The new mid-engined Porsche 911 RSR broke through for its first victory at the last round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Lime Rock Park, a win which drivers Patrick Pilet and Dirk Werner say is due to the constant development that Porsche has put into its revolutionary new design.
Breaking the mold of what is expected of a 911 with the mid-engine design, the new-for-2017 iteration of Porsche’s flagship model has been quick since its competition debut at Daytona in January, where Pilet and Werner scored a runner-up finish.
Strong performances in subsequent races, including a sting of poles in both WeatherTech Championship and FIA World Endurance Championship competition, seemed to predict positive results to come, and the CORE autosport-run factory squad put all of the pieces together in a dominant 1-2 result at Lime Rock last month.
For Pilet, who has been a part of the development of this car from the onset, the evolution of the revolutionary new 911 has been a remarkable process.
“I was there from the beginning on when it was just on the paper,” Pilet told Sportscar365. “It was more than two years ago, just some pictures of the car, some ideas.
“Then I had the first drive of the car in Weissach for the rollout. It was something special.
“I did a lot of testing at Lausitzring, that was the first test, and I drove only at the end of the season. I’ve seen a huge evolution during the testing process and the end of the process.
“For sure the car looks the same because you have to homologate the bodywork, the parts, but we change many small details.
“If we compare since Daytona, the first test of the season and now, I think we’ve learned a lot about the car and how the car needs to be set up to be quick and efficient.”
“It’s completely different than the old one, especially on the rear diffuser.
“That’s where we switched the engine position. It’s not just about weight distribution, because it’s not a huge difference if you take the percentage, but clearly the downforce is. The car is a lot more balanced.”
His co-driver Werner, who has significant Porsche experience on his resume prior to a recent lengthy run with BMW, said the changes in engine placement and increased downforce make this Porsche unlike any he had driven previously.
“For me, the first experience was in December at the Daytona pre-test,” Werner told Sportscar365. “It was not an easy switch for me to come from a different car with different behavior.
“My goal from the beginning was to get used to the car as much as possible and it really helps to talk to guys like Patrick and the other guys to learn how to drive the car.
“It was definitely a different experience also when I compare to the Porsches I used to run seven or eight years ago. The car completely changed. The lap time got a lot quicker.
“Now, it took me a couple of races to feel really comfortable with the car. I would say from the last two or three races, I can now operate on the last two to three percent to get the most out of the car.
“It’s definitely a challenge.”
The duo sit fifth in the GT Le Mans points standings but are just 17 points behind the class leaders in an ultra-competitive field following their win at Lime Rock.
It came as no surprise to either driver to have a strong car on the Connecticut bullring, but given the strength of the car in the first six races, both Pilet and Werner both felt the first win could have come earlier in the season.
“We were surprised it didn’t come directly!” said Pilet. “In the first race, we were fighting for the victory at Daytona, and at Sebring we had the performance to win. Unfortunately we just missed some points and some victories.
“Lime Rock was the perfect track. We know Porsche is really strong there, it fit perfectly for Porsche.
“For sure the BoP helped, but it’s also a track for Porsche because you need traction, you have some quick corners where with the new downforce we are very good.”
“The performance was good enough from the first race on to fight for podiums,” Werner agreed. “But to win a race, everything has to go perfect, and it just didn’t go that well until Lime Rock.
“From the car’s perspective or the team’s perspective, we could have won Sebring when Patrick was chasing the Corvette and he had the puncture. At different tracks we had enough pace.
“We had fastest laps or pole position before, so it was a matter of time, and it was about time then as well!
“You can definitely say that Porsche didn’t develop a car to come second or third, but to win. There was enough pressure as well to get this done at a certain point, so now we’re all happy it worked out at Lime Rock.”