WEC : Fifth and seventh place for Porsche Penske Motorsport in Monza

Porsche 963, Porsche Penske Motorsport (#6), Kevin Estre (F), Andre Lotterer (D), Laurens Vanthoor (B)

– Both works cars accomplish technically flawless race
– Hertz Team Jota’s customer Porsche 963 finishes ninth
– Successful premiere for Proton Competition with the Porsche 963
– Triple success for the Porsche 911 RSR in the GTE Am category

The Porsche Penske Motorsport works team has finished the 6 Hours of Monza in fifth and seventh. The Porsche 963 fielded by the Hertz Team Jota customer outfit crossed the finish line on the Italian Grand Prix circuit in ninth place. At their debut outing in the Hypercar class, Proton Competition delivered a strong performance but had to retire early. Thanks to different pit stop strategies, all four hybrid prototypes from Weissach had at times led the field at round five of the FIA World Endurance Championship season. In the GTE Am category, the Porsche 911 RSR locked out the first three spots, with class victory going to Dempsey-Proton Racing.

In midsummer temperatures of around 34 degrees Celsius, Porsche Penske Motorsport’s two works cars lined up on the grid for the six-hour race in eighth and tenth position. The Porsche 963 campaigned by the customer team Hertz Team Jota had started from ninth position, with Proton Competition’s hybrid prototype on P12. By the first corner, all four had gained one position due to a collision in front of them. When a first safety car period ended after just under 30 minutes of racing, Porsche Penske Motorsport opted for different strategies for both race cars: The No. 6 car driven by Laurens Vanthoor pitted early only to refuel, while the No. 5 sister car completed its first stint as scheduled. Jota also called António Félix da Costa in early.

From that point on, the positions in the overall standings swapped constantly depending on the pit stop rhythm. The 506 kW (688 PS) Porsche 963 cars at times managed to maintain the pace of the leading pack and repeatedly appeared among the frontrunners. The No. 5 car shared by the works driver trio Fréderic Makowiecki (France), Michael Christensen (Denmark) and Dane Cameron (USA) battled to the end for fourth place on the 5.793-kilometre Grand Prix circuit but missed out by almost 14 seconds.

Luck was not on the side of Frenchman Kévin Estre, André Lotterer (Germany) and Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium). When Estré attempted to pit for a routine stop after a good two hours of racing, the lights at the entrance to the pit lane switched to red a few seconds earlier due to a full course yellow – caused by the accident with an LMP2 car. In order not to run out of fuel, the Frenchman had to make a so-called emergency stop. However, only a small amount of fuel is allowed as a bridging measure and tyre changes are prohibited. This made a second stop necessary, costing valuable time, one lap and the contact to the top. The No. 6 ultimately took the flag in seventh place.

« Fifth and seventh place reflect what we can currently achieve with our performance, » emphasises Urs Kuratle, Director Factory Motorsport LMDh. « We delivered a flawless race, and we were also very good from a technical and strategic standpoint. However, the yellow phases had their snags for us. Our customer team Jota had to deal with some difficulties during the race. Congratulations to Proton Competition: they were even able to lead for a short period at their maiden start in the big class. Then, they encountered technical hiccups, which we now need to analyse in greater detail. »

The Porsche fielded by Hertz Team Jota also spent stints among the leaders of the top Hypercar class, with the No. 38 prototype even briefly in the lead. After two hours, however, the steering wheel had to be changed during an additional stop and the hybrid system had to be reset. As a result, William Stevens from the UK, works driver António Félix da Costa from Portugal and the Porsche Motorsport Asia-Pacific selected driver Yifei Ye from China lost touch with the leaders. The trio crossed the finish line in ninth position.

Proton Competition gave a strong debut with the Porsche 963 in the Hypercar category. At their maiden outing with the hybrid prototype, works driver Gianmaria Bruni from Italy, Neel Jani from Switzerland and Englishman Harry Tincknell managed to stick with the leading group for quite some time. At the beginning of the fifth hour of racing, however, a defect that had not been analysed in detail led to an early retirement. The German customer squad had only taken delivery of the Porsche 963 shortly before the start of the weekend and used the race in Monza as a chance to test the car.

