Kevin Estre says he is excited to compete in the full FIA World Endurance Championship for the first time this season, having been moved from Porsche GT Team’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship program.
The Frenchman was initially set to race in the North American series alongside Laurens Vanthoor but with Porsche signing Gianmaria Bruni, Estre moved to the WEC entry while Bruni will join Vanthoor later in the season.
Estre, who had only competed in WEC four times prior to last month’s season-opening Six Hours of Silverstone, is looking forward to the season ahead.
“It feels good,” he told Sportscar365. “Last year I did just Le Mans and the year before I just did Spa and I did Le Mans in a prototype, so it’s nice to have this.
“Last year I switched quite often from car to car, between the GT3 and GTE cars, but this year there’s a lot more focus on the GTE car which is a bit easier for drivers.
“I’m looking forward to going to some tracks I’ve never been to before as well. It’s fun.
“I like working with Michael [Christensen] and we have pretty much the same driving style and approach on things, so it’s fun and I think we have a good team behind us.”
Ahead of the WEC season, the 28-year-old did race in the opening three WeatherTech Championship rounds.
While the Daytona, Sebring and Long Beach races were in a similar Porsche 911 RSR to the one he drives in the globetrotting series, he admits that the differences between the two series mean that knowledge gained early in the season isn’t particularly transferable to WEC.
“It’s the same car so it’s not a massive switch, but the championships are really different in terms of racing,” he explained.
“Here [in WEC] you have Full Course Yellows where everybody keeps the same gap and there is unlikely to be a safety car. We have six-hour races with four sets of tires so it’s really special.
“In the U.S. it’s pretty much sprint between the safety cars so it’s a different way of racing.”
Nevertheless, Estre does have high praise for the WeatherTech Championship, saying the quality of competition is certainly at a similar level to WEC.
“The World Championship is something special and as a driver you really like to compete in a World Championship, even though the U.S. [series] is at a [high] level,” he said.
“There’s pretty much the same level of drivers driving in both series, and also the teams are all professional and pretty much factory teams everywhere.
“I’m was happy to do IMSA and I’m happy to do WEC.”
The other change for Estre this season is a new GTE car to get acclimated to, as the 2017-spec 911 RSR features a new mid-engined design, taking a step away from traditional 911 rear-engined philosophy.
“It’s not a completely different way of driving than the old 911 but it’s still a little bit different,” he explained. “It’s in between a normal car in terms of weight distribution and engine position, and a 911.
“We still have some feeling of it being a rear-engine 911 because we still have a 911 chassis which is modified to be the base of the car.
“And the Porsche spirit stays in the car, even if the engine moves. The aero is working a bit better now and we have more aero which is why we moved the engine.”
Ultimately, Estre is looking forward to the WEC season ahead, which continues with this weekend’s WEC Six Hours of Spa.
He says he feels confident given the pace that the Porsche team has already shown, and having a familiar team in Manthey has helped him get used to the new program.
“We have a new car, we’ve worked well, and we’ve shown in the U.S. that we’re able to be on the pace,” he said.
“I think we can challenge everyone for wins and that must be our goal because we’re here to win races, not here to just drive around.
“I’m happy to do this and I really like the Manthey guys. I did my first WEC race with them two years ago, it was a lot of fun and we got a good result. I’m looking forward to the season.”