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Porsche: 2018-19 “Best Season” for Manufacturers’ Title

Porsche GT boss reflects on the German marque’s second world championship…

Photo: Porsche

Porsche factory GT director Pascal Zurlinden believes the 2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship has been the “best season” to win the GT manufacturers’ title.

Porsche confirmed itself as the manufacturers’ champion for the first time since 2015 with a third and eighth place GTE-Pro class result for its two cars in Saturday’s Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.

Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre finished on the podium to extend their drivers’ championship lead while Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz were classified further down the order after a post-race time penalty was applied to their Porsche 911 RSR.

Nonetheless, the collective result gave Porsche an unassailable 93-point cushion over Ferrari going into next month’s 24 Hours of Le Mans season finale.

“If you look at all the history of GTE-Pro, this is the year with the biggest battles between the manufacturers,” Zurlinden told Sportscar365.

“This is probably the biggest title you can win, and the best season to win it.

“The motorsport DNA is really inside Porsche. Everyone in the motorsport [division] is living motorsport. It’s really like a big family.

“Winning the championship [with] hard fights like this [between] five manufacturers, we are really proud.”

Zurlinden said that rather than having the fastest outright car at each race during the season, Porsche was able to maximize its performance through effective decision-making.

The team took class victories in the 6 Hours of Fuji, 1000 Miles of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans and has seen at least one of its cars reach the podium in every race held so far.

“At some places like Fuji, we were really on the back foot, but through strategy we got to the front,” said Zurlinden.

“A race like Silverstone was not perfect, because we had a car disqualified for being too low. And then we had Spa last year where we were struggling also.

“Sometimes we have good tracks where we are really quick, and sometimes we are struggling, but with strategy we can always come back to the front.”

Zurlinden pointed out Porsche’s strategy calls in this weekend’s race at Spa as an example of how the team has managed its championship run.

The Porsche 911 RSRs were on course for a double top-five finish until Bruni hit and spun the GTE-Am class-contending Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE in the final hour.

“At the beginning of the race I would not say it was a gamble, but we split the strategy a bit, to try to get the best out of it,” explained Zurlinden.

“We changed tires more often on one car at the beginning, because we tried different types. The No. 91 changed tires twice at the beginning of the race.

“At the end, when we were more confident on the weather forecast, we decided to put both cars on the same strategy.”

In addition to the manufacturers’ title, Porsche also confirmed that one of its crews will clinch the drivers’ crown, with reigning champions Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado now out of frame after finishing second at Spa in their Ferrari.

Estre and Christensen hold a 36-point lead over Bruni and Lietz with 39 points on offer, while the Ferrari pairing is now 41.5 points off the top spot.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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