Porsche GT factory driver Kevin Estre has put his and Michael Christensen’s rampant first half of the 2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship down to continuity within the No. 92 team.
The Porsche pairing currently leads the World Endurance GT drivers’ championship by over 40 points after taking podiums in every race held so far, as well as winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans and 6 Hours of Fuji.
They arrived at Sebring with a mathematical chance of clinching the title if they win and their three closest championship rivals all finish outside the top five in the 11-car GTE-Pro field.
This would give Christensen and Estre – who are on pole for the 1000-mile race – an unassailable 66-point lead heading into the final two races, where victory and pole in each gives 65 points.
“[In 2017] we had a terrible season with bad luck,” Estre told Sportscar365. “Pretty much everything that could have gone wrong went wrong last year, so the team made a good step.
“They were very good before, but I think we’ve been better [in 2018-19]. We’ve worked together three years with our engineers so we’ve been very stable in our crew.
“Especially with the No. 92, we didn’t change engineers, mechanics or drivers, so I think stability is a good point to help us [achieve] good results.
“We had a bit of luck, for sure, but we had the performance too. You can’t dream of a better season so far.”
Christensen suggested that the team’s character-building 2017 season that saw the No. 92 pair place 11th in the standings spurred them on to have a more consistent ‘Super Season’ campaign.
“I always felt that I was a bit more on that side of being more in control than just going for the highest risk possible, but I caught myself a few times by being like that,” he said.
“I had to have a look into that, so i definitely think that helped me and the whole team going forward. It was a different mindset in 2017, and I learned a bit from that because even though sometimes it’s not your mistake, you could have avoided it anyway.
“For me personally, I tired to take a different approach mentally. On top of that, we have grown as a team. We knew we could do it. But we also knew what our weaknesses were and we focused on that, so I’m sure that’s put us where we are now.”
Championship Rivals “Need to be Lucky”
Two of Estre and Christensen’s nearest opponents in the standings have acknowledged that another strong result for the No. 92 Porsche at Sebring could signal the end of the championship fight.
Alessandro Pier Guidi, who shares the fourth-placed Ferrari 488 GTE with James Calado, and Ford’s Stefan Muecke, who is second with co-driver Olivier Pla, both believe Friday’s contest will be key to the title race.
“To be fair, to come back in the fight for the championship we need to be lucky because the gap is quite big,” Pier Guidi told Sportscar365.
“Between second, third and fourth we are all there, but the No. 92 Porsche is very far, so we need to be lucky and they need to maybe be a bit unlucky, because if nothing happens [to them] it is very difficult to come back.”
However, the 2017 GTE world champion insisted that the nature of the remaining rounds – particularly Sebring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans – give the challengers hope of bridging the gap.
“It would be nice to have the championship open for Le Mans – winning the championship by winning the 24 Hours would be the best,” he said.
“Until the end, I will never give up. I know it’s very difficult, I cannot say it is easy. We are not in a good position in terms of points [but] there are many points and many long races.”
Muecke believes Sebring presents a chance for the No. 66 Ford to pick up a solid points haul and apply a dent into the Porsche’s 43-point cushion.
“The heat will help us. The Ford is always quite nice on the tires but sometimes it’s a problem to switch them on and to keep them switched on,” he said.
“Looking at the championship, it’s difficult if you see the big gap,” he said.
“But we’ve been good at Spa in the beginning of the season, we know that the [next three] tracks can’t be too bad. If we can make the gap a little bit smaller here, that will be great.”