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The week-long countdown to the 24 Hours of Le Mans


Porsche 911 RSR, Gulf Racing (86), Ben Barker (GB), Thomas Preining (A), Michael Wainwright (GB)

Porsche 911 RSR, Gulf Racing (86), Ben Barker (GB), Thomas Preining (A), Michael Wainwright (GB)

 

Le Mans, 11 June, 2019

The week-long countdown to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the most eagerly anticipated race for fans of closed-wheel racing, has officially begun with the pre-race administrative checks and scrutineering, known in French as ‘Le Pesage’.

Kessel cars
This lasts two days and involves all the crews starting the French marathon in their respective classes. Most of the 488 GTEs entered were checked today, while yesterday saw the turn of the two cars of Kessel Racing.

Female crew
The much-admired no. 83 is one of the biggest attractions for the media and fans, driven in the LMGTE Am class by the all-female crew of Manuela Gostner, Rahel Frey and Michelle Gatting. The Swiss team’s second car, the no. 60, will be in the hands of three Italians Claudio Schiavoni, Sergio Pianezzola and Andrea Piccini, who usually compete in the European Le Mans Series.

The scrutineering and administrative checks are a highly anticipated event for fans, offering them a close look at the cars and drivers before the action shifts to the 13,262-metre Circuit de la Sarthe.



BMW

The team from Garching (GER) will again field a pair of BMW M8 GTEs, which have both had podium success in the manufacturer’s debut WEC season. In the #81 car, Martin Tomcyzk (GER) and Nick Catsburg (NED) will once again be joined by Philipp Eng (AUT). Jesse Krohn (FIN) will make his Le Mans debut alongside season regulars António Félix da Costa (POR) and Augusto Farfus (BRA) in the #82 sister car. 

BMW celebrates a special anniversary at Le Mans this year, as it marks 20 years since the BMW V12 LMR claimed the overall win in the 24-hour race. To honour this success, the race-winning car will be on display this weekend at Le Mans.

 

Comments ahead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans

Jens Marquardt (BMW Group Motorsport Director)
“The 24 Hours of Le Mans is an event that plays a huge role, not only in the world of motorsport, but also automotive. Although we decided to quit WEC after the end of this ‘Super Season’ in light of us sharpening our focus as part of our strategy for the future, we are all proud to get another chance to race on this legendary circuit. It’s a highlight for everybody involved – the team, drivers, engineers, mechanics. Every single member is pushing hard to end this chapter on a high. Our Le Mans history may be taking a break, but our passion for the race remains.”

Ernest Knoors (Team Principal, BMW Team MTEK)
“It’s nice to be back at Le Mans but it’s sad that it’s our final event in WEC. We have to focus on getting the best performance for BMW and for MTEK and do the project proud. Whatever the conditions are that we have to race under, we will make the most of it. Le Mans is a long race with a lot of changing conditions so it’ll be tough. We’re as prepared as we can be but it’s going to take perfect strategy and some good luck to take the top step. Luck is always preparation meeting opportunities so we hope to be able to capitalise on some this weekend.”

Martin Tomczyk (#81 BMW M8 GTE)
“After the pre-test we were quite okay. We ran through our programme without any issues on both cars. It was good to be back at Le Mans and to do the first metres there. Basically the car is running well and set-up seems to be fine. We are just lacking a bit in performance. I know it’s a difficult task but as a driver you always look out for the maximum performance, and when you see quite a big gap between the cars it’s not that easy to understand because the car felt quite good. But overall I think we are ready for the race. The team did quite well, they’re prepared themselves very nicely. It will be the last race for BMW Team MTEK and myself in WEC this year so we hope we can enjoy it and hopefully with a nice result to finish up WEC.“

Nick Catsburg (#81 BMW M8 GTE)
“Le Mans is obviously one of the highlights of the season. It has a bit of both extremes of emotions because it’s one of the coolest races of the year but it’s also the last race for us at BMW Team MTEK in WEC. That is obviously not so nice. But let’s try and finish off with a good result. I think we have a car to do it. Last year we were okay, we were competitive but not reliable. I think this year we will have a bit more reliability after one year of working on and getting to know the car. So hopefully we can do a better result. For sure, me, Martin and Philipp will try as hard as we can.”

