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Lietz Hails “Extraordinary” Group Behind Porsche GTE-Pro Team

Porsche factory driver Richard Lietz looks back on Porsche’s ten-year stint in GTE-Pro…

Photo: Porsche

Richard Lietz says that he will hold fond memories of working with “extraordinary” staff on the Manthey-run Porsche factory GTE-Pro program, which is entering its final race this weekend.

Saturday’s FIA World Endurance Championship season finale in Bahrain represents the last dance for the GTE-Pro class, which will not continue next year as Porsche and Ferrari both step up to Hypercar with their new LMDh and LMH prototypes, respectively.

Porsche has contested every GTE-Pro race since the inaugural WEC season in 2012, while factory driver Lietz has participated in all but three of the rounds.

Privateer team Proton Competition represented Porsche in 2012, before the German manufacturer launched into a works effort the following year in partnership with Manthey.

That collaboration went on to win 18 GTE-Pro races including three editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Porsche also clinched the manufacturers’ world title twice.

“For me, it has been the only category where you had works teams fighting against works drivers for such a long time,” Lietz told Sportscar365.

“The group of people we had in Manthey was extraordinary and it was a pleasure to work with them, and it’s a bit sad that this will end.

“It has been a special ten years for myself to drive the most advanced GT car from Porsche. I have been there since 2012 when we started the program.

“We developed the RSR 991 for 2013 and since that, this was basically my job. If you work together with a group of people, you go through highs and lows, and the lows create an even better group.

“I will definitely miss a lot of people from this group. Over the years, people changed. One or two people arrived quite early and are still in the same project. A lot of the people are still in the company on different projects, and others left to do something else.

“But we managed every year to build a strong group which trusted each other.

“I’m sure that in the future, if I call any of them, they would be happy to do something again.”

For four seasons, the factory Manthey GTE-Pro squad existed alongside, but separate from, Porsche’s factory LMP1 program.

Lietz explained that the GTE-Pro team was “always consistent” during this time, working toward its own objectives away from the spotlight of the prototype program.

But he also suggested that the fallout from the LMP1 project’s demise fed into the GTE operation’s future steps.

“If there was an investment in the highest category it had not so much influence on our situation,” Lietz said.

“But there was one thing that influenced us: when the LMP1 project stopped. People from the LMP1 times developed the RSR-19, which was a new thing to them and quite a big change.

“If you look at how the RSR-19 was developed and what it has, it’s different from other GTE cars. But otherwise, we had two separate groups and budgets, and we could do our own decisions.”

After Porsche started out with a 997-generation car, the first 991-gen Porsche 911 RSR arrived in 2013 and ran for four seasons — including one year with Proton — until a new model was introduced in 2017 with the engine repositioned in front of the rear axle.

The famously noisy vehicle was then replaced in 2019 by the current RSR which included a range of updates including a slightly larger displacement for the flat-six boxer engine and side-exiting exhausts that were later moved back to the rear.

Each of the 911 RSR models was made available to customers after one year of GTE-Pro racing, per the regulations. Customer teams will be able to run the 911 RSR-19 next year because GTE-Am will continue in the Pro category’s absence.

“We started as a kind of GT2 car and ended up with a prototype,” Lietz said of the technological evolution.

“For me, the first 991 in 2013 was the most expensive and advanced RSR ever until we arrived at the RSR 2017, and then the RSR-19. This happens in factory motorsport.

“A lot of times, we had a lot more starting cars than the LMP1 category.

“I think there were a lot of highs, and it’s a bit sad to see only five cars on the grid in the last year. The stuff which is coming – LMDh and LMH – will have a huge number of cars. Maybe this is a sign that it’s OK that it ends.”

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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