Herberth Motorsport will make its 24 Hours of Le Mans debut in Porsche machinery, having acquired a brand-new 911 RSR-19 that has been built outside of the German manufacturer’s initial customer allocation.
The German squad, which secured a Le Mans invite in GTE-Am after winning the Asian Le Mans Series title in the GT class, had initially been confirmed with a Ferrari 488 GTE Evo due to lack-of-available Porsche chassis.
“The problem after winning Asian Le Mans was that we had no GTE car,” team co-owner/driver Robert Renauer told Sportscr365. “For Ferrari and Aston Martin teams it was easy to make their entry.
“The Asian Le Mans finished at the end of February and last call for the entry for Le Mans was mid-March and there was no RSR available at that moment.
“We had contact with HP Racing International, which was running a Ferrari in GT Masters, and they said if we want we could have the Ferrari [and upgrade it to GTE-spec].
“At that moment because we were running out of time it was the only possibility we had. So we needed to enter the Ferrari.”
Renauer said they first spoke to Porsche’s director of factory motorsports Pascal Zurlinden in late March before getting the final approval for the new build one month later.
“If you see the entry list, Porsche built ten cars and eight or nine were running and one car was not available.
“In the end, they said OK we could get one more RSR for Le Mans.
“For Porsche it was not easy to just say, ‘OK no problem we build a car for you.
“They have a schedule and building up the cars. They needed some time to check if it was possible and luckily it was.
“For our team, always running with Porsches, it was the logical decision to take a Porsche.”
A stalwart of campaigning GT3-spec Porsches in ADAC GT Masters, 24H Series and Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup, Renuer said Le Mans will be a new experience in the team’s GTE debut.
Herberth has brought on four ex-Manthey employees, including an engineer and data engineer that previously worked on the factory WEC program, to help ease the transition.
“It’s a good advantage for us,” said Renauer.
“We said it’s not possible for us to learn all about the RSR in one or two test days.
“You need to get all the input from the guys who have been working on the car for a long time to get quick on a high level.
“It was really important to get some good guys in the program.”
Renauer, who will be joined at the wheel by Ralf Bohn and Rolf Ineichen, has set realistic expectations given the strength of the 23-car GTE-Am field.
“There’s many cars with good driver lineups so in the end we would be happy if we have a clean race and do our best,” he said.
“For sure from Porsche’s side we will have a winning car but whether we are really on the level to go for it is another point as you need some experience.
“I hope our engineer and all of the guys will learn quickly and then all the rest will be up to our side.
“We’ve all done many 24-hour races before with a lot of experience but Le Mans is special.”
Herberth, HubAuto Set for Lausitzring Test This Week
Both Herberth and HubAuto Racing, which also made the switch from Ferrari to Porsche, are set for a two-day test at the Lausitzring this week alongside FIA World Endurance Championship Porsche outfit Team Project 1.
It will mark the first outings for both newcomers to the manufacturer’s mid-engined GTE contender.
Taiwanese outfit HubAuto will be receiving technical support from Project 1 at Le Mans.
“Once we proposed this idea to Porsche, they had a lot of internal meetings,” said team owner Morris Chen. “They made a decision to sell one of these cars to us.
“It was a cool achievement.
“For us, every race car has its strengths. We just need to understand the car and manage it in the race to get the results.
“Porsche will give us very good support and with this car and a cool driver lineup, we should have a good chance.”
Dries Vanthoor, Alvaro Parente and Maxime Martin have been named as drivers for the HubAuto entry, which has been moved to GTE-Pro.
Chen explained that a number of other drivers were on the radar but was made difficult due to date clashes and travel restrictions.
“The problem was also COVID-19,” said Chen. “[Heikki] Kovalainen was keen to do it, but Super GT changed the calendar. So it’s clashing with the race.
“Also Nick Cassidy couldn’t do the Le Mans official test because it clashes with Formula E, because they changed their calendar. So it’s very difficult for us.
“We had an original driver plan, but we had to change two drivers in the end.”
Renauer said that his team may also take part in a Toyota-led test at Spa-Francorchamps on Sunday in the buildup to Le Mans.
“If the test is working well at the Lausitzring then we will cancel this rollout, otherwise we’ll go to Spa also,” he said.
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report