Philipp Eng (#81 BMW M8 GTE)
“It goes without saying that Le Mans is the all-time classic. In my eyes it is one of the greatest car races in the world. After our big win at Daytona it would be unbelievably amazing to win at Le Mans with BMW. It would be a phenomenal highlight, not only in 2019 but in my career, and alongside BMW. I’m incredibly happy, and proud of this opportunity. I’m very much looking forward to the entire week at Le Mans. For performance in the race, we will have to see. After the test, we were very happy with the balance and with the drivability of the BMW M8 GTE.”

António Félix da Costa (#82 BMW M8 GTE)
“I’m really looking forward to my second go at the 24 hours of Le Mans. It’s one of the biggest races in the world and last year was such an amazing experience. This year, we’re coming in with a lot more experience, not only me, but the team. We know the car much better and it’s much more reliable. So hopefully we can pull decent result as our goodbye to WEC.”

Augusto Farfus (#82 BMW M8 GTE)
“It is the last race in the WEC for us so it’s going to be very emotional for the whole team. We’ve been working together since before WEC to try and win this race. We are very well-prepared but we hope that we are given enough pace to challenge.”

Jesse Krohn (#82 BMW M8 GTE)
“It’s my first time at Le Mans but it’s been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. To finally get the chance to race here makes it extra motivating to succeed. It’s the best-known endurance race on the planet and I can’t wait for the week to get stated. The track is amazing – it’s exactly as I imagined it. You can feel the heritage and, because it’s so rare to drive there, you feel like it is a real privilege to start every lap that you do.”


Porsche

Le Mans Championship. Porsche Brings Full Force to Win 24 and WEC Title
The 24 Hours of Le Mans, scheduled for June 15 – 16, marks the final round of the 2018/2019 Super Season of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). After the Porsche GT Team clinched the WEC Manufacturers’ title at the previous six-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium), the focus now turns to the duel between the Porsche “works” pilots for the drivers’ world championship title. At the 24-hour race, the championship drivers’ title will go to either Kévin Estre (France) and Michael Christensen (Denmark) in the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR or Gianmaria Bruni (Italy) and the Austrian Richard Lietz in the No. 91. As last year’s Le Mans winners, Porsche will campaign four factory cars in the LMGTE-Pro class, like in 2018. A total of ten Porsche 911 RSR race cars will tackle the twice-around the clock endurance event on the legendary Circuit de la Sarthe. Three customer squads join the works efforts to field another six ca. 510 hp sports cars from Weissach, Germany at the Le Mans classic.

The 24 Hours of Le Mans is considered the most venerable long-distance event in the world; the “grandfather of all sports car racing”. The first running of the race was in 1923 to showcase automotive innovation, durability and performance. This year marks the 87th running of the Le Mans 24-hour race. On the afternoon of June 15, 62 vehicles will start in four classes in the largest field to ever contest the race on the 8.47-mile (13.626-kilometers) racetrack. The course is a combination of permanent racecourse (Circuit Bugatti) and public roads that are closed to traffic during the event. The famous Mulsanne Straight – also known as Hunaudières – serves as the main route between Le Mans and Tours every other day of the year. The fast “Porsche Curves” are famous and notorious.

The 2018 race winners, Michael Christensen (Denmark), Kévin Estre (France) and Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium), join forces again in the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR. The No. 91 sister car is driven by Gianmaria Bruni (Italy) and Richard Lietz (Austria) as well as Frédéric Makowiecki (France), who supported them at last year’s Le Mans endurance race. To celebrate the Manufacturer’s Championship, the pair of WEC-focused factory cars will replace the red stripe through the traditional corporate red, white and black livery with gold. The two 911 from the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will be decked out in the livery of the highly successful North American team, Brumos Racing. Sharing the cockpit of the No. 93 car are Earl Bamber (New Zealand), Nick Tandy (Great Britain) and Patrick Pilet (France). The youngest Porsche crew, Sven Müller (Germany) and the two Porsche Young Professionals Mathieu Jaminet (France) and Dennis Olsen (Norway), split driving duties in the cockpit of the No. 94. The Porsche GT Team from the U.S. endurance series has won the three most recent WeatherTech GTLM class races at Sebring, Long Beach and Mid-Ohio.

