Challenging two-pronged programme for Porsche Penske Motorsport

 – Works team competes on both sides of the Atlantic
– Porsche travels to round two of the FIA WEC as the leaders
– First World Endurance Championship event in Emilia-Romagna
– Hertz Team Jota and Proton Competition compete with three more 963
– Manthey’s Porsche 911 GT3 R goes up against LMGT3 brands

Porsche Penske Motorsport is determined to defend its lead at round two of the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC. The winners of the opening round in Qatar take on the competition in the top Hypercar class with two ca. 500 kW (680 PS) Porsche 963 race cars. On the same weekend, the Porsche Penske Motorsport crew will race in Long Beach on the west coast of the USA. There, they aim to repeat last year’s success in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The Italian region of Emilia-Romagna hosts the FIA WEC for the first time on the Formula 1 circuit.

The Porsche Penske Motorsport works team spent two days of testing in preparation for the debut of the FIA WEC in Imola. In the second week of March, the Porsche factory drivers covered well over 1,000 kilometres in different conditions and collected extensive data for optimising the vehicle setup. The Hertz Team Jota customer team also took this opportunity to get their first impressions of the new racetrack on the 2024 WEC calendar.

« Our clear objective is to immediately follow up with another top result after our good start to the season in Qatar and consolidate our position at the top of the championship, » explains Thomas Laudenbach, Vice President Porsche Motorsport. « The track characteristics in Imola are completely different to those in Doha. Still, we’re determined to be a serious contender for another victory in Italy. It’ll be an intense and exciting weekend for Porsche and our Porsche Penske Motorsport works team. While the WEC team is fighting for championship points in Imola, our IMSA crew in Long Beach is aiming to repeat last year’s success. We want to be successful on both sides of the Atlantic next weekend. »

« Our team went testing last month on the Imola racetrack and gained enormously valuable insights. We’re heading to the second round of the season well prepared, » says Urs Kuratle. « Our Hertz Team Jota customer team also tapped the full potential of the Porsche 963 at the season opener in Qatar, » the Director of Factory Motorsport LMDh adds. « Our goal is to once again make the most of the potential in Imola and defend our world championship lead. At the same time, we’ll be looking across the pond, where our global team Porsche Penske Motorsport contests the IMSA race in Long Beach at the same time. So far, our 2024 record looks very good. We want to continue this. »

The race
The six-hour event in Imola is considered the home race of Porsche’s rival Ferrari – as underlined by the name of the permanent racetrack: Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari. Opened in 1953, the 4.909-kilometre circuit with its 17 corners has hosted 30 Formula 1 Grands Prix. Imola is famous for its passages ‘Tamburello’, ‘Tosa’ and ‘Rivazza’, among other things.

Due to the nature of the asphalt, the teams expect significantly higher tyre wear during the race in Italy compared to the season opener in Qatar. The storied circuit also features an interesting mix of fast corners and narrow chicanes, some of which are edged by high curbs. The Autodromo in northern Italy leaves little room for error. On the traditional racing circuit, there are only small run-off areas and many deep gravel beds.

Drivers’ comments ahead of the race
Matt Campbell (Porsche 963 #5): « We started the season really well in both the FIA WEC and the IMSA series. Our global team has achieved some big successes and now leads both championships. Obviously, we want to continue our good form in Imola. The tests we did a few weeks back were extremely informative. The last time I raced at Imola was in 2020 and I really like the track. Now we’re heading there for the first WEC event. I’m positive that we’ll treat the fans to some action-packed racing. »

Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 963 #6): « We won the opening round in Qatar and now travel to Imola as the championship leaders. We want to follow up with another win in Italy – but it won’t be easy because the competition is strong. The circuit is basically the opposite of the one in Qatar: Old-school layout, real curbs, and hardly any run-off zones. I really like it and I’m looking forward to seeing what the competition brings in Imola. It will be a big, beautiful challenge for all teams and drivers. »

Will Stevens (Porsche 963 #12): « I’m very much looking forward to Imola. I’ve never raced on the track before but we tested there a few weeks ago so we already have a basic idea of what we’re up against. The track is mercilessly unforgiving of mistakes. For me as a driver, something like this is a big challenge. We were strong and successful at the start of the season. It can now continue like this. »

Jenson Button (Porsche 963 #38): « I have mixed emotions going back to Imola. It’s the place where I scored my first pole position in Formula One with the legendary Michael Schumacher in a Ferrari starting in P2. It’s the 20th anniversary of that first pole in Imola but this year also marks the 30th anniversary of the loss of two greats, Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna. With this in mind, I’m sure there will be very mixed emotions for lots of the motorsport community returning to Imola this year. The track overall is a great one to drive – very fast, very flowing and it will be really challenging in a hypercar but I can’t wait. I’m really looking forward to getting out there with the team and seeing what both cars can do. »

Neel Jani (Porsche 963 #99): « The last time I competed in Imola was almost 20 years ago, back then as a Friday tester in Formula 1 and as a driver in what was then known as GP2. I’m super excited to see how we’ll adapt to the track as a team. Unlike some other competitors, we didn’t go testing there. In the free practice sessions, we need to work as efficiently as possible to get up to speed quickly. We had a lot of trouble with the tyres in Qatar but we also learned a lot. I’m sure things will go better now. I’m looking forward to Imola and the Italian fans, who will definitely create a great vibe. »

Morris Schuring (Porsche 911 GT3 R #91): « I’ve driven in Imola several times with the Porsche Cups, among others. I love that the track is old-school. When our GT3 cars and the hypercars meet there, things can get exciting. The circuit is narrow with gravel beds right next to it. We have to ensure there are no mistakes while lapping traffic. Our test in Imola went well. I hope that we can make the most of our potential and score maximum points. »

Joel Sturm (Porsche 911 GT3 R #92): « After our victory in Qatar, we’re eager to do it again in Imola. We have high expectations, even though we know we’ll have to fight hard next weekend. The 60 kilograms of success ballast that we have to take on after our class victory in Doha will certainly slow us down. Still, we’re doing everything we can to defend our top spot in the world championship. »

An overview of the vehicles and drivers
Hypercar class (Porsche 963)
Porsche Penske Motorsport #5: Matt Campbell (AUS) / Michael Christensen (DK) / Frédéric Makowiecki (F)
Porsche Penske Motorsport #6: Kévin Estre (F) / André Lotterer (D) / Laurens Vanthoor (B)
Hertz Team Jota #12: Callum Ilott (UK) / Norman Nato (F) / Will Stevens (UK)
Hertz Team Jota #38: Jenson Button (UK) / Phil Hanson (UK) / Oliver Rasmussen (DK)
Proton Competition #99: Julien Andlauer (F) / Neel Jani (CH) / Harry Tincknell (UK)

LMGT3 class (Porsche 911 GT3 R)
Manthey EMA #91: Richard Lietz (A) / Morris Schuring (NL) / Yasser Shahin (AUS)
Manthey PureRxcing #92: Klaus Bachler (A) / Alex Malykhin (UK) / Joel Sturm (D)

Holger Eckhardt,