WEC : The best Porsche 963 tackles the Monza race from eighth

Porsche 963, Porsche Penske Motorsport (#5), Dane Cameron (USA), Michael Christensen (DK), Frederic Makowiecki (F)

– Works cars qualify for grid rows four and five
– Customer Porsche 963 on positions nine and twelve
– Iron Dames’ Porsche 911 RSR again sets top qualifying time

Porsche Penske Motorsport will tackle round five of the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC from grid positions eight and ten. Porsche’s customer team Hertz Team Jota will start Sunday’s six-hour race at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza from P9. Proton Competition concluded its first qualifying session with the Porsche 963 in twelfth position. In the GTE Am category, the Porsche 911 RSR fielded by the Iron Dames squad clinched pole position in the WEC for the second time this season.

The Porsche Penske Motorsport works team faced difficult conditions during the qualifying for the six-hour race of the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC in Monza. In the 15-minute session, Frédéric Makowiecki clocked a lap time of 1:35.973 minutes at the wheel of the 506 kW (688 PS) Porsche 963. For the race in Monza, the vehicle forfeited 10 kW of engine power after the most recent adjustment of the so-called Balance of Performance (BoP). At 12:30 pm CEST on Sunday, the Frenchman and his works driver teammates Dane Cameron (USA) and Michael Christensen from Denmark will head into round five of the season from eighth position. Kévin Estre had to accept a lap time of 1:36.497 minutes. The hybrid prototype shared by the Frenchman and his fellow teammates Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) and André Lotterer from Germany will line up on the grid in tenth place. The final session on the 5.793-kilometre high-speed circuit in the Royal Park of Monza took place in midsummer conditions with air temperatures of almost 32 degrees Celsius, with the asphalt of the Grand Prix circuit reaching almost 50 degrees Celsius.

As the best customer team with the Porsche 963, Hertz Team Jota starts the race from ninth place. Yifei Ye, the selected driver from Porsche Motorsport Asia-Pacific, set a lap time of 1:36.188 minutes. The racing driver from China shares the cockpit with Englishman William Stevens and Portuguese works driver António Félix da Costa. At its debut in the Hypercar category, Proton Competition will tackle the race on Sunday from P12. The German customer team had only taken delivery of its Porsche 963 before the start of the race weekend. Qualifying driver Harry Tincknell from the UK posted a lap time of 1:36.668 minutes. He joins forces in the cockpit of the No. 99 hybrid race car with 2016 outright Le Mans winner Neel Jani from Switzerland and Italian works driver Gianmaria Bruni.

« This is not the qualifying result we’d hoped for however, our number 5 car has shown us where we’re placed at the moment, » outlines Urs Kuratle, Director Factory Motorsport LMDh. « The sister car wasn’t able to achieve the performance we need. Although the qualifying result is not the most important thing in a six-hour endurance race, it would be nice, of course, if we were further up the field with our cars. We focused on our race setup in today’s third free practice. Congratulations to the Hertz Team Jota, whose car is the second-best Porsche 963. Now I’m curious to see how our colleagues get on at the IMSA race in Mosport, Canada. »

Pole position for the 911 RSR of Iron Dames
In the GTE Am class, the Iron Dames squad notched up another top result: Sarah Bovy set the fastest time with the Porsche 911 RSR in 1:47.632 minutes. Joining forces with her teammates Michelle Gatting from Denmark and Rahel Frey from Switzerland, the Belgian will take up the race from pole position for the second time so far this WEC season. The last time the trio had achieved this was at the 12 Hours of Sebring in the USA. Proton team owner Christian Ried planted the No. 77 Porsche 911 RSR on the third grid spot in the GTE Am class with a time of 1:48.116 minutes. The German shares the 378 kW (515 PS) GTE racer with former Porsche Junior Julien Andlauer from France and Mikkel Pedersen from Denmark. GR Racing heads into the six-hour race from fifth place, with Project 1 – AO in tenth and Iron Lynx in twelfth.