With support from Porsche Spokesperson and actor Patrick Dempsey (Malibu, California), the Porsche customer team Proton Racing faces its largest undertaking at the 24-hour race. Dempsey-Proton Racing brings four Porsche 911 RSR to Le Mans this year. Two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans-winner and Porsche factory driver Patrick Long (Manhattan Beach, California) shares the No. 99 cockpit with Tracy Krohn (Houston, Texas) and Niclas Jönsson (Sweden). Sharing the wheel of the No. 77 car is team owner Christian Ried (Germany), Porsche Young Professional Matt Campbell (Australia) and Porsche Junior Julien Andlauer from France. In the No. 88 sister car, Porsche Young Professional Matteo Cairoli (Italy) joins forces with Satoshi Hoshino from Japan and the Italian Giorgio Roda. Representing Proton Competition, the Italian father-son duo Louis and Philippe Prette as well as Vincent Abril (France) compete in the No. 78 Porsche 911 RSR.

The Team Project 1 fights for the title in the LMGTE-Am class entering the season’s final race with works driver Jörg Bergmeister (Germany) as well as Patrick Lindsey (Santa Barbara, California) and Egidio Perfetti (Norway). In their maiden season in the FIA WEC, the customer squad heads to the final round at Le Mans leading the team and drivers’ classifications. Project 1 lines up on the grid with the No. 56 Porsche 911 RSR painted as an Art Car. The American pop art artist Richard Phillips created the distinctive design that was unveiled at the Le Mans pre-tests on June 2. Porsche Young Professional Thomas Preining (Austria) shares driving duties in Gulf Racing’s vehicle (No. 86) with the two British drivers Benjamin Barker and Michael Wainwright.

The 24 Hours of Le Mans takes the start on Saturday, June 15, 2019. Just one free practice is held on the previous Wednesday, June 12. One qualifying session then takes place on Wednesday, June 12 followed by two qualifying sessions on Thursday, June 13.

Fritz Enzinger, Vice President Motorsport
“We’ve already claimed the manufacturers’ title, and now one of our WEC driver teams will bring home the drivers’ championship. The situation in the lead-up to the season finale couldn’t be better. Still, we have big goals. We want to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans again. In the current era of the sports car world championship, no manufacturer has managed to win the GTE-Pro class at the French classic twice in a row. Porsche should be the first to do this. Perhaps the Porsche legend Hurley Haywood, who takes the honorary role of Grand Marshal this year, will bring us an extra portion of luck.

Pascal Zurlinden, Director GT Factory Motorsport
“We‘ve experienced unprecedented success this season. And our American Porsche GT Team is at an all-time high after three straight wins. All of the drivers, both teams and everyone involved are heading to the biggest race of the year feeling confident and motivated. When facing such a challenge, it doesn’t get much better than this.”

Gianmaria Bruni, Driver, No. 91 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR
“Last year Porsche celebrated a two victories. This dream will be difficult to repeat at Le Mans. We, in the number 91 Porsche 911 RSR, only have theoretical chances to claim the drivers’ title. Still, we’ll do our utmost, but at the same time we don’t want jeopardize the success of the en-tire team. We want to enjoy the race and ultimately see where we end up in the drivers’ world championship. One thing is certain: the title will go to Porsche drivers. That’s what counts.”

Richard Lietz, Driver, No. 91 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR
“The Super Season went brilliantly for Porsche – completely independent of the results at the Le Mans finale. The manufacturers’ title is safe; two Porsche crews will now battle for the drivers’ world championship. Does this mean we have no goals left? On the contrary: The 24 Hours of Le Mans is so incredibly prestigious that you just want to win.”

Frédéric Makowiecki, Driver, No. 91 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR
“Le Mans is the highlight of every race season. Every driver thinks this, but even more so for me as a Frenchman. Porsche arrives as the world champions, so we have less pressure than usual. Ever since I started racing, I’ve been trying to finally win the Le Mans 24 Hours. I think the conditions are particularly good this year, because everyone is in a great mood and relatively relaxed. This often has a positive effect on the race.”

