Porsche 963, Porsche Penske Motorsport (#5), Dane Cameron (USA), Michael Christensen (DK), Frederic Makowiecki (F)
Frédéric Makowiecki and Felipe Nasr set fast qualifying times
Kévin Estre narrowly misses out on a hyperpole spot
No Porsche 911 RSR in the top 8 of the GTE-Am class
Porsche Penske Motorsport has qualified for the hyperpole with two Porsche 963 – and thus has a chance to claim pole position in the shootout for this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The factory team’s two hybrid prototypes with the starting numbers 5 and 75 wrapped up the qualifying session on Wednesday on positions five and eight. With P9, the No. 6 sister car narrowly missed out on securing a crucial top-8 result. In the GTE-Am category, none of the eight Porsche 911 RSR qualified for the hyperpole, which will be held on Friday.
In sunny conditions and temperatures of around 27 degrees Celsius, the qualifying session on the 13.626-kilometre Circuit des 24 Heures proved difficult: two interruptions with red flags and numerous yellow flags repeatedly hampered the qualifying attempts of racing cars. Only in the second half of the qualifying could Frenchman Frédéric Makowiecki in the No. 5 Porsche 963 and Brazilian Felipe Nasr in the No. 75 sister car make any decisive improvement on their times.
At the end of the session, the two 515+ kW (700 PS) hybrid prototypes from Weissach initially posted the fifth and sixth fastest times. Subsequently, the two fastest lap times of the Porsche 963 which flies the starting number 75 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Porsche sports cars were cancelled: A torque sensor had recorded performance peaks that were outside the range prescribed by the regulations. Fortunately for Nasr and his teammates Nick Tandy from Great Britain and Mathieu Jaminet from France, it was still enough for eighth place.
Towards the end of the session, the French local hero Kévin Estre put in a last-ditch sprint at the wheel of his No. 6 car, only to have his attempt at making it into the top 8 thwarted by yellow flags, heavy traffic and deteriorating tyres. The vehicle, which Estre shares with Belgian Laurens Vanthoor and German André Lotterer, will start the race to mark the centenary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans from position nine.
In today’s hunt for top times, only the eight fastest cars in each class qualify for the so-called “hyperpole”. This 30-minute session begins at 8 pm on Thursday (June 8) and determines the positions of the first four grid rows. The grid spots for the remaining drivers who did not qualify for the shootout have been allocated based on today’s result. This applies to the Porsche 963 fielded by the customer team Hertz Team Jota in the hypercar class with 16th place and to all eight Porsche 911 RSR in the GTE-Am category.
“What a crazy qualifying! I have mixed feelings about our result,” explains Urs Kuratle, Director Factory Motorsport LMDh. “Two of the three works cars made it into the hyperpole, although we were biting our nails with our number 75 car after the two fastest lap times were thrown out. It’s a shame that our third car missed out on qualifying for the hyperpole by such a tiny margin, but we simply have to accept that now. I also feel very sorry for our customer team, Hertz Team Jota, whose Porsche 963 was unable to turn a timed lap due to a defect.”
“A look at the result shows that things are really tight here at Le Mans,” states Jonathan Diuguid. The Managing Director at Porsche Penske Motorsport adds: “The competition is fierce and exciting. We’re excited to see how the order will look in the hyperpole on Thursday. Until then, I hope we can continue to improve our cars.”
In the GTE-Am category, in which five customer squads campaign a total of eight Porsche 911 RSR, none of the vehicles from Weissach made it into the top eight. Ultimately, Julien Andlauer set the fastest lap time for a 911 with ninth place at the wheel of Dempsey-Proton Racing’s No. 77 entry. The Frenchman was just two-tenths of a second short of qualifying for the hyperpole. The Porsche run by the Iron Dames team with drivers Rahel Frey from Switzerland, Sarah Bovy from Belgium and Michelle Gatting from Denmark tackles the 91st edition of the long-distance classic from P12. Hollywood star Michael Fassbender from Ireland and his teammates Richard Lietz from Austria and Martin Rump from Estonia qualified on P16 in their class.
On Thursday, a three-hour free practice session is scheduled at 3 pm to prepare for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. From 8 pm, a total of 24 cars in three classes will go head to head in the hyperpole session in a bid to clinch the best grid positions in the Hypercar, LMP2 and GTE-Am categories. The day wraps up with another two-hour practice from 10 pm.
Drivers’ comments on the qualifying
Frédéric Makowiecki (Porsche 963 #5): “It was tricky. On my fastest lap, I got held up behind an LMP2 car in the first chicane and lost time in the process. At first, I thought I’d have to abandon my attempt, but I went full throttle instead. That was enough to put me quite far ahead. Our team did a great job in the lead-up to qualifying. I’m proud of the whole team.”
Felipe Nasr (Porsche 963 #75): “I’m pleased that we made it into the hyperpole – even though it was close in the end. It’s great that one of our sister cars is also in the top 8. It was difficult to attack at the right moment and it was a question of luck: will I get a clear lap or not? I’m happy that it was enough for us. This result shows that we’ve made noticeable progress. It’s a well-deserved reward for our team’s hard work.”
Kévin Estre (Porsche 963 #6): “What a nightmare. During my attempts, something always got in the way: red flags, slow zones or slower cars in front of me. I didn’t find one single clear lap. In the end, I didn’t have any fresh tyres left for a serious attack. Today just wasn’t our day. That happens sometimes. Let’s now focus on the race. We need to try to have a consistently fast car over 24 hours.”
1. Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen (I/E/DK), Ferrari #50, 3:25.213 minutes
2. Pier Guidi/Calado/Giovinazzi (I/UK/I), Ferrari #51, 3:25.412 minutes
3. Conway/Kobayashi/Lopez (UK/J/ARG), Toyota #7, 3:25.485 minutes
5. Cameron/Christensen/Makowiecki (USA/DK/F), Porsche 963 #5, 3:25.848 minutes
8. Jaminet/Nasr/Tandy (F/BR/UK), Porsche 963 #75, 3:26.589 minutes
9. Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor (F/D/B), Porsche 963 #6, 3:26.900 minutes
16. Félix da Costa/Stevens/Ye (P/UK/CHN), Porsche 963 #38, no lap time