Kevin Estre believes Porsche won’t know whether they’ll have a chance of class victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans until the “first hour” of the race when the entire GTE-Pro class shows its full potential.
The Frenchman and fellow FIA World Endurance Championship GTE points leader Neel Jani are joined in the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR-19 by Michael Christensen, reuniting two of three drivers that took the German manufacturer to its most recent class win in 2018.
While having struggled in last year’s endurance classic — the first Le Mans for the 2019-spec Porsche — Estre is hopeful that an additional year’s worth of data and experience by the team will pay dividends this time around.
“I think it’s always hard for everybody to put the right BoP on the first year,” Estre told Sportscar365. “The track is so special and you have a different aero kit.
“It is difficult for everyone. Last year many people made some mistakes. It was also not faultless for us from the Porsche side.
“We’ve learned from it; the ACO, FIA has learned from it as well. It looks like this year we should be OK but it’s difficult to say until we drive.
“As we saw last year, [we won’t know] until the first lap of the race, I’m not sure we’ll 100 percent see the real picture before. Last year that was the case.
“We definitely have prepared ourselves for this race better and differently than last year. Having also one year behind us with this car helps.
“Also last year was a tough one having no test day and everything really condensed, which gave no time for analysis for anybody, really, which you need in Le Mans to understand everything in terms of performance.
“I’m confident we’ll have a better year than last year. If it’s good enough to win, we’ll see in the first hour of the race.”
While the GTE-Pro field has been reduced to a three-manufacturer race, the Chevrolet Corvette C8.R enters the event in a similar situation to Porsche from 2020 in making its Le Mans debut.
Despite its lack of experience of the 8.5-mile circuit, Estre said Corvette Racing can never be counted out.
“Since I’ve been doing GT, there’s never been a year in Le Mans where they haven’t been competitive and fighting for the victory,” he said.
“Plus, they showed with this car that straight away in IMSA they won the championship, now they won Daytona. They are a strong team and have strong drivers and I believe they have built a good car.
“This is one side. The other side with the BoP… I trust the ACO that they do the right thing but they don’t have so much data [on the Corvette].
“This year might be a bit easier with the test day if they feel that something did not go well in their analysis before.
“In theory they could maybe change something after the test day.
“But for sure we have to count on [Corvette] for sure. Hopefully the three brands will be there close together and put on a good show. That’s what we want in the end.”
Estre: Monza the “Toughest” WEC Race to Win
The Frenchman is still beaming from he and Jani’s class victory in last month’s 6 Hours of Monza, in what Estre said was his “toughest” race ever to win in the WEC.
Estre and Jani retook the points lead with the victory in Ferrari’s backyard.
“I really enjoyed it a lot because we showed that even with four cars in a race like Monza we still produced a mega race,” he said.
“Inside the team it felt like a proper sprint race with a lot of competition because we were always close fighting with tenths of a second or thousandths of a second every lap to try to build a gap which we couldn’t.
“Ferrari passed us and then we tried to pass back on strategy on fuel saving and slipstream. Everybody threw everything in it to win this race. It was a relief.
“We were really happy to win this race on Ferrari’s home soil.
“For me it has been for me the toughest WEC race to win since I’ve been driving in WEC. Although there weren’t so many cars because it was so close the whole race, it didn’t allow you any mistake. You had to be on it every lap.
“It’s been a great year so far in terms of performance and results for us.”