911 in Motorsport: FIA WEC Fuji & Petit Le Mans preview
FIA WEC: Fuji Speedway, Oyama, Japan
After a solid showing in Texas, the Porsche AG Team Manthey Porsche 911 RSRs will be looking to mount a serious surge towards the top of the championship standings at this weekend’s six-hour event at Fuji.
Porsche currently sits 19 points away from leader’s Ferrari in the GTE manufacturers’ standings while, in the teams’ category, Team Manthey are level pegging with AF Corse at the top of the table.
In the race for the GTE-Pro drivers’ championship, Richard Lietz and Marc Lieb (entered in the number 92 machine) sit just three points off the Ferrari pairing of Giancarlo Fisichella and Gianmaria Bruni.
Fuji should provide the Austro-German pairing a good chance of retaking the championship lead that they held earlier in the season. “We won the Fuji round last year”, explained Lieb. “The track seems to suit the 911.
“We’ll be trying everything possible to do better than recently in Austin. If we manage this then I’m sure we’ll be right up there.”
Although slightly more reserved, Lietz is similarly confident of a good result: “I’m particularly looking forward to Fuji. A podium should definitely be possible”.
The one unpredictable element of the Fuji Speedway is the notorious weather. The circuit played host to the legendary 1976 F1 showdown between James Hunt and Niki Lauda, which took place in torrential rain and fog.
While it is unlikely that the FIA will alow the race to run under similar conditions, head of Porsche Motorsport, Hartmut Kristen is wary of the region’s extreme meteorology. “Weather will play a decisive role at Fuji. It can throw a few surprises at this time of year”, he said.
In the GTE-Am class, IMSA Performance Matmut are the leading Porsche 911 GT3 RSR competitors, with their 997-type machine. Jean-Karl Vernay, Raymond Narac, and Christophe Bourret were a winning partnership at Le Mans this year, and another victory will put them on course for the GTE-Am title.
After qualifying on Saturday, the race will get underway at 4:00am (CET). To catch all the action live, you can visit the FIA WEC website.
Petit Le Mans: Road Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Along with the Sebring 12 Hours, the Petit Le Mans is the blue riband event of the American Le Mans Series. The 2013 running of the event will be the last time that the ALMS visits as, next season, the race will be part of the new United SportsCar Championship.
The Petit Le Mans is a 1000-mile event (or 10-hours duration, whichever elapses first) and is a true test of the ALMS competitors. The 2.54-mile Road Atlanta circuit is typically American, with plenty of bumps and high-speed flowing turns waiting to catch out the unwary.
While it does form part of the ALMS championship, winning the Petit Le Mans holds similar precedence in itself. Like the 24 Hours of Le Mans, winning at Road Atlanta is like a championship win.
Since the events inception in 1998, Porsche has secured 12 GT victories at this famous race and, with a strong line up in the many customer 911s entered, there is a strong possibility that Stuttgart could win for a 13th time come Saturday night.
Arguably the fastest driver line up is to be found in the Team Falken Tyres Porsche 997 GT3 RSR. Regular drivers Wolf Henzler and Bryan Sellers are joined by British 911 ace, Nick Tandy.
In the wet first practice session last night, the car was (at times) a full second faster than the opposition, eventually ending on top with a best lap of 1m28.933s.
Petit Le Mans is often a race of high attrition and, as Sellers explains, this is to the advantage of the Porsche teams. “Porsche has always prided themselves of their ability to finish races, and attrition at Petit is generally high. Porsches are there at the end, when it counts.”
Also heading the charge against the dominant Corvette Racing team will be the CORE autosport entry. Recently announced as the factory team for the 2014 USCR, the red, white, and black 911 will be driven by Patrick Long, Michael Christensen, and Colin Braun.
Qualifying will be streamed live at ALMS.com from 1:50pm (EDT) today, with the race gaining similar coverage from 11:30am (EDT) on Saturday 19 October.