The Porsche 911 RSR of débutante Michael Christensen and his seasoned team-mate Richard Lietz finished second in the opening round of the 2015 World Endurance Championship.
At the six-hour race on the Silverstone Circuit, the Porsche works drivers of the #91 car clinched second in the GTE-Pro class in front of over 45,000 spectators. The 470 hp winning racer from Weissach was just ten seconds shy of the leader after 172 laps. In the sister 911 RSR, their French works driver colleagues Frédéric Makowiecki and Patrick Pilet had been running in the lead at the halfway mark, but ultimately crossed the line in seventh place.
Early in the race at the famous British circuit the #92 Porsche 911 RSR swept into the lead. After all the teams had completed their first pit stop, starting driver Patrick Pilet moved to the front of the strong GT Field for the first time. Frédéric Makowiecki defended the top position and handed the 911 RSR after his stint to his team-mate. While still running in first, Pilet was forced into the pits halfway through the race with a defective shock absorber. Repairs put them more than one lap down and cost them their chance of victory. Patrick Pilet said “That was bad luck. When you’re leading the race for such a long time, you want to win, of course. Still, compliments to our team. The strategy was good, the pit stops were perfect and our mechanics changed the broken shock absorbers in record time. Even so, the race for us was over. This wasn’t exactly how we’d hope to start the season, but we can build on today’s effort. Now we’re turning our attention to Spa.”
Frédéric Makowiecki was also upbeat, despite the problems experienced in #92 911 saying, “After we pitted because of the defective shock absorber our chances went up in smoke. From that point on we simply concentrated on bringing our car safely to the finish. The team put a great car on the track for us and we were definitely in winning form. Now we have to focus on Spa and hope for a better result on the fascinating race track.”
At that point, all hopes for the Porsche Manthey team rested on Michael Christensen and Richard Lietz in the #91 contender. The pair chased down their rivals in front, and put them under increasing pressure in the last two hours. Richard Lietz slipped into third place, with Michael Christensen snatching second in the final phase before going in pursuit of the leader. Putting in a faultless drive and consistently fast lap times, he finally brought home second place for the Porsche Manthey squad. Christensen told us “It was good start to the season. We had a very well set-up car and we were within striking distance to the top at all times. The whole package works. In an ideal situation, more would certainly have been possible. In the last hour of racing we tried everything to win. At the flag we were only seconds away from victory.”
Christensen’s co-driver Richard Lietz added “I’m very happy with my start and I managed to quickly make up positions. My stints were all very consistent. In my last stint I was running on used rubber from the qualifying because the regulations stipulate only a limited number of new tyres, but even then I was reasonably pleased. We did our best as a team and we were rewarded with second place. That’s not bad for a start.”
Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser, Head of Porsche Motorsport, went on to say “That was a perfect race for our number 91 car. The drivers, pit crew and engineers did a superb job. We’re very pleased with second place. And with the number 92 Porsche, we can’t fault the drivers’ performance, the strategy or the pit stops. We’ll now analyse the shock absorber problem and make sure it doesn’t happen again. All in all, it was a positive start to the season for us.”
In the GTE-Am class, the former Porsche junior Klaus Bachler, Christian Ried and Khaled Al Qubaisi finished fifth in the 911 RSR fielded by Porsche’s customer team Abu Dhabi Proton Racing. In the 911 campaigned by Dempsey Proton Racing, the American driver Patrick Dempsey, Porsche works driver Patrick Long and the German Marco Seefried secured sixth place.
Patrick Dempsey said “The start to the new season wasn’t easy. I wasn’t able to take part in the Le Castellet tests and could only arrive in Silverstone after the second practice. Under these circumstances I feel we did quite well. We improved from day to day and we’ve pulled together even more as a team. The support that Porsche has given us is fantastic. All in all, that was a good start to the season for us.” His co-driver and long time Porsche Factory stalwart Patrick Long said “It was a tough day for us. Apart from our unscheduled pit stop early on in the race where we had to make several minor changes to the car, everything actually ran according to plan. Working with Patrick and Marco went very well. Patrick did a great job. During his second stint, he was three seconds faster per lap compared to his first. As a team we can build on this – first in Spa, then at Le Mans. That’s our main goal for this season.”
1. Bruni/Vilander (I/SF), Ferrari 458 Italia, 172 laps
2. Christensen/Lietz (D/A), Porsche 911 RSR, 172
3. Rigon/Calado (I/GB), Ferrari F458 Italia, 172
4. Nygaard/Sörensen/Thiim (DK/DK/DK), Aston Martin Vantage, 171
5. Turner/Mücke (GB/D), Aston Martin Vantage, 171
6. MacDowall/Stanaway/Rees (GB/NZ/BRA), Aston Martin Vantage, 171
7. Makowiecki/Pilet (F/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 170
1. Lamy/Dalla Lana/Lauda (P/CAN/A), Aston Martin Vantage, 168 laps
2. Collard/Perrodo/Aguas (F/F/P), Ferrari F458 Italia, 168
3. Bertolini/Shaytar/Basov (I/RUS/RUS), Ferrari F458 Italia, 168
4. Castellacci/Goethe/Hall (I/D/GB), Aston Martin, 166
5. Ried/Bachler/Al Qubaisi (D/A/UAE), Porsche 911 RSR, 166
6. Dempsey/Long/Seefried (USA/USA/D), Porsche 911 RSR, 165
7. Roda/Ruberti/Poulsen (I/I/DK), Chevrolet Corvette, + 1,082