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Vanthoor Turns Focus to WEC Title After Le Mans Defeat

Laurens Vanthoor still feels No. 6 Porsche crew has “everything in place” to win title despite Le Mans frustration…

Photo: MPS Agency

Porsche Penske Motorsport’s Laurens Vanthoor says his focus is now firmly on FIA World Endurance Championship title glory after the Stuttgart marque’s failure to challenge Ferrari and Toyota for 24 Hours of Le Mans victory.

Vanthoor and his teammates in the No. 6 Porsche 963, Kevin Estre and Andre Lotterer, finished fourth in a multi-marque showdown for the ages at the Circuit de la Sarthe, as Ferrari ended up clinching its second win in succession in the French classic.

It came as Porsche failed to live up to its status of pre-race favorite, with the LMDh factory director Urs Kuratle pointing to the 963’s lack of straight line performance as a key factor in its ability to challenge Ferrari and Toyota more closely.

But, with a victory in the season-opening Qatar 1812km and second-place finishes in the subsequent rounds at Imola and Spa, Vanthoor, Estre and Lotterer remain in the lead of the WEC standings at the halfway point of the season.

Despite admitting to being “very disappointed” with the outcome at Le Mans, Vanthoor believes overcoming Ferrari and Toyota over the course of the remaining four WEC rounds this year to win the drivers’ title would go some way to making up for it.

“Obviously the goal was Le Mans, but we didn’t achieve that so the next goal now is the championship,” the Belgian told Sportscar365. “It’s quite tight between the top three crews, but the same as Le Mans, we have everything in place we need to succeed.

“We just need to do the best job. And if we can do that, it would still make this season a success for sure. You always want to win Le Mans, but if you end up being world champion, that’s complaining on a high level!”

Vanthoor, Estre and Lotterer head to the next round of the series in Interlagos on 99 points, nine ahead of the Le Mans-winning No. 50 Ferrari crew of Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina and Nicklas Nielsen.

Toyota pair Kamui Kobayashi and Nyck de Vries are 17 points behind the No. 6 Porsche drivers after finishing second at Le Mans.

Asked if he remained confident for his title chances, Vanthoor replied: “For sure. Our worst finish so far is Le Mans, and that was a fourth place.

“In terms of execution of the race, we had one wrong tire call [in the wet] at the beginning, and then after that we had no more wrong tire calls, no contact, no penalties. We just didn’t have the pure pace to win.

“The good thing is that car No. 6 is working well as a team, with Kevin, Andre and myself and the engineers. I think that’s one of our strengths. I am sure we will bounce back for the next events. We have tracks coming up that should suit us.

“I am sure Toyota and Ferrari will also be doing a good job so it will be a tough task, but that’s the work you have to do to win a world championship.”

Ferrari Hopes to Follow Le Mans Triumph With Title Success

Following Ferrari’s victory at Le Mans, the Italian manufacturer’s global head of endurance Antonello Coletta expressed optimism that the No. 50 crew can go on to win the championship after benefiting from double points being awarded in France.

He highlighted the 499P’s competitiveness in the preceding two rounds of the WEC, where Ferrari lost out on victory despite having the overall fastest package.

“We lost a lot of points at Imola and Spa,” said Coletta. “We could have had three victories to our name but instead we have just one, even if it’s the most important one.

“I’m very happy about [the Le Mans win] but honestly, we are at the turning point of the championship and we have a chance to win the championship if we do our best effort, and in the end the world championship is the maximum result.

“There is Le Mans and there is the world championship. We won a lot of championships in GTs, so why not with prototypes?”

Jamie Klein is Sportscar365's Asian editor. Japan-based Klein, who previously worked for Motorsport Network on the Motorsport.cоm and Autosport titles, covers the FIA World Endurance Championship and SUPER GT, among other series.

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