Porsche is focusing on “taking out the workload” of its customer teams at the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa, according to the manufacturer’s GT3 project manager Sebastian Golz.
A dozen Porsche 911 GT3 Rs are on the grid for this weekend’s Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup and Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli joint round, including seven in the Pro category.
Porsche is aiming to capture its third consecutive 24 Hours of Spa victory, a feat that has not been achieved since the event’s GT racing era started 20 years ago.
Golz explained how the factory is supporting the large squad of customer teams including GPX Racing, KCMG and Rutronik, beyond the more obvious provision of brand factory drivers such as Kevin Estre, Laurens Vanthoor and Frederic Makowiecki.
“Our concept is that we as Porsche are here to support our customers,” Golz told Sportscar365.
“As a customer, you buy the car and we provide support for every customer on the same level. That means for these big races you have performance engineers with Porsche who are splitting the teams.
“Here we have three performance engineers. We have 12 cars, so each engineer has four cars. They’re looking for strategy and performance on the car.
“As soon as the race starts, they switch to strategy mode.
“Then we have guys that are taking care of the regulations and supporting the teams in case of questions. We clarify open topics, summarizing everything and spelling it out.”
Porsche’s on-the-ground support structure extends beyond the engineering and performance side, establishing a network designed to cover all aspects of the event.
“Here at Spa and the Nürburgring 24, we have a weather forecaster,” said Golz. “They are looking the whole week at how it develops. These summaries are provided to all our customers.
“On top of this, we have the technical support. For 12 cars, we have five engineers taking care of systems in the garages, dealing directly with our spare parts trucks in case of issues.
“They are directly dealing with the guys [inside the trucks] to get the parts as quickly as possible to the garage.
“We also have a communications structure. This is an important point to get everyone together. Our communication with the teams is quite big and for this we need an intercom structure.
“We have three IT guys running around and three MRTC guys building up the structure.
“All of the teams are connected to each other, which gives us the possibility for the teams to have communication in between during the weekend and race.
“If one team is closing up [on track] quite fast, they can deal with it directly between themselves. This is quite good.”
Porsche also takes the lead on addressing any car problems that arise during the event, taking pressure away from the teams by redacting the engineers’ mechanical findings.
“We are supporting the teams in some areas from technical and strategy-wise [standpoints],” Golz explained. “With this information we’re spreading out and supporting.
“We’re in dialogue with organization groups at the teams. For example, if you see an upcoming technical problem, we are already on it because we have more time compared to the team because they are racing.
“We have the time to look deeper into a problem, for instance if you have to deal with sensor issues or move a switch to a different position, etc.
“This helps the team directly not to think about the situation. They just get the info and can react to that.”
One of the key purposes of Porsche’s Spa support structure is to make life easier for the customer teams, many of which are not full-season GTWC Europe entrants.
Some full-time outfits like GPX and Dinamic Motorsport already have two Endurance Cup races under their belts this year, but others like Nürburgring 24 entrants Schnabl Engineering and Huber Motorsport are new to the current SRO racing regulations.
Porsche’s entry for Spa is slightly larger this year than during the last two years when it won. However this has little impact on how the overall support network is arranged.
“We’re taking out workload from the teams so they can focus just on the car. This is our main structure,” said Golz.
“This year is no big difference. If you increase the quantity of cars it just means one or two guys you put in addition. You just need to increase the technical and performance support.
“We have a lot of drivers here and that’s part of the support for the teams. We are putting factory and Porsche-contracted drivers into their cars.
“For these guys we have an area for massage and physico guys there and a doctor in case if they have a problem.
“This is also provided to the teams in case there’s an issue. This is part of our service. This is for everybody.”
Changeable Conditions Could Favor Porsches
The last two 24H Spa editions were impacted by heavy rain in which Porsche 911 GT3 Rs from GPX and ROWE Racing prevailed.
This year’s race is set to be held in changeable conditions, which Golz reckons could again play to the manufacturer’s advantage.
Golz admitted that Porsche’s representative teams in Friday’s Super Pole struggled to find the “right moment when the peak is there” on the Pirelli tires, which led to the best 911 GT3 R driven by GPX Racing’s Mathieu Jaminet qualifying ninth.
However, Porsche is confident that the predicted back-and-forth race weekend weather will bring the lead Porsche teams back into the frame over the 24 hours.
“This race will be completely unsettled,” Golz said. “Our opinion at the moment is that it will rain and have dry phases, so it will be changing [conditions]
“We are not bad at strategy because we have a communication tool and we are looking deep into it and trying to get everybody on the same page. It should be good for us.
“On the weather side, we have to manage to be on the right tires at the right time.
“Performance-wise, it’s usually OK. If it’s raining, the Porsche is from it’s base normally strong. At this point I would say it’s OK for us.
“We can fight in dry conditions, wet conditions or mixed conditions.
“There could be a moment where AMG or BMW have a little bit of an advantage, but this is just always a moment in between from wet to dry, when you have a phase in between.”