PREVIEW: 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans – Porsche Motorsport

The 24 Hours of Le Mans will see 62 cars racing across four classes at the 87th running of the race. To keep things simple this year, we will be focusing our coverage on the GT class, and more specifically, the drivers and teams that will be using Porsche machinery.

Porsche 911 RSR, Porsche GT Team (91), Gianmaria Bruni (I), Richard Lietz (A), Frédéric Makowiecki (F)
© Porsche Motorsport
Porsche GT Team (Manthey) Porsche 911 RSR
91 Richard Lietz – Gianmaria Bruni – Frédéric Makowiecki
92 Michael Christensen – Kévin Estre – Laurens Vanthoor

Porsche returns to Le Mans with a four-car works squad for the second year in a row.

The German marque remains dedicated to providing a significant factory presence at Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship with their 911 RSR.

Porsche has already sewn up the WEC Super Season GTE manufacturer’s title, with the driver’s crown likely with Estre and Christensen at the top of the standings ahead of teammates Bruni and Lietz. IMSA Porsche regular Laurens Vanthoor will join Estre and Christensen in the #91 car, hoping for a repeat of their success last year.

Michael Christensen said, “I’m super excited. It’s a very special feeling to return as last year’s winner to this venue. If you’ve conquered this huge challenge and climbed to the top podium step, you want to experience it over and over again. Aside from this, it would also yield us the drivers’ world champion title. That would fulfil another dream.”

Porsche 911 RSR, Porsche GT Team (92), Michael Christensen (DK), Kévin Estre (F), Laurens Vanthoor (B)
© Porsche Motorsport

Fred Makowiecki will once again join Lietz and Bruni in the #92 911 RSR, which this year runs with a livery that celebrates the manufacturer’s title. With a vast points advantage in the driver’s championship, Porsche will go all out for the class win.

Makowiecki said, “Le Mans is the highlight of every race season. Every driver thinks this, but even more so for me as a Frenchman. Porsche arrives as the world champions, so we have less pressure than usual. Ever since I started racing, I’ve been trying to win the Le Mans 24 Hours finally. I think the conditions are particularly good this year because everyone is in a great mood and relatively relaxed; This often has a positive effect on the race.”

Porsche 911 RSR, Porsche GT Team (93), Earl Bamber (NZ), Patrick Pilet (F), Nick Tandy (GB)
© Porsche Motorsport
Porsche GT Team (CORE) Porsche 911 RSR
93 Nick Tandy – Earl Bamber – Patrick Pilet
94 Sven Müller – Mathieu Jaminet – Dennis Olsen

The remaining Porsche IMSA squad joins the WEC crews to complete the four-car assault on the greatest motor race in the world. The CORE-run team will race in a livery that pays homage to the successes of the Brumos team, a four-time Daytona 24 Hours winner. Bamber and Tandy are again teamed with Pilet, while two Le Mans rookies join Muller in the shape of Jaminet and Olsen, both a product of the much-lauded “Porsche Young Professionals” driver academy.

Porsche 911 RSR, Porsche GT Team (94), Sven Müller (D), Mathieu Jaminet (F), Dennis Olsen (N)
© Porsche Motorsport

“Le Mans is the biggest race for us,” said Kiwi, Earl Bamber. “For the past few weeks, Porsche has been on a real high, not least thanks to our victories in the USA. Now, we’re travelling to Le Mans with four cars decked out in awesome designs. Even at the pre-test, the fans were delighted.”

Tandy and Pilet took the GTLM win at Sebring, with Vanthoor and Bamber jumping to the top of the IMSA driver standings, following wins at Long Beach and Mid-Ohio.

Porsche 911 RSR, Dempsey Proton Racing (77), Christian Ried (D), Matt Campbell (AUS), Julien Andlauer (F)
© Porsche Motorsport
Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR
77 Matt Campbell – Julien Andlauer – Christian Ried
88 Matteo Cairoli – Giorgio Roda – Satoshi Hoshino
99 Patrick Long – Nic Jonsson – Tracy Krohn

The Dempsey-Proton squad have had a rollercoaster ride during the WEC Super Season. While leading the championship last year, the team lost of all of their points following a data-logger infraction discovered at the Six Hours of Fuji; this included the points haul for the #77 squad’s class win at Le Mans. Since then, the team has worked hard to make up lost ground, and at La Sarthe this year will enter four Porsche 911 RSR, three under the Patrick Dempsey backed Dempsey-Proton Racing, and one racing under the Proton Competition banner.

Proton stalwart Matt Campbell said, “We won the GTE-Am class at Le Mans last year. That was a huge triumph that we’re keen to repeat. But many, many factors play a role over the 24 hours; and you can’t influence some of them. We’ll have a fast car, and we’ll try to get the most out of what’s possible again this year.”

