Porsche attacks Le Mans 24 on manufacture’s 75th birthday
Will the new 963 prevail?
06 ESTRE Kevin (fra), LOTTERER André (ger), VANTHOOR Laurens (bel), Porsche Penske Motorsport, Porsche 963, action during the Test Day of the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2023 on the Circuit des 24 Heures du Mans on June 4, 2023 in Le Mans, France - Photo Florent Gooden / DPPI
The Porsche Penske Motorsport works team has one goal at the 100th anniversary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 75th birthday of the sports car brand from Stuttgart: Outright victory on the Circuit des 24 Heures. To maximize the chances in the fiercely competitive new Hypercar class, Porsche fields a third hybrid prototype from the North American IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in addition to the two permanent FIA WEC entries. The LMDh racing cars run by the factory squad will fly a special livery, the colors of which are a salute to Porsche’s historic successes at Le Mans.
During recent tests on the racetracks in Watkins Glen (USA), Le Castellet (France) and Monza (Italy), Porsche Penske Motorsport prepared meticulously for the upcoming challenge twice around the clock. The UK customer squad Hertz Team Jota fields an additional Porsche 963 in the top class. In the fight for overall victory, Porsche goes up against competition from manufacturers such as Ferrari, Cadillac, Toyota and Peugeot.
Le Mans’ 100th and Porsche’s 75th collide
“The 100th anniversary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is a very important event, especially for Porsche,” states Thomas Laudenbach, Vice President of Porsche Motorsport. “Our brand turns 75 this year. No other manufacturer can look back on such an illustrious history at Le Mans as Porsche. We’ve achieved 19 overall victories and 110 class wins – and that’s certainly not the end of it: we’re aiming for our 20th success at the Sarthe! On the occasion of the big anniversaries, we’re fielding three Porsche 963 with our works team. What’s more, the Hertz Team Jota outfit tackles the race with another prototype from Weissach. We hope we’re able to fight for the win in the highly competitive Hypercar top class.”
“We’re very excited about the big anniversary at Le Mans,” explains Urs Kuratle, Director of Factory Motorsport LMDh. “At test sessions, Porsche Penske Motorsport has systematically prepared for the upcoming highlight. However, you can only simulate the unique features of the Circuit des 24 Heures to a limited extent on other racetracks. We used the test day at Le Mans intensively to set up our three Porsche 963 for this high-speed circuit. We’re currently unable to make any statements about the balance of power in the Hypercar class. But one thing is certain: With three Porsche 963 fielded by the works team and another one run by the Hertz Team Jota customer squad, we’re in the best possible position.”
“To get to this point really was a huge team effort on both sides of the Atlantic,” comments Jonathan Diuguid, Managing Director Porsche Penske Motorsport. “While one car has been prepared in Mooresville, USA and two in Mannheim, Germany, there is only one team – Porsche Penske Motorsport – and all entries are prepared to exactly the same high standard. We’ve now completed our rollouts at Weissach and Watkins Glen and our three Porsche 963 are en route to the biggest endurance race of the year, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The pressure is about as high as it can be: to win the 100th 24 Hours of Le Mans on the 75th anniversary of Porsche sports cars would be a dream come true for us all. However, while that is the goal, we must focus first on each day as it comes.”
“Racing for Charity”: Porsche donates towards treatment for sick children
For each race lap completed by the three works-963, Porsche donates 750 euros in keeping with the 75th anniversary of the Porsche sports car. After the highlight of the year finishes on Sunday, the total amount will be donated to three non-profit organizations that, among other things, are dedicated to supporting and helping seriously ill children around the world.
The storied circuit south of the city with its 150,000 inhabitants consists mainly of public roads. Normally, hundreds of trucks and cars drive over the legendary Mulsanne Straight every day on their way from Le Mans to Tours. The fast Porsche curves are both famous and notorious: high speeds and narrow run-off zones pose special challenges and ensure spectacular race action. The French long-distance classic is regarded as critical for the world championship season: The FIA WEC awards double points for placings at Le Mans – for example, the winner gets 50 instead of 25 world championship points.
