This feature, the fourth in our mini-series, picks up where we left off last time (Part 3: 2013-2016) and highlights the continued growth and success of the evergreen Porsche 911 on the UK and European motorsport scene between 2017 and 2019.
Silverstone 6 Hours, 16 April 2017
The Silverstone 6 Hours served as the opening round of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season. This was also the final season that the Porsche 919 Hybrid would compete in the LMP1 class of the WEC, as the company announced mid-season its withdrawal from the series as from the end of the year. Although the 919 Hybrid would be going into early retirement, Porsche also announced that it would be continuing its GT racing program with the 911.
The bombshell to hit the 2017 season was the new 911 RSR which was launched at the LA Auto Show on 16 November 2016. The new car had been a long time in coming because Porsche had competed in 2016 with its old model RSR, but when the newcomer hit the ground, there were many who could not believe what they saw. Porsche’s new 911 RSR had had its engine turned around 180° with the engine ahead of the rear axle and the gearbox located behind the engine.
A full explanation of the design, technical layout and performance potential of the new 911 RSR can be found here, but one of the biggest advantages of this move was that the engineers could finally install an efficient rear diffuser. The new car’s first two races were in the American IMSA series at Daytona and Sebring, but the Silverstone race would mark its WEC debut.
Two hours into the race, Kévin Estre began his stint, but just past the halfway mark he had to park his 911 RSR at Luffield as a technical problem caused the car to burst into flames. At the Silverstone event, the #91 factory 911 RSR would finish third in class while the #92 Porsche would post a DNF. 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, 6 May 2017
At the Belgian race, the two works 911 RSRs occupied fifth and sixth place on the starting grid, and although the two cars performed faultlessly throughout the six hours, they could not match the pace of their class rivals. The team’s pit stops were executed without any problems, and the drivers added that they had no issues on the track that would have prevented them from doing any better. The team reported after the race that they would not have done anything any differently because all the decisions regarding tyres and pit stops were correct. Despite these comments, the two works cars finished the race in fifth and sixth places in class, right where they started.
Having started from second place on the grid in the GTE Am class, the #77 Dempsey-Proton 911 RSR (2015MY), driven by Matteo Cairoli, Christian Ried and Marvin Dienst, also finished right where they had started, in second place.
24 Hours of Le Mans, 17-18 June 2017
The 2017 edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours was the third round of that season’s WEC, and also the third race for the all-new mid-engined 911 RSR in Europe. Not having taken the GT world by storm as yet, the Le Mans 24 Hours always has a way of producing the unexpected, as will become apparent. This race would also be the last where the Balance of Performance (BoP) applied to each car would be subjectively calculated by humans, because as from the following round at the Nürburgring, the BoP would be objectively calculated by a computer. This BoP ruling did not apply at Le Mans though, where it was calculated that the 911 RSR had an 8 km/h slower top speed than the fastest car in class.
Starting from seventh place (#92) and thirteenth place (#91), the two works GT Porsches kept themselves clean and in the mix until the #92 Porsche was hit by a Corvette, causing a spin and flat-spotting all four tyres which necessitated an unscheduled pit stop. As a result of being down on straight line speed, the RSR drivers had to make up for this lack of performance by being aggressive in the corners and around other parts of the circuit. Coming out of the Ford Chicane, Michael Christensen touched the paint on the curb in the #92 RSR and spun, hitting the barrier back-end first, severely damaging the rear and forcing an early retirement. While the #91 RSR did take the lead in the GTE Pro class towards the end of the race, it would finish the race in fourth place.
In the GTE Am class it was a Ferrari whitewash as they took the first three places, the top finishing Porsche being down in sixth place.