Porsche factory driver Richard Lietz believes the new 911 RSR will be a more consistent package than its predecessor, ahead of the car’s highly-anticipated debut in tomorrow’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The old-model 911 RSR was a huge success, winning GT Drivers and Manufacturers titles in the FIA World Endurance Championship and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2015, plus the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Daytona at the first attempt.
But following a difficult 2016 season, the German manufacturer has moved to replace it with a new mid-engined model, also called the 911 RSR, which Lietz believes will be an easier car to handle over long-runs.
“For me, the car is a step in terms of consistency and for a driver it’s easier to do longer runs, especially for the WEC and the long distance races it should be less demanding,” he told Sportscar365.
“It’s a complete package, with the rear-engined car we were limited by the rear diffuser because with there was the engine, so we couldn’t have the right angle and the right length and everything which is possible from the homologation side.
“Balance-wise, with new tires if you put the 911 from 2016 next to the 911 from 2017 together, all in a perfect setup, you will enjoy both, it’s just that the [the new car] used the complete possibility of the homologation and the regulations. I think it’s a positive step.”
Lietz, who was present for the vast majority of the car’s 30,000 miles of testing, added that moving the engine forwards would likely have further knock-on effects.
“I think it’s easier to do the tires in general, maybe it’s also easier for the tire suppliers to build tires for us because the rear-engined car was I would say a little bit exotic in the racing world,” he said.
“We needed to be treated special as we had a special engine placement, so I think now it’s more normal and easier to build a tire for us.”
Patrick Pilet was the fastest of the Porsches in qualifying and will start fifth in the No. 911 car, as the Ford GT locked out the first three positions.
The Frenchman agreed that the car is a more user-friendly prospect than the older model and was encouraged with its long-term prospects.
“From our side, the car is running well, it’s a great evolution of the 911,” Pilet told Sportscar365.
“You still feel like you’re in a Porsche, but it’s a lot easier in many aspects, especially for drivers to handle the car, to be directly on pace and to have more confidence in the fast corners, so it’s a good car.
“We are always looking backwards, especially when you have a lot of success with a car. It’s always a bit difficult to change, but we’re also really excited about new toys coming.
“My old car will be in my garage soon, so I still have for my myself in the future to enjoy it, but you have to turn the page, it’s like this all the time.
“We always regret the old car until you win with the new one, so I hope we win quickly to forget the old one a bit quicker!”
Pilet joined Lietz and Nick Tandy in the Rolex 24 class-winning car in 2014, but downplayed hopes of winning on debut at Daytona with two successive models, as the older car had already completed a full season in the WEC before arriving in Florida for the first time.
“Now it’s completely different, for sure we’re coming with a brand-new car with really no experience of endurance races, not like in ’14 where we had some feedback from Le Mans,” he said.
“Also from competition would be even more difficult this year, especially Ford with four cars and as you can see, they are really strong, I think nobody knows except them the real potential of the car.”