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Christensen: Porsche “Couldn’t Really Challenge” Ferrari

Porsche driver questions gap to Ferrari after Italian marque takes dominant 1-2 at Fuji…

Photo: Jose Bispo

Michael Christensen felt that Porsche “couldn’t really challenge” Ferrari in GTE-Pro after the Italian manufacturer chalked up a dominant one-two result at the 6 Hours of Fuji.

Christensen and Kevin Estre’s No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR-19 finished third in class, 31 seconds behind the two factory AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evos that crossed the line nose-to-tail.

The Danish driver suggested after the race that the performance of the Ferrari was too great for Porsche to mount a challenge.

Ferrari received a turbo boost pressure increase in a Balance of Performance update for the previous FIA World Endurance Championship round at Monza, while the naturally-aspirated Porsche got an air restrictor diameter increase and a 5 kg weight break ahead of the Fuji round.

“They are too fast; it was like Monza,” Christensen told Sportscar365.

“I don’t know why they got so much power in Monza. We got a little bit back, but nowhere near.

“Who got penalties for track limits? Corvette and us. I don’t think they had one warning.

“They were running on soft tires, being slower than us at the beginning of the stints, but doing fast lap times at the end of the stints. They were playing around.

“We have no raceability and no pace compared to them. We just tried to do whatever we could: fuel saving and trying to gain a margin of split strategy in that way.

“Maybe we could have had a percentage of being lucky with a Full Course Yellow at the right time. That’s the only thing we could have done.

“At the end, they made a 30-second gap and stayed like that.”

The No. 92 Porsche started the race on the softer of Michelin’s slick tire compounds that the team pre-selected, but only did so for a single stint when Estre took the lead from Calado and held it for 10 laps.

“It was a bit of a drop [in tire performance over a stint] which is normal,” Christensen said.

“But we could kind of push for most of the stints. The first stint was on softs, and you saw the drop Kevin had compared to the Ferrari.

“Then we had to go to medium. The race started at 11 a.m. so it was only going to get worse on softs as the day progressed.

“We just had to do whatever we could. We saw in the first stint that we were somewhere, and then nowhere.

“We just went to the medium to try and find something else. But no… we couldn’t really challenge them.”

Christensen indicated that the No. 92 Porsche could struggle to play for the WEC title without another BoP tweak ahead of the season finale in Bahrain, where another title showdown between the rival manufacturers is due to play out.

“I don’t see we are able to fight for anything without some help,” he said.

“It looked very easy for them today, and it was. We will just have to keep our faith in the system, and in ourselves, and keep pushing.”

Ferrari “Surprised” by Lack of Porsche Challenge

The director of Ferrari’s sports car racing program said that he didn’t expect to see his team’s cars make such a clear break from the No. 92 Porsche in the second half.

“We are very surprised,” Antonello Coletta told Sportscar365. “Probably Porsche had tire degradation because the [best] lap time, more or less, was the same.

“I remember during the first stint after 20-22 laps, the degradation of Porsche started. But [in] the first 18-20 laps, the battle was completely open.

“We opened the gap and when you do that without a Full Course Yellow, safety car and other surprises, this is a good step to have an advantage at the end.”

Ferrari coordinated the finishing order of its cars to maximize Calado and Pier Guidi’s points lead heading into the final round.

However, the strategy was made complicated by Pier Guidi encountering “tire issues” at the end of his penultimate stint.

Ferrari released a much quicker Fuoco ahead of Pier Guidi, but Calado closed back in again after the final pit stop to make a return passing move.

“I would like to thank the No. 52 because today they were very consistent,” Coletta said.

“But our drivers are professional drivers, and I think today we saw very clearly the sporting attitude that we have in our team.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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