Drivers’ comments after the qualifying
Frédéric Makowiecki (Porsche 963 #5): « We went out on track early because we wanted to keep the option open to use a fresh set of tyres for qualifying. However, it took longer than expected to set a lap time with the first set. That’s why we only stopped to adjust the tyre pressure – we’d hoped for a performance advantage. But that didn’t happen as quickly as we’d wanted. Under different circumstances, we could’ve been just ahead of the Cadillac. Still, it’s a long race. Now the ball is in our court because we should be pretty fast over each stint duration. »

Kévin Estre (Porsche 963 #6): « That was a tough qualifying. We only used one set of tyres. My lap was good. Unfortunately, it was only enough for tenth place, just behind the sister car. We noticed in the free practice sessions that we lacked some top speed compared to the other Porsche. We’ll now take a look at the reason for this. Still, the Porsche feels good, so that’s a positive sign. »

Yifei Ye (Porsche 963 #38): « After wrapping up the two practice sessions in second and sixth, I’m a bit disappointed with ninth place in qualifying. We were quite close to the top in free practice. Nevertheless, the actual qualifying went pretty well: the car felt competitive. Ninth place was the best we could do. For the race, our focus is now on strategy, tyre management and pit stops. After Spa and Le Mans, we tried out several promising things and are learning quite a lot. We’ll keep at it. »

Harry Tincknell (Porsche 963 #99): « We’re still getting to know the Porsche 963, we’re learning a lot and are trying out different things. Now we’ve got a feel for the hybrid prototype in qualifying. Compared to the test sessions, we’re a bit further behind than we’d hoped. Monza is a test weekend for us, so not every step will automatically mean progress. We’re now looking forward to our first race, where we get the chance to drive longer stints. That will definitely give us a lot more experience. »

Sarah Bovy (Porsche 911 RSR #85): « I’m over the moon and very proud of the team. When you have a great car and you’re on a circuit you like, going for top times is huge fun. But at the end of the day, it came down to being in the right place at the right time – I think in that respect we were the best today. Tomorrow we’ll concentrate on our race speed because it’s always very competitive in our class. We want to be consistently fast and avoid mistakes. We’ve learned a lot since the beginning of the season. I’m confident that everyone in the team will give their absolute utmost tomorrow. We’re facing a long, hot and tough race. I’m looking forward to this challenge. »

Christian Ried (Porsche 911 RSR #77): « That was a gripping qualifying with a red flag at exactly the wrong time – we were in the pits and couldn’t do a thing about it. After that it was difficult to find a clear lap in the heavy traffic out there. On my last attempt, I left a gap in front of me and that worked out pretty well. Now let’s see what happens. The race is six hours long… »

Qualifying results
Hypercar class:
1. Conway/Kobayashi/Lopez (UK/J/ARG), Toyota #7, 1:35.358 minutes
2. Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen (I/E/DK), Ferrari #50, 1:35.375 minutes
3. Buemi/Hartley/Hirakawa (CH/NZ/J), Toyota #8, 1:35.460 minutes
8. Cameron/Christensen/Makowiecki (USA/DK/F), Porsche 963 #5, 1:35.973 minutes
9. Félix da Costa/Stevens/Ye (P/UK/CHN), Porsche 963 #38, 1:36.188 minutes
10. Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor (F/D/B), Porsche 963 #6, 1:36.497 minutes
12. Bruni/Jani/Tincknell (I/CH/UK), Porsche 963 #99, 1:36.668 minutes

GTE Am class:
1. Bovy/Frey/Gatting (B/CH/DK), Porsche 911 RSR #85, 1:47.632 minutes
2. Al Harthy/Dinan/Eastwood (OMN/USA/IRL), Aston Martin #25, 1:48.058 minutes
3. Andlauer/Pedersen/Ried (F/DK/D), Porsche 911 RSR #77, 1:48.116 minutes
5. Barker/Pera/Wainwright (UK/I/UK), Porsche 911 RSR #86, 1:48.464 minutes
10. Cairoli/Castro/Moura de Oliveira (I/DOM/P), Porsche 911 RSR #56, 1:49.232 minutes
12. Picariello/Cressoni/Schiavoni (B/I/I), Porsche 911 RSR #60, 1:49.883 minutes

Holger Eckhardt,