Porsche teams and drivers
Sharing driving duties in the two works-Porsche 963 from the FIA WEC are the regular drivers from the 2023 season. Dane Cameron from the USA, Michael Christensen from Denmark and the French local hero Frédéric Makowiecki join forces in the No. 5 cockpit. The three-time Le Mans overall winner André Lotterer from Germany shares the No. 6 sister car with Laurens Vanthoor from Belgium and Kévin Estre from France. The IMSA drivers Felipe Nasr from Brazil, Mathieu Jaminet from France and Briton Nick Tandy helm the third No. 75 Porsche 963. The 38-year-old from Bedford won Le Mans in 2015 at the wheel of a Porsche 919 Hybrid – the No. 19 car was the third and additional Porsche fielded in the top class. Driving Hertz Team Jota’s No. 38 entry is the works driver António Félix da Costa from Portugal, Will Stevens from the UK and Yifei Ye from China. The 22-year-old Asian receives support from Porsche Motorsport Asia Pacific as a Selected Driver.
In the total of eight Porsche 911 RSR tackling the GTE-Am class, works driver Richard Lietz will compete in Proton Competition’s No. 911 entry. The Austrian shares the customer car with Martin Rump from Estonia and Hollywood actor Michael Fassbender. This marks the second outing at the Le Mans 24 Hours for the Irishman. The two former Porsche Juniors Julien Andlauer (France) and Matteo Cairoli (Italy) are among the drivers of the other privately-run 911 race cars. The Iron Dames squad relies on its all-female crew of Belgian Sarah Bovy, ex-DTM driver Rahel Frey from Switzerland and Michelle Gatting from Denmark.
Overview of teams and drivers
Hypercar class (Porsche 963):
Porsche Penske Motorsport (#5): Dane Cameron (USA), Michael Christensen (DK), Fréderic Makowiecki (F)
Porsche Penske Motorsport (#6): Kévin Estre (F), André Lotterer (D), Laurens Vanthoor (B)
Porsche Penske Motorsport (#75): Felipe Nasr (BR), Mathieu Jaminet (F), Nick Tandy (UK)
Hertz Team Jota (#38): António Félix da Costa (P), William Stevens (UK), Yifei Ye (CHN)
GTE-Am class (Porsche 911 RSR):
Proton Competition (#16): Ryan Hardwick (USA), Zacharie Robichon (CDN), Jan Heylen (B)
Project1 – AO (#56): PJ Hyett (USA), Gunnar Jeanette (USA), Matteo Cairoli (I)
Iron Lynx (#60): Claudio Schiavoni (I), Matteo Cressoni (I), Alessio Picariello (B)
Dempsey-Proton Racing (#77): Christian Ried (D), Mikkel Pedersen (DK), Julien Andlauer (F)
Iron Dames (#85): Sarah Bovy (B), Michelle Gatting (DK), Rahel Frey (CH)
GR Racing (#86): Michael Wainwright (UK), Ben Barker (UK), Riccardo Pera (I)
Proton Competition (#88): Harry Tincknell (UK), Jonas Ried (D), Don Yount (USA)
Proton Competition (#911): Michael Fassbender (IRL), Martin Rump (EST), Richard Lietz (A)
Porsche Penske Motorsport and the customer teams of the sports car manufacturer from Stuttgart are ready to tackle the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The 91st edition of the long-distance classic in France marks the 100th anniversary of the event and coincides with the 75th birthday of the Porsche sports car brand.
The event on the 13.626-kilometre Circuit des 24 Heures in Le Mans marks the annual highlight on the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC calendar. The first running of the race was in 1923 to showcase automotive innovation, durability and performance. The only time the classic was not contested in the city in north-western France was in 1936 (general strike in France) and between 1940 and 1948 (WWII and reconstruction). This year marks the 91st running and the 100th anniversary of the long-distance race.
On the occasion of the anniversary, the event organizer ACO (Automobile Club de l’Ouest) has added a few extra highlights to the special schedule. On Friday before the start of the race, there will be another presentation of all drivers at the racetrack in addition to the traditional drivers’ parade in the city centre. As part of a show-run of 40 legendary Le Mans vehicles, four Porsche racing cars will also lap the circuit on Saturday shortly before the 24-hour classic gets underway: Mark Webber drives a 936 Spyder, Timo Bernhard a Porsche 956, Marc Lieb a 962C and Stephane Ortelli climbs behind the wheel of his victorious vehicle from 1998, the Porsche 911 GT1.