It is with a heavy heart that we must say goodbye to the Porsche 911 RSR factory squad after over a decade of incredible racing. The 991-generation 911 RSR will soldier on for one more season in the GTE Am class, but GTE Pro’s time in the sun has faded to black. We will never again see the likes of Christensen, Bruni, Lietz, or Estre step behind the wheel of this quasi-prototype mid-engine 911 in competition. It’s been a wild ride, and it ended on something of a sour note. Porsche ended the season just 12 points behind Ferrari in the constructors’ championship, and drivers Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen just 3 points behind the winning Ferrari duo of Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado.
The Porsche team had fielded a fairly competitive car in the season-ending 8 Hours of Bahrain event. From the outset it was clear that Ferrari had a fast car, but Porsche seemed to be able to work better on tires and fuel for long run stints. As it happened, however, the Porsche squad suffered from incredibly poor luck and timing. Twice the team found itself having pitted for fuel under green flag conditions only to reemerge to soon encounter a full course yellow, dropping them down the order and out of contention. Twice the cars fought back, and twice they were denied. Estre and Christensen went on to finish third, while Bruni and Lietz finished fourth. It looked like the #51 Ferrari would retire from the race, but it soldiered on to finish fifth, barely grabbing the drivers’ title.
“It’s a disappointing result for us. We really wanted to win the title as a fitting farewell to the works-911,” concludes Thomas Thomas Laudenbach. The Vice President of Porsche Motorsport adds: “We did a flawless job and did our very best – but we weren’t in a position to win on our own merits. We were really unlucky twice with the timing of the yellow flags, so it was a disappointing swan song performance from the GTE-Pro category. Still, let’s not forget that we won our class at Le Mans last June with the 911 RSR.”
“At the end of the day, we were too slow and the rivals had more luck with the yellow phases,” states Alexander Stehlig, Director Factory Motorsport FIA WEC. “We need to find out whether our lack of pace was due to the tires or the BoP classification. We’re sad. We’d imagined a different outcome to wrap up this great factory programme.”
Meanwhile things went quite differently for Porsche in the GTE Am category where the Project 1 customer team grabbed an impressive 1-2 victory with driver squad Nicolas Leutwiler, Mikkel Pedersen, and Matteo Cairoli teaming up in the #46 911 RSR to take the win. Americans Gunnar Jeannette and PJ Hyett teamed with Brit Ben Barnicoat to come in the runner up position in the 8-hour enduro.
“Congratulations to our strong customers,” comments Thomas Laudenbach. Alexander Stehlig adds: “Project 1 achieved a one-two result – that’s precisely what every team wants at the end of a season. The squad will be feeling highly motivated as it turns its attention to the 2023 season, which marks the final year for the 911 RSR in the GTE-Am class of the FIA WEC.”
Porsche had some uneven races in the GTE Am category this year, with a few highs and some pretty low lows. The best placed Porsche team in GTE Am was the Dempsey Proton #77 team, which came home in fourth place with 83 points. Project 1’s #46 car, meanwhile, finished fifth with 71 points.
Comments on the race
Michael Christensen (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “From a driving and strategic perspective, we did our absolute best. We lost a lot of ground early on due to bad luck with the caution phase. Basically, it was game over by then. It’s such a shame but that’s just how it goes some days.”
Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “This is not how we imagined it. We came here to win both titles—and now we stand here empty-handed. We just didn’t have the speed in the final race, so we tried to do something strategic, but luck wasn’t on our side. We tried our very best. Unfortunately, Ferrari was faster than us in the second half of the season.”
Gian Maria Bruni (Porsche 911 RSR #91):“It was close in the end – but that doesn’t change the overall outcome. Our car felt good in the race. We had to compensate for some absences in our pit crew due to illness. Even the rookies who stepped in at short notice did an impeccable job. We did everything we could, it just wasn’t quite enough. Thank you to the FIA WEC works team for an extraordinary time. Now, we’re looking forward to a new era with exciting prototypes.”
Richard Lietz (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “Despite doing everything right we just didn’t have a chance. I’m sure many people could recognize why that was. I didn’t understand the handling of the Balance of Performance this year. I wish our colleagues who are going on to work on the 963 next year better luck with the BoP.”
Matteo Cairoli (Porsche 911 RSR #46):“In the last race of the season, we finally clinched our first win. It really doesn’t get better than that. The whole weekend ran like clockwork. It was so much fun to drive the 911 RSR on the track. My teammates did a fantastic job in the cockpit and our entire team did everything right. We deserve this success. A one-two result at the end of the year – you can’t ask for more than that.”
1. Molina/Fuoco (E/I), Ferrari 488 GTE #52, 231 laps
2. Milner/Tandy (USA/UK), Corvette C8.R #64, 230 laps
3. Christensen/Estre (DK/F), Porsche 911 RSR #92, 230 laps
4. Bruni/Lietz (I/A), Porsche 911 RSR #91, 230 laps
5. Pier Guidi/Calado (I/UK), Ferrari 488 GTE #51 , 227 laps
1 Cairoli/Pedersen/Leutwiler (I/DK/CH), Porsche 911 RSR #46, 226 laps
2 Hyett/Jeannette/Barnicoat (USA/USA/UK), Porsche 911 RSR #56, 226 laps
3 Bovy/ Frey/Gatting (B/CH/DK), Ferrari 488 GTE #85, 226 laps
6 Wainwright/Barker/Pera (UK/UK/I), Porsche 911 RSR #86, 226 laps
8 Ried/Priaulx/Tincknell ( D/UK/UK), Porsche 911 RSR #77, 226 laps
12. Poordad/Lindsey/Heylen (USA/USA/B), Porsche 911 RSR #88, 224 laps