Sharing the wheel of the #77 car is team owner Christian Ried, Matt Campbell and Porsche Junior Julien Andlauer from France. In the #88 sister car, Matteo Cairoli joins forces with the Japanese driver Satoshi Hoshino and the Italian Giorgio Roda.

Porsche 911 RSR, Dempsey Proton Racing (88), Matteo Cairoli (I), Giorgio Roda (I), Satoshi Hoshino (J)
© Porsche Motorsport

Italian Cairoli told us, “This will be my third start at the Le Mans 24 Hours. There’s simply no other race in the world that is comparable. My racing calendar this year is full; I’m constantly on the go for my job. But if there is one event you don’t want to miss out on, then it’s the Le Mans classic. I can’t imagine anything more wonderful than going full-tilt on this extraordinary track for 24 hours.”

Porsche 911 RSR, Dempsey Proton Racing (99), Patrick Long (USA), Tracy Krohn (USA), Niclas Jönsson (S)
© Porsche Motorsport

Porsche works driver Patrick Long shares the #99 cockpit with fellow American Tracy Krohn and Swedish driver Niclas Jönsson.

“This is my 16th time in a row at Le Mans. No other North American has managed this, and that makes me very proud,” reflected Long. “I have a special relationship to Le Mans, because in 1999, early in my racing career, I lived there and learned a great deal about motor racing. This year I share a car with Tracy Krohn and Niclas Jönsson for the first time. I’ve already contested several races against these guys. Now we’re finally a team. That’ll be very interesting.”

Porsche 911 RSR, Proton Competition (78), Louis Prette (I), Philippe Prette (I), Vincent Abril (F)
© Porsche Motorsport
Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR
78 Vincent Abril – Louis Prette – Philippe Prette

Representing Proton Competition, the Italian father-son duo Louis and Philippe Prette as well Vincent Abril compete in the #78 Porsche 911 RSR. The ex-Ferrari Challenge drivers will join former Bentley factory driver Abril for their first attempt at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, their lack of endurance experience will probably be a disadvantage.

24 Hour rookie Louis Prette remarked, “We three drivers in the number 78 car are all Le Mans rookies. We will enjoy our first race at this historic venue. At the pre-test, we familiarised ourselves with the Porsche 911 RSR. The car is a force to be reckoned with; because we lack experience, our expectations for the race are not too high. Still, Le Mans is always good for a surprise. If we make it to the finish unscathed, perhaps we’ll manage one.”

#56 Porsche 911 RSR Team Project 1 Art Car
© Team Project 1
Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR Art Car
56 Jörg Bergmeister – Patrick Lindsey – Egidio Perfetti

The Project 1 team will be fighting for the title in their first season in the WEC with works driver Jörg Bergmeister as well as IMSA regular Patrick Lindsey and the Norwegian Egidio Perfetti. The squad heads into the “Superfinale” leading the team and driver’s classifications, so they will be doing everything that they can to finish the race in the top five. The #56 911 RSR will appear as an Art Car at this year’s competition. The American pop art artist Richard Phillips created the distinctive design that was unveiled at the Le Mans pre-tests last week.

Jörg Bergmeister observed, “You can’t plan for success at Le Mans. It’s always a huge achievement to get the car across the line after 24 hours. Our focus is to finish the race with the stunning Art Car. If we succeed and maintain a decent position, then our chances of winning the championship look good. That’s exactly what we want to do.”

Porsche 911 RSR, Gulf Racing (86), Ben Barker (GB), Thomas Preining (A), Michael Wainwright (GB)
© Porsche Motorsport
Gulf Racing Porsche 911 RSR
86 Ben Barker – Thomas Preining – Michael Wainright

Porsche Young Professional Thomas Preining shares driving duties in Gulf Racing’s #86 911 RSR with the two British drivers Benjamin Barker and team co-owner Michael Wainwright. Austrian Preining, who won the 2018 Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland, has been brought into the team to replace Alex Davison.

So, Porsche, the most successful manufacturer to race at Le Mans, has a strong contingent of cars and drivers, but they have stiff competition from the likes of Ford, Ferrari and Chevrolet, all of whom put in some fantastic performances at the official test last weekend.

Pascal Zurlinden (Director GT Factory Motorsports)
© Porsche Motorsport

Finally, Porsche Motorsport GT boss Pascal Zurlinden had this to say ahead of the race, “We‘ve experienced unprecedented success this season. And our American Porsche GT Team is at an all-time high after three straight wins. All of the drivers, both teams and everyone involved are heading to the biggest race of the year feeling confident and motivated. When facing such a challenge, it doesn’t get much better than this.”