Porsche Penske Motorsport has “some things to work on” with its cars according to driver Michael Christensen after the team’s Porsche 963s finished fifth and sixth in the 1000 Miles of Sebring.
The pair of factory Porsche LMDh prototypes qualified two seconds behind the pole-sitting Ferrari 499P and faded from an initial podium challenge to finish the eight-hour race behind Toyota, Ferrari and Cadillac.
Christensen assessed that the Porsches, which were making their debut in the FIA World Endurance Championship Hypercar class, were tested in terms of tire management.
“It looked good when Kevin [Estre] was fighting the Ferrari and Caddy in the beginning,” he said.
“But I just knew that when we missed one second to the Caddy, if I’m going to slow down one second to survive on the tires, it will survive quite a lot.
“I kind of hoped that we would be a little better than quali pace, but I was skeptical.
“We have some things to work on the cars. We knew that before this weekend, but we tried to improve, and we did improve the balance a bit.
“But we have some things that we need to sort out.”
Going further into the tire wear, Christensen said that the Porsche was a “handful” during a double stint when the same tires were kept on the car following a pit stop.
“When the tires are new, it seems bearable and you can survive,” he said. “But it soon starts to be a thing that moves a lot.
“When it does that, you think, ‘how do you do a double?’ But it was so hard to do a double without losing too much pace. It was very hard.”
Tire life struggles aside, the two Penske Porsches ran trouble-free for four hours until Christensen’s No. 5 car endured a lengthy pit stop of almost two minutes just before halfway.
That left the No. 6 Porsche as the most likely car to mount a podium challenge, however it too had a slow stop due to an electrical issue approaching the top of the final hour.
“We had a steering wheel issue and the radio didn’t work,” Christensen explained for his car that he shared with Frederic Makowiecki and Dane Cameron.
“They swapped the steering wheel. We couldn’t see shift lights or anything. It happened as [Cameron] was driving. He could only hear the shift beep and the engineer. It was quite lucky.
“The [No. 6] had an ECU [issue then] started up and worked away. I think they were a little faster on the double than us, but not much difference.”
Thomas Laudenbach, Vice President of Porsche Motorsport, said after the race that the Penske factory squad will work “systematically and intensively” to get closer to the likes of Toyota, Ferrari and Cadillac at the upcoming WEC races.
“The entire team and our drivers did their absolute best and fought to the very end,” he said.
“Our brand new FIA WEC squad deserves huge respect. We did the best we could with what we currently have today and made significant progress compared to the IMSA series season opener at Daytona.
“The reliability of our two Porsche 963 was not an issue this weekend. However, it became very obvious that we still have some catching up to do in many areas. Compared to the competition, we lack performance.
“We have to work on this systematically and intensively over the coming weeks.”