Kevin Estre reckons Monza’s high-speed layout “suits the Ferrari more” than the Porsche 911 RSR-19 but the Frenchman nonetheless believes that the German team can be competitive during this weekend’s FIA World Endurance Championship round.
Estre told Sportscar365 that Monza’s emphasis on top-end speed, combined with a lack of corners, will present a setup challenge for the Porsche factory GTE-Pro squad.
Ferrari’s Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado currently lead the FIA World Endurance GT drivers’ championship after two rounds, following their victory at the 8 Hours of Portimao. Estre and Neel Jani won the 6 Hours of Spa curtain-raiser in May.
Round three at Monza marks the first race of the year to feature a GTE-Pro Balance of Performance change, with the Ferrari 488 GTE Evos receiving a 5 kg weight reduction and the Porsches taking an extra 5 kg to create a 9 kg difference between the two cars.
“I would say we have a chance here, but it’s definitely a track which suits the Ferrari more than our car,” said Estre.
“At Spa you had some high-speed sections, but also a lot of corners. Here you have six corners and a lot of straight lines, which is not where we are the strongest so far.
“We were fast over a lap at Spa and Portimao, but I think if there is one track where I am not so confident that we will be there on the lap time, it could be here. We don’t know yet. But it could be a track like this.
“Generally compared to the Ferraris, we have a tendency to be very good on braking and in the corners. There is a lot of braking here, but not so much corners.
“Ferrari has a tendency to be a little bit better than us on torque, with the BoP we have. Over a lap it’s no problem, but here is a different track configuration to Portimao or Spa.”
Porsche has tested the 911 RSR-19 at Monza in the past, although that testing largely focused on preparing for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a lower downforce trim to the one currently used for the WEC.
This will be a new element for Porsche to consider, however Estre feels that the team’s expertise of the 2019-spec racer will ultimately carry it through.
Porsche’s current-spec GTE car raced at Monza for the first time last weekend in the European Le Mans Series, where WEC squad Proton Competition fielded a pair of cars.
“We have done some Le Mans preparations there but always low-downforce and quite early in the year when it was not so hot, so we’ll see,” said Estre.
“It [tested at Monza] on low-downforce quite early in the development of the car. But the BoP was different and the downforce kit makes quite a big difference, in terms of tires and setup etc.
“But we’ll be OK. We have quite a good knowledge of the car now, and when we come to the track we always have a pretty good car to start with.”
Porsche’s head of WEC operations, Alexander Stehlig, added that the manufacturer is approaching this weekend with a “special setup” to account for the challenges posed by the Monza circuit configuration.
“We’re all excited about the event on the storied circuit with its very special flair,” he said
“It’s sure to be a highlight. Still, we’re facing a major challenge. Our Porsche 911 RSR is particularly strong in the semi-fast and fast corners. Unfortunately, there aren’t many of these passages at Monza.
“The focus is not on downforce or aerodynamic efficiency, but rather on the sheer top speed and braking performance of the cars. We have to respond to this with a special setup.
“I’m confident that we’ll be competitive in Monza and score many world championship points.”