Down in the Porsche garages, the calm atmosphere no doubt disguises some concerns, if not for the reliability of their own cars then for others who might through some misjudgement unintentionally take out a Porsche. This fear is brought home around midday on Sunday, when a GTE-Am Ferrari spins in the Dunlop Curves, causing a Porsche to take avoiding action that results in a spin for the works car as well as major anxiety in the pit garage.
Timo Bernhard (#91) tells us, “The conditions have been very difficult for the whole week, which is why we’ve seen a lot of accidents. It’s drizzling on and off, and the marshals have been very good and wave the flags if it’s slippery, but of course they can’t really estimate exactly how slick the track surface is. One driver is more cautious in such situations; the other takes more risks and trusts that all goes well.
“One problem is the many safety car phases that arise from this, because the tires lose temperature during these slower laps, and afterwards you have to first get a feel for how much grip there is. We’re fast the whole time, and I hope that we now have a little luck on our side. A podium would be wonderful.”
Bernhard would see his wish come true, as the #91 RSR finishes in second place behind class winners and teammates in the #92 Porsche RSR. Snatching first and second in class is sweet, but it is made all the more pleasant because the works cars beat longtime class rivals Ferrari, Aston Martin, Corvette and 2013 WEC newcomers Viper in this accomplishment. In the GTE-Am class, the #76 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, run by the customer team IMSA Performance Matmut, clinches victory by a lap from archrivals Ferrari. This double class victory helps Porsche to further extend its record in class wins with numbers 99 and 100, a truly remarkable achievement.
Watching in the pit garage is Dr. Wolfgang Porsche and Bernhard Maier (board member for sales and marketing), along with the team and motorsport management. Wolfgang Hatz tells us, “I am incredibly proud of what the entire team has done here. A double victory in the Pro class and even a win thanks to our customer team; you can’t ask for more than that.”
Hartmut Kristen, head of Porsche Motorsport, says, “In the 50th anniversary year of the 911 and 15 years since the last time a works team competed here at Le Mans, it’s the best result you can imagine. And I don’t just mean the performance of our Pro teams; our customer squads have performed brilliantly. We couldn’t have done better. The race was thrilling for the spectators, and it was nerve wracking, but the result after all that was well worth it.”
Olaf Manthey, team principal of the Porsche works team and a man of few words, finds talking about his team’s accomplishment even more difficult: “I’m still speechless about our success. After the penultimate safety-car phase, I was not feeling particularly optimistic. I still can’t believe this victory.”
There is no respite for the teams or time to rest on one’s laurels, as the WEC circus moves off to Sao Paulo in Brazil, where the victors from Le Mans will be under pressure to repeat their achievements at La Sarthe. Can Porsche turn its Le Mans victory into a season-long victory dance? It might well depend on how the FIA adjusts restrictor size after Le Mans. Will the rules committee reign in the RSRs? Can Porsche make adjustments if they do? Stay tuned.