One-two-three in the GTE Am class for the Porsche 911 RSR
In the GTE Am class, Porsche customer teams locked out the first three positions with the ca. 378 kW (515 PS) 911 RSR. Class victory went to Dempsey-Proton Racing with drivers Mikkel Pedersen from Denmark, team owner Christian Ried from Germany and the former Porsche Junior Julien Andlauer from France. Iron Lynx clinched second place with Belgian Alessio Picariello and the two Italians Matteo Cressoni and Claudio Schiavoni, followed by GR Racing in third with UK drivers Ben Barker and Michael Wainwright as well as Italy’s Riccardo Pera.

Drivers’ comments on the race
Dane Cameron (Porsche 963 #5): « Fifth place for our number five Porsche here in Monza – in the end, it was a good day. We made smart tactical decisions during the race and executed them well. We were pretty much at the limit of our current capabilities. It’s a pity that towards the end, our chances of a podium finish slipped through our fingers like they did at Spa. Nevertheless, we made good progress with the Porsche 963 and with the development of the team. »

André Lotterer (Porsche 963 #6): « The race actually went smoothly for us. I’m pleased with my double stint. It was similar for my teammates. Unfortunately, we had some really bad luck with the yellow phases at the beginning. The field had split into two groups and our group was ahead. When there was an accident, the pit lane closed two seconds before we could get in – we were supposed to pit at exactly that moment. That threw us completely out of the race. »

António Félix da Costa (Porsche 963 #38): « We started the race on a strong note with clever strategic decisions, and even held the lead for a while. But then, we encountered software problems and had to make an extra stop to change the steering wheel and reboot everything. That cost us a lap and an additional drive-through penalty because the speed limiter wasn’t working properly. Still, we took the opportunity to turn a lot of laps and get to know the Porsche 963 and the race tyres a bit better. »

Neel Jani (Porsche 963 #99): « We all saw the Porsche 963 for the first time here in Monza. We started with the baseline setup in the free practice sessions and then tried something out for the race. That seemed to work well because after two or three hours we were in second place and even held the lead at times! We even managed to match the pace of the leading Toyota at one point – so it was a very positive race for us. It’s just a shame that a defect occurred. We could’ve been in the running for fifth or sixth place. That would’ve been a mega debut for us! »

Mikkel Pedersen (Porsche 911 RSR #77): « Everything simply fell into place today. I’m absolutely thrilled that we’re on the top of the podium. My teammates Christian Ried and Julien Andlauer did a fantastic job and the team ran a successful strategy. We’re having a fantastic day at Monza! »

Alessio Picariello (Porsche 911 RSR #60): « In all honesty, this success was a bit unexpected – at the beginning, we had some bad luck with our strategy. But then, fortune turned in our favour because we managed to make our pit stop just in time before the safety car period. That put us back in a good position. We were firing on all cylinders and managed to stand our ground in the leading group afterwards. I’m elated to achieve this result at the Iron Lynx team’s home race. »

Race results
Hypercar class:
1. Conway/Kobayashi/Lopez (UK/J/ARG), Toyota #7, 200 laps
2. Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen (I/E/DK), Ferrari #50, 200 laps
3. Di Resta/Jensen/Vergne (UK/DK/F), Peugeot #93, 200 laps
5. Cameron/Christensen/Makowiecki (USA/DK/F), Porsche 963 #5, 199 laps
7. Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor (F/D/B), Porsche 963 #6, 199 laps
9. Félix da Costa/Stevens/Ye (P/UK/CHN), Porsche 963 #38, 198 laps
DNF: Bruni/Jani/Tincknell (I/CH/UK), Porsche 963 #99

GTE Am class:
1. Andlauer/Pedersen/Ried (F/DK/D), Porsche 911 RSR #77, 185 laps
2. Picariello/Cressoni/Schiavoni (B/I/I), Porsche 911 RSR #60, 185 laps
3. Barker/Pera/Wainwright (UK/I/UK), Porsche 911 RSR #86, 184 laps
5. Bovy/Frey/Gatting (B/CH/DK), Porsche 911 RSR #85, 184 laps
8. Cairoli/Castro/Moura de Oliveira (I/DOM/P), Porsche 911 RSR #56, 183 laps

Holger Eckhardt,