Richard Lietz believes that Porsche is now in a “good direction” in car setup after a challenging opening Free Practice session that marked the Porsche 911 RSR-19’s first laps of Circuit de la Sarthe.
Porsche is the only GTE manufacturer with an all-new car in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, which has resulted in an uphill learning curve for the factory Manthey-run operation in an extremely compressed opening day of track action.
The two cars were at the bottom of the time charts in FP1 although rebounded to set the first and third quickest times in FP2, with both cars also making the cut for tomorrow’s hyperpole, marking continual gains through the day.
Lietz, who is sharing the No. 91 Porsche with full-season FIA World Endurance Championship co-driver Gianamari Bruni and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship driver Fred Makowiecki, believes the absence of of the Le Mans Test Day this year has hurt the team the most.
“It wasn’t good that the test day was cancelled,” Lietz told Sportscar365. “We tested the car and prepared it as well as possible for this race, at Monza and Le Castellet. We had data from top speed tracks, but only Le Mans is Le Mans.
“You can test around the world, but these curbs and tarmac are only here, so for sure it’s not ideal. But I think we did everything we could to make this problem as small as possible.
“It took us the complete first session to understand why the car was difficult to drive.
“When I looked at the faces of Fred and Gimmi in the second session, it looked like the car improved in the second session quite a bit.
“I think we understood the issue we had.
“We have a lot of good engineers and there are a lot of sensors in the car where you can check what the driver is seeing – normally you should also see the reason for the feeling a driver has.
“I think the engineers figured it out quite quick and we’re going in a good direction now.”
Lietz, however, feels they still don’t have the ultimate pace of the Aston Martin Vantage GTEs, which swept the top two positions in qualifying not only in GTE-Pro but also GTE-Am.
In this year’s Balance of Performance, the British manufacturer was handed back the turbo boost it lost in a post-qualifying Balance of Performance adjustment during the 2019 event.
Porsche, meanwhile, has no relative data to compare its previous-gen mid-engined GTE car to the 2019 model, which is under a completely different BoP.
“If everybody goes all-in, Aston will be ahead of everybody,” Lietz said. “This was the first impression from the first session.
“They did a lap time very early in the session with no rubber on the track, and now everybody went quicker, but not them. That tells me that they probably worked on race pace with full fuel in the last couple oof minutes where the track was the quickest.
“But we improved our balance in the second session. We were quite off in the beginning with no rubber but the track improved and our balance has improved as well.
“It seems we are better connected, so now we have a chance to be in the pack for the 24 hours.
“From the pure performance since it looks like it’s not us at the moment. It looks a bit more like Aston [is on top]. But I think if you are in the pack together, anything can happen over the 24 hours.”
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report