Porsche wins both 2018 Le Mans 24-Hour GT classes – GTE-Pro and GTE-Am classes – in the 86th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans classic.
This double win in both classes are Porsche’s 106th and 107th class wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans is very special for Porsche – wonderful celebratory achievements coincidentally occurring during Porsche’s anniversary year of “70 Years of Porsche Sports Cars.”
The No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR led its GTE-Pro class through two-thirds of the Sarthe classic, and subsequently for most of the balance of the race. Their nighttime laps of the race were virtually flawless in defending their lead.
After a truly flawless 344 laps, the No. 92 factory Porsche 911 RSR whooshed cross the finish line first in GTE-Pro class on Sunday afternoon.
“An absolutely perfect weekend for Porsche,” noted Dr. Wolfgang Porsche, Chairman of the Supervisory Board. “You can’t wish for more than this in our anniversary year. It’s impossible to plan such a thing, but when it happens, it’s an indescribable feeling.
“Congratulations to the drivers, the teams and all the employees who made this success possible. It makes me very proud,” Dr. Porsche emoted.
In the “Pink Pig”-colored (aka the “Truffle Hunter”-liveried) No. 92 car, lucky dog Michael Christensen (Denmark) was behind the wheel to revel in the glory firsthand. Ecstatically his fellow No. 92 pilots Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) and Kévin Estre (France) cheered him on from the pits.
“Today is one of the most beautiful – no, the most beautiful day – of my career: I’ve won Le Mans,” gushed Laurens Vanthoor. “I can’t describe my emotions and I still can’t believe it. Kevin, Michael and I complemented each other perfectly. The entire team was just brilliant today.”
Kévin Estre chimed in: “It’s simply unbelievable. I just can’t describe my feelings. Today is the best day of my life. We have won the world’s most difficult and wonderful race. That can’t be put into words.”
“It was an incredible race. I don’t know what to say. The car was fast right from the start,” added Michael Christensen, summing it all up. “We had a little luck during a safety car phase, and we managed to pull clear of the field a little. From that point on, we focused on extending our lead.
“In the final third of the race we simply tried to avoid taking any risks and bring the car home safely. This worked perfectly.”
The Pink Pig’s marathon triumph represents the unprecedented 106th class win for Porsche at the 24 Hours of Le Mans on the 8.47-mile storied Sarthe race circuit.
Equally stunning after an entire 24 hours, the No. 91 sister car took the checkers next in second place, piloted by Frédéric Makowiecki (France), in the GTE-Pro class. Fellow No. 91 Factory drivers Richard Lietz (Austria) and Gianmaria Bruni (Italy) also cheered on Makowiecki in their garage.
“Today is a banner day for Porsche – this double win is a wonderful gift for the 70th anniversary,” declared Lietz. “It was a great race, and it doesn’t get much better than first and second place. This shows that GT racing is the future and we need to invest in it.”
As the veteran newcomer to the Porsche works drivers, Gianmaria Bruni had the following to say: “This double victory is fantastic – for Porsche and our team. We had a great race and a great fight with our No. 92 sister car. We tried everything but our team colleagues didn’t make any mistakes and they deserve this win.”
Makowiecki furiously contended non-stop with the No. 68 Ford GT for more than hour. The Frenchman totally kept his cool all the while in his the blue-and-white “Rothmanns”-liveried 911 RSR, hanging on to second place for the most precious last third of the race.
“Our car was very fast, but we simply couldn’t keep up with our sister car, which was incredibly consistent,” confessed Makowiecki.
“For over an hour, I battled hard with a competitor for second place. That makes my job as a race driver really fun, but we couldn’t make up ground in this phase. I’m thrilled for the team with our second place at Le Mans. We’ll be back next year to fight for victory,” Makowiecki vowed.
So how is it so momentously possible that Porsche wins both 2018 Le Mans 24 GT classes – seemingly with the greatest of ease?
For one thing, Porsche had history on its side – Porsche has “been there, done that” so many times before that Porsche seems unstoppable over time at this rate.
This is very reminiscent of all foregoing triumphant times in Porsche motorsport. (Parenthetically, we thank and love you eternally, Baron Fritz Huschke von Hanstein, Porsche’s original motorsports impresario, in effect for inaugurating this long, unprecedented legacy.)
This year’s GTE-Pro victory represents the extraordinary 106th class win for Porsche at Le Mans. Amazing. . .
Not so happily amazing is what happened to the third factory Porsche 911 RSR, the No. 93 car. Piloted by Patrick Pilet (France), Earl Bamber (New Zealand) and Nick Tandy (Great Britain), No. 93 lost 25 minutes due to repairs and ultimately finished eleventh.
No. 94, the fourth and final factory Porsche 911 RSR, suffered an even worse fate. Shared by factory teammates Romain Dumas (France), Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Sven Müller (Germany), the No. 94 car retired after nightfall — the culprit: suspension failure.
“Obviously I’m really disappointed,” Dumas volunteered. Most of all I feel sorry for the team because the guys have worked hard and did a great job. But things like this can happen in motor racing.”
The second Porsche win came in GTE-Am, of course, memorializing the 107th class win for Porsche at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The No. 77 Porsche of the Dempsey-Proton Racing customer team crossed the finish line first in its GTE-Am class. Porsche Young Professional Matt Campbell (Australia), Christian Ried (Germany) and Porsche Junior Julien Andlauer (France) shared driving duties in the No. 77 Porsche.
