Everything You Need to Know Before Le Mans 2019
The Overview For Porsche
The 24 Hours of Le Mans on 15/16 June marks the final round of the 2018/2019 Super Season of the FIA World Endurance Championship. After the Porsche GT Team clinched the manufacturers’ title in the FIA WEC at the previous six-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium), the focus now turns to the duel between the Porsche works pilots for the drivers’ world championship title.
At the 24-hour race, the championship drivers’ title will go to either Kévin Estre and Michael Christensen in the No. 92 car, or Gianmaria Bruni and the Austrian Richard Lietz. As last year’s Le Mans winners, Porsche will campaign four works vehicles in the GTE-Pro class, like in 2018. Three customer squads field another six sports cars from Weissach at the Le Mans classic. Thus, a total of ten Porsche 911 RSR racers will tackle the race on the legendary Circuit des 24 Heures in the French Departement Sarthe.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is considered the most venerable long-distance event in the world. The first running of the race was in 1923 to showcase automotive innovation, durability and performance. The only years the classic was not contested in the city in north-western France was in 1936 (general strike in France) and between 1940 and 1948 (WWII and reconstruction). This year marks the 87th running of the Le Mans 24-hour race. On the afternoon of 15 June, 62 vehicles will head off into the race in four classes – the represents a record starting field on the 13.626-kilometre racetrack. The course is a combination of permanent racetrack (Circuit Bugatti) and public roads that are closed to traffic during the event. The famous Mulsanne straight – also known as Hunaudières – usually serves as the main route between Le Mans and Tours. The fast Porsche curves are famous and notorious. High speeds and narrow run-off zones guarantee extra thrills and spectacular racing.
The Porsche GT Team
The 2018 winners, Michael Christensen (Denmark), Kévin Estre (France) and Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium), join forces again in the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR. The No. 91 sister car is driven by Gianmaria Bruni (Italy) and Richard Lietz (Austria) as well as Frédéric Makowiecki (France), who supported them at last year’s Le Mans endurance race. The two 911 from the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will be decked out in the livery of the highly successful North American team, Brumos Racing. Sharing the cockpit of the No. 93 car are Earl Bamber (New Zealand), Nick Tandy (Great Britain) and Patrick Pilet (France). The youngest Porsche crew, Sven Müller (Germany) and the two Porsche Young Professionals Mathieu Jaminet (France) and Dennis Olsen (Norway), share the No. 94 cockpit. The Porsche GT Team from the U.S. endurance series recently won the three races at Sebring, Long Beach and Mid-Ohio.
The Customer Teams
With support from the American actor Patrick Dempsey, the Porsche customer team Proton Racing faces its largest undertaking by now at the Le Mans 24-hour race. The squad from the Swabian town of Ummendorf fields four Porsche 911 RSR. Sharing the wheel of the No. 77 car is team owner Christian Ried (Germany), Porsche Young Professional Matt Campbell (Australia) and Porsche Junior Julien Andlauer from France. In the No. 88 sister car, Porsche Young Professional Matteo Cairoli (Italy) joins forces with Satoshi Hoshino from Japan and the Italian Giorgio Roda. Porsche works driver Patrick Long (USA) shares the No. 99 cockpit with his compatriot Tracy Krohn and Niclas Jönsson (Sweden). Representing Proton Competition, the Italian father-son duo Louis and Philippe Prette as well Vincent Abril (France) compete in the No. 78 Porsche 911 RSR.
The Project 1 team fights for the title in the GTE-Am class with works driver Jörg Bergmeister (Germany) as well as Patrick Lindsey (USA) and Egidio Perfetti (Norway). In their maiden season in the FIA WEC, the customer squad from Lohne in Germany heads to the final round at Le Mans leading the team and drivers’ classifications. Project 1 lines up on the grid with the No. 56 Porsche 911 RSR painted as an Art Car. The American pop art artist Richard Phillips created the distinctive design that was unveiled at the Le Mans pre-tests on 2 June. Porsche Young Professional Thomas Preining (Austria) shares driving duties in Gulf Racing’s vehicle (No. 86) with the two British drivers Benjamin Barker and Michael Wainwright.
Porsche’s Past Success at the 24 Hours of Le Mans
Porsche is by far the most successful marque in the almost 100-year history of the long-distance race in France. The sports car manufacturer has notched up 19 overall victories and 107 class wins. Porsche drivers have set many records on the storied racetrack. Hans Herrmann (Germany) and Richard Attwood (Great Britain) achieved the first overall victory for Porsche at Le Mans at the wheel of a 917K. A year later, Helmut Marko (Austria) and Gijs van Lennep (Netherlands) set a distance record (5.335.31 kilometres) in an identical car that remained unbroken for 39 years. Prior to this, Britain’s Jackie Oliver posted a lap time of 3:13.600 minutes in the Porsche 917LH – an achievement that has yet to be matched in an official session. In 2018, Gianmaria Bruni set a new record for GT cars at Le Mans with a qualifying lap time of 3:47.504 minutes.
The Porsche 911 RSR
The latest Porsche 911 RSR celebrated its debut in the WEC Sports Car World Championship at Silverstone in 2017. In the current 2018/2019 Super Season, the racer from Weissach has clinched first and second in the GTE-Pro class at Le Mans as well as the GTE-Am category class win. The water-cooled four-litre boxer engine is based on the seventh generation of the iconic 911 sports car and produces around 510 hp depending on the restrictor. The works vehicles tackle the 2019 Le Man race decked out in special liveries. The two Porsche 911 RSR from the FIA WEC bear the world champion logo on the roof, with gold stripes to symbolise the title victory. The sister cars from North America will race in the same Brumos finish that was used at the first two races of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season on the storied Daytona and Sebring racetracks.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans takes off on Saturday, June 15, 2019, at 3pm local time. Just one free practice is held on the previous Wednesday, June 12, at 4pm. The three qualifying sessions take place on Wednesday, June 12, at 10pm as well as Thursday (13 June) at 7pm and 10pm. Another highlight of the event is the drivers’ parade in the Le Mans city centre on June 14 from 5pm. The sports channel Eurosport broadcasts the free practice, qualifying sessions and the entire race live on its Eurosport 1 channel and as a live stream in Eurosport Player. The pay-TV streaming service Motorsport.TV also offers live footage of all sessions for a fee, as does the FIA WEC app. The German free-to-air station SPORT1 televises extensive highlights on Monday, June 17, from 8.30pm as well as in the Porsche GT Magazine on Wednesday, June 19, from 11pm. The pay-TV channel SPORT1+ will show a roundup of the race action on Monday, June 17, from 7.15pm. Porsche Conshohocken will host a Le Mans watch party on Saturday, June 15 starting at 9:00 AM EST.