Kévin Estre, Driver, No. 92 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR
“I’m feeling a bit torn. On the one hand, Michael and I want to win the drivers’ title. To do this we have to score decent points, but we don’t have to risk everything. On the other hand, Le Mans is a race you definitely want to win. We experienced how wonderful it is to climb to the top of the podium at Le Mans in 2018. You can never get enough of it. So, do we adopt a strategic approach to win the title or do we risk it and go for victory? We’re not yet ready to commit ourselves in this regard.”

Michael Christensen, Driver, No. 92 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR
“I’m super excited. It’s a very special feeling to return as last year’s winner to this venue. If you’ve conquered this huge challenge and climbed to the top podium step, you want to experience it over and over again. Aside from this, it would also yield us the drivers’ world champion title. That would fulfill another dream.”

Laurens Vanthoor, Driver, No. 92 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR
“Porsche is making a huge effort, with four works cars contesting Le Mans. The preparation is massive, and the commitment is very intensive in every respect. Such dedication deserves success. Last year, Le Mans was kind to us. I hope it’ll be similar this year. Aside from that, I’d like to help my colleagues in the number 92 car win the drivers’ world championship crown.”

Earl Bamber, Driver, No. 93 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR
“Le Mans is the biggest race for us. For the past few weeks, Porsche has been on a real high, not least thanks to our victories in the USA. Now, we’re travelling to Le Mans with four cars decked out in awesome designs. Even at the pre-test, the fans were delighted.”

Patrick Pilet, Driver, No. 93 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR
“I’ve raced at Le Mans a lot and I’m very familiar with the quirks of the track and the entire event. This year, I again expect the competition in the GTE-Pro class to be really tough with 17 cars from six different manufacturers. Porsche won Le Mans in 2018, so we know how it goes. We want to repeat this achievement.”

Nick Tandy, Driver, No. 93 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR
“For us drivers, it doesn’t matter if you’ve contested Le Mans once or many times: the race is always something special. With our Porsche 911 RSR from the IMSA Series we’re actually guest starters, because we can’t earn points in the FIA WEC. That’s why we’re regarding it as a one-off event, which we definitely want to win following on the heels of our successes this year in North America.

Sven Müller, Driver, No. 94 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR
“A year of waiting is finally over. We’re now tackling the greatest automobile race in the world – the absolute highlight of every season. I think it’s great that we get the chance to compete as one of the youngest driver line-ups. We’re the youngsters of the works team in the number 94 car. But age is just a number. We all have racing experience and stand a good chance. The works squad from the USA managed to adjust quickly to the special characteristics at Le Mans last year. We’re ready.”

Mathieu Jaminet , Driver, No. 94 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR
“As a Frenchman it was always my big goal to contest the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Now I’m finally fulfilling this dream. We’re certainly the underdogs of the Porsche GT Teams because we have the least experience. Still, our expectations are high. We’ll have a great car. If we concentrate and work flawlessly and consistently, anything is possible. I simply want to enjoy the whole thing.”

Dennis Olsen, Driver, No. 94 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR
“I’m coming to Le Mans as a rookie, and I’m one of very few Norwegians to have ever driven there. What’s more, this is the first time I’ll drive the Porsche 911 RSR for the works team. It’s something very special for me to start at this classic race. I’ve prepared for Le Mans in a simulator. In this way, I not only familiarized myself with the extraordinary racetrack, but also learned a lot about driving efficiently and looking after the tires. That was exciting and very helpful.”

Patrick Long, Driver, No. 99 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR
“This is my 16th time in a row at Le Mans. No other North American has managed this, and that makes me very proud. Personally, I have a special relationship to Le Mans, because in 1999, early in my racing career, I lived there and learned a great deal about motor racing. This year I share a car with Tracy Krohn and Niclas Jönsson for the first time. I’ve already contested a number of races against these guys. Now we’re finally a team. That’ll be very interesting.”

Jörg Bergmeister, Driver, No. 56 Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR
“You can’t plan for success at Le Mans. It’s always a huge achievement just to get the car across the line after 24 hours. Our focus is to finish the race with the stunning Art Car. If we succeed and maintain a decent position then our chances of winning the championship look good. That’s exactly what we want to do.”

Matt Campbell, No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR
“We won the GTE-Am class at Le Mans last year. That was a huge triumph that we’re keen to repeat. But many, many factors play a role over the 24 hours; and you can’t influence some of them. We’ll have a fast car and we’ll try to get the most out of what’s possible again this year.”