Sports Car World Endurance Championship WEC, round 3, 24 Hours of Le Mans/France - GT
Porsche Manthey team pick up pace in decisive qualifying
The countdown for the start of the 24 Hours of Le Mans has begun. On Saturday at 15.00 hours, the 83rd edition of the world famous endurance classic on the 13.629-kilometre Circuit des 24 Heures gets the green flag. The Porsche Manthey squad used the second and third qualifying sessions on Thursday to put the final touches on the setup of their number 91 and 92 Porsche 911 RSR contenders. In 2013, the outfit scored a double victory in the GTE-Pro class.
Porsche works drivers Richard Lietz (Austria), Michael Christensen (Denmark) and Jörg Bergmeister (Germany) take up the third round of this year’s Sports Car World Endurance Championship (WEC) from the fourth grid row of the GT class in their #91 Porsche 911 RSR. Whilst Richard Lietz has already notched up three class victories with Porsche at Le Mans (2007, 2010, 2013), and Jörg Bergmeister has gained the most extensive Le Mans experience with 13 starts as a Porsche GT works driver, Michael Christensen tackles the world’s toughest automobile race for the first time. Their French factory pilot colleagues Frédéric Makowiecki and Patrick Pilet team up with Wolf Henzler in the number 92 Porsche 911 RSR. The trio starts from the sixth row of the GT grid.
As the best Porsche customer team in the GTE-Am class, Dempsey Proton Racing concluded the qualifying session on fifth place. At the wheel of the 911 RSR with the starting number 77, the American race driver and actor Patrick Dempsey tackles the race with Porsche works driver Patrick Long (USA) and Marco Seefried (Austria). Lining up on the grid one position behind them is the 911 RSR of Abu Dhabi Proton Racing, with Christian Ried (Germany), Khaled Al Qubaisi (Abu Dhabi) and the former Porsche Junior Klaus Bachler (Austria) sharing driving duties.
Comments after the qualifying
Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser, Head of Porsche Motorsport: “That qualifying was difficult for us. It took us a while to find the best setup for our 911 RSR. Our focus was clearly on race preparation. In the last session we managed to balance the car the way we wanted it. At the end we were ready to pick up the pace again and improve not just our lap times but also our starting positions. But a red flag and caution phase prevented us from turning a fast lap. I’m feeling optimistic for the race. We’re consistent and the team is well prepared.”
Drivers 911 RSR #91
Richard Lietz: “During qualifying we found a good race setup for all conditions. That makes us optimistic. We drivers feel good about the car and that’s what counts.”
Michael Christensen: “Our car improved over the course of the qualifying session and we closed the gap to the front. All in all, it was a good qualifying. The most important thing is to be fast in the race.”
Jörg Bergmeister: “We didn’t really drive a qualifying session today, instead we tested our 911 RSR with a full tank in preparation for the race. Compared to the first qualifying on Wednesday we’ve made steady progress.”
Drivers 911 RSR #92
Patrick Pilet: “The qualifying went well but the performance wasn’t what we’d hoped for. Still, I expect we’ll be able to push in the race and make up positions.”
Frédéric Makowiecki: “We didn’t have a lot of grip at the beginning of the qualifying because the vintage cars had been out on the track beforehand and they’d lost some oil. Later, things went better. Although we only managed to slightly improve our starting position, we made good progress on the setup.”
Wolf Henzler: “Today I tried to do some things differently compared to yesterday, but it didn’t make much of a difference to the speed. Still, for the race I’m confident that the setup and balance work.”
Customer team drivers
Patrick Dempsey (911 RSR #77): “We improved our lap times from yesterday. The tweaks on the car contributed, and the improved track conditions also played a part. It was good to see that we’ve been working in the right direction since Silverstone and Spa. From the qualifying we are taking a lot of positive insights into the race.”
Patrick Long (911 RSR #77): “We’ve made some progress since the first qualifying and we’ve found a good balance for the race.”
Klaus Bachler (911 RSR #88): “We focussed entirely on the race and we put particular emphasis on finding a good balance for our 911 RSR. We should look better over the whole race distance than on one fast lap.”
Starting positions after the 3rd qualifying
1. MacDowall/Stanaway/Rees (GB/NZ/BRA), Aston Martin, 3:54.928 minutes
2. Bruni/Vilander/Fisichella (I/SF/I), Ferrari 458 Italia, + 0.097 seconds
3. Turner/Mücke/Bell (GB/D/GB), Aston Martin, + 0.538
4. Rigon/Calado/Beretta (I/GB/MC), Ferrari 458 Italia, + 0.664
5. Sörensen/Thiim/Nygaard (DK/DK/DK), Aston Martin, + 0.855
6. Magnussen/Garcia/Briscoe (DK/E/AUS), Chevrolet Corvette, + 1.035
7. Lietz/Christensen/Bergmeister (A/DK/D), Porsche 911 RSR, + 1.690
8. Makowiecki/Pilet/Henzler (F/F/D), Porsche 911 RSR, + 1.994
9. Gavin/Milner/Taylor (GB/USA/USA), Chevrolet Corvette, + 2.153
1. Dalla Lana/Lamy/Lauda (CDN/P/A), Aston Martin, 3:55.102 minutes
2. Collard/Perrodo/Aguas (F/F/P), Ferrari 458 Italia, + 1.621 seconds
3. Bertolini/Shaytar/Basov (I/RUS/RUS), Ferrari 458 Italia, + 1.775
4. Bleekemolen/Keating/Miller (NL/USA/USA), SRT Viper, + 2.734
5. Dempsey/Long/Seefried (USA/USA/D), Porsche 911 RSR, + 2.740
6. Ried/Bachler/Al Qubaisi (D/A/UAE), Porsche 911 RSR, + 3.157
13. Chen/Vanellet/Parisy (TWN/F/F), Porsche 911 RSR, + 6.143
14. Chen/Kapadia/Maassen (TWN/GB/NL), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, + 6.168
The race with 56 cars in four classes starts at 15.00 hrs on Saturday and is broadcast live by Eurosport.
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