Porsche GT Team endured a “painful” 24 Hours of Le Mans that saw both of its factory GTE-Pro entries suffer mechanical issues and a pace deficit to the competition.
The pair of Porsche 911 RSR-19s, in their Le Mans debut, finished fifth and sixth in the eight-car class, and more than ten laps apiece down on the winning Aston Martin Vantage GTE.
It came after both cars spent time in the garage with power steering failures, along with an electrical gremlin for the No. 91 car that saw Richard Lietz, Fred Makowiecki and pole-sitter Gianmaria Bruni’s hope of a podium finish fade away in the 16th hour.
“I’m disappointed and exhausted at the same time,” said Makowiecki. “We all invested enormous energy in this special event that only takes place once a year.
“It really hurts when things go wrong.
“This year it immediately became obvious early that the competition wasn’t as close as hoped. If you want to keep up, you always have to drive at the limit. Under such conditions, you get technical problems. That’s annoying, but that’s just how it is.”
Both cars were unable to match the pace of the Ferrari 488 GTE Evos and Aston Martins prior to the first issue for the No. 92 car of Michael Christensen, Kevin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor in the fifth hour.
Porsche Motorsport factory director Pascal Zurlinden told Sportscar365 they couldn’t explain the lap time deficit and would have to do more analysis post-race.
The No. 92 car’s fastest race lap, a 3:52.136, was nearly two seconds slower than the winning Aston’s best lap in the twice-around-the-clock enduro.
Zurlinden fell short of accusing the competition of sandbagging earlier in the week.
“We were surprised at the pace our competitors could set right at the start,” said Christensen. “We couldn’t really keep up, but we did our utmost.
“When the power steering malfunctioned during Laurens’ stint and we stood in the pits for more than ten laps, we had to relinquish any hopes.
“When you lack competitiveness and technical bad luck strikes, it won’t be a good day – that’s just the way it is.”
Alexander Stehlig, Porsche’s Head of WEC operations, said they “immediately” realized they couldn’t keep up in terms of acceleration and top speed.
“These factors are particularly painful because we also lost more and more time in traffic,” he explained. “On top of that, there were too many technical problems.
“We’ve got a bit of homework to do.”