Julien Andlauer is now the youngest class winner at Le Mans, at just 18 years old.
“At 18 years of age,” enthused Andlauer, “I was given the chance to contest Le Mans for the first time, and then we won. I’m very proud of the whole team and I can’t really believe it yet. Now I’m the youngest Le Mans winner – incredible.”
Patrick Dempsey, co-owner of Dempsey-Proton Racing, had this to say about his team’s against-all-odds win: “I’m lost for words. Everyone did a fantastic job – it was a victory for the whole team. The race was incredible – we made no mistakes and our work was rewarded with this great success. I can’t tell you how incredibly proud and happy I am for Porsche, too.”
The No. 99 Porsche 911 RSR of the Proton Competition customer team finished just one place away from the third step on the podium. Finishing fourth in class, the No. 99’s All-American team consisted of Patrick Long (Manhattan Beach, California), Porsche veteran pilot Spencer Pumpelly (Atlanta, Georgia) and rookie Timothy Pappas (Boston, Massachusetts).
“It was great fun driving the car here,” Patrick Long mused. “I particularly enjoyed the night stints. The lights on the new 911 RSR are a great development. We’re very pleased about our sister car’s victory in the GTE-Pro class.”
Patrick Long’s WeatherTech teammate in the GT Daytona class and Porsche Selected Driver Christina Nielsen (Denmark) finished in sixth place in the No. 80 Ebimotors Porsche 911 RSR. Christina ran the race along with teammates Fabio Babini (Italy) and Erik Maris (France).
“Sixth place is a very good result, because this was our first time at Le Mans,” explained Christina Nielsen. “We worked hard and made very few mistakes. I’m very proud of the whole team. We will improve and hopefully be back next year to compete.”
Long and Nielsen will resume their IMSA competition during the Six Hours of The Glen on the July 1st. Both drivers will team up once again in their Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
The No. 56 Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR finished in seventh place in GTE-Am class. Works driver Jörg Bergmeister (Germany), Egidio Perfetti (Norway) and Park Place Motorsports principal / driver Patrick Lindsey (Santa Barbara, California) shared driving duties in the No. 56 car.
Competing in the WEC during the 2018-2019 “Super Season,” Lindsey made his debut in the Sarthe 24-hour marathon.
“We experienced a race of mixed fortunes,” Jörg Bergmeister confessed. “At one point things looked really promising for us and we were within striking distance of second place.
“However, unfortunately we were hampered by brake problems towards the end of the race and fell back. But we’ve gained a lot of valuable experience, which will help us in the future.”
Bergmeister and Lindsey will return to North American shores (in their own Park Place GT3 R), as will Nielsen and Long, all four campaigning in their respective GT3 R cars at the six-hour endurance classic at Watkins Glen in two weeks.
Consisting of team pilots Mike Wainwright (Great Britain), Ben Barker (Great Britain) and Alex Davison (Australia), the No. 86 Gulf Racing customer team was on the receiving end of a punt by an errant car on the course. The accident knocked the No. 86 car all the way to the back of the field shortly after the race began.
The Gulf team’s pit crew fought tooth and nail to repair the car. Once the racecar got back out on track, the No. 86 Porsche clawed its way back up the leaderboard to finish in a very respectable tenth position – all things considered.
Speaking for the No. 86 team, Ben Barker asserted, “Unfortunately we couldn’t bring home the result we wanted after 24 hours. The car was very fast over the entire race distance, even after our accident. The team did a brilliant job and made no mistakes. The accident at the start was simply bad luck.”
As Porsche wins both 2018 Le Mans 24-Hour GT classes, the triumphant Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen automobile manufacturer stretches further ahead of its competitors in the drivers’ and manufacturers’ classifications of the FIA WEC world championship.
“Victory in the GTE-Pro and GTE-Am class underlines that we’re doing everything right at Porsche in both factory and customer sport,” declared Pascal Zurlinden, Director GT Factory Motorsport. “We were able to extend our lead in the manufacturers’ classification and we also moved into the lead of the drivers’ category. All in all, a perfect day.”
But perhaps Oliver Blume, CEO of Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, summed up the double-victory result best by concluding, “…Porsche belongs to Le Mans and Le Mans belongs to Porsche.”
Aaaah, there is no substitute. . .
- Christensen/Estre/Vanthoor (DK/F/B), Porsche 911 RSR, 344 laps
- Lietz/Bruni/Makowiecki (A/I/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 343 laps
- Hand/Müller/Bourdais (USA/D/F), Ford GT, 343 laps
- Pilet/Tandy/Bamber (F/GB/NZ), Porsche 911 RSR, 338 laps
- Ried/Andlauer/Campbell (D/F/AUS), Porsche 911 RSR, 335 laps
- Flohr/Castellacci/Fisichella (CH/I/I), Ferrari 488 GTE, 335 laps
- Keating/Bleekemolen/Stolz (USA/NL/D), Ferrari 488 GTE, 334 laps
- Long/Pappas/Pumpelly (USA/USA/USA), Porsche 911 RSR, 334 laps
- Babini/Nielsen/Maris (I/DK/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 332 laps
- Bergmeister/Lindsey/Perfetti (D/USA/N), Porsche 911 RSR, 332 laps
- Wainwright/Barker/Davison (GB/GB/AUS), Porsche 911 RSR, 324 laps