivers of the IMSA Performance Porsche 911 GT3 RSR lost the lead in the drivers’ championship.
Jean-Karl Vernay and Raymond Narac drove valiantly, only to see the Aston Martin pairing of Jamie Campbell-Walter and Stuart Hall take their points lead.
The next round of the FIA WEC takes place under the shadow in Mount Fuji in Japan on the 20 October. Once again, all the championships in both GTE-Pro and GTE-Am are finely balanced with all the Porsche 911 competitors in with a chance of glory.
Blancpain Endurance Series
A tough season for Porsche 911 GT3 R competitors came to a close with another challenging race around the Nürburgring Grand Prix circuit.
Leading the charge for the Weissach-built cars was the number 75 Prospeed Competition entry. After struggling in qualifying, the Belgian team’s machine would line up 37th for the final rolling start of the season.
Thanks to the combined talents of Xavier Maassen, Marc Hennerici, and Maxime Soulet the Pro class 997 GT3 RSR was able to work its way through the hordes of exotica throughout the 900km of racing.
Come the chequered flag, the black and white machine would lie eight in class and ninth overall, just one lap behind the victorious Mercedes SLS AMG.
Although not a repeat of last year’s triumph around the Nürburgring, the team displayed grit and determination in a season that has been dominanted by cars from Mercedes, McLaren and BMW.
Led by Richard Westbrook, the distinctive Haribo Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R finished seventh in the Pro-Am class (27th overall), while the Pro GT by Almeras entry was three places further back in class, having qualified as the lead 911 overall.
The Gentleman Trophy-entered Delahaye Racing Porsche 911 showed a good turn of speed to finish 28th overall (just one place behind the Haribo Racing effort).
In the same class, Ahmad Al Harthy’s challenge crumbled within the first hour as his ARC Bratislava Porsche 911 GT3 R was forced into retirement.