Porsche tackles the first Sports Car World Endurance Championship WEC race at Sebring since 2012 as the points’ leader. After five of the season’s eight rounds, the works team with its two ca. 510 hp Porsche 911 RSR ranks first in the manufacturers’, drivers’ and team categories. Three customer squads field four other identical vehicle models in the GTE-Am category. With the WEC held as a joint event alongside the North American IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship from March 13-16, a total of eight Porsche 911 RSR vehicles will be competing on the legendary Sebring circuit.
Sebring has hosted the Sports Car World Endurance Championship WEC only once since the launch of the series. In 2012, works drivers Marc Lieb (Germany), Richard Lietz (Austria) and Patrick Pilet (France) finished in second place. In the long history of endurance racing at Sebring, Porsche is by far the most successful manufacturer, with a total of 18 overall victories going to the marque from Weissach. The most recent victory was in 2008 thanks to Timo Bernhard (Germany), Romain Dumas (France) and Emmanuel Collard (France) at the wheel of a Porsche RS Spyder.
The Porsche GT Team drivers
Richard Lietz (Austria) and Gianmaria Bruni (Italy) tackle the 1,000-mile race (or eight hours) with the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR car. The pair achieved second place at the Shanghai round of the 2018/2019 Super Season. The cockpit of the identical No. 92 sister vehicle is shared by Le Mans champions Kevin Estre from France and Michael Christensen from Denmark. The two Porsche works drivers hold a convincing lead in the GTE-Pro class after winning the Le Mans 24-hour classic and the Fuji race in Japan as well as claiming podium places at all other rounds of the season.
The customer teams
Three customer teams field four more 911 RSR in the GTE-Am category. Porsche Junior Julien Andlauer (France), Christian Ried (Germany) and Porsche Young Professional Matt Campbell (Australia) compete in the No. 77 car. An all-Italian crew shares the Dempsey Proton Racing No. 88 cockpit, with Porsche Young Professional Matteo Cairoli and the father/son pairing Gianluca and Giorgio Roda. Manning the No. 56 Porsche 911 RSR for the Project 1 team is Porsche works driver Jörg Bergmeister (Germany), Patrick Lindsey from America and Norwegian Egidio Perfetti. Two British racing drivers, Michael Wainwright and Ben Barker, share driving duties with Porsche Junior Thomas Preining (Austria) in Gulf Racing’s 911 No. 86.
The Porsche 911 RSR
The Porsche 911 RSR celebrated its WEC debut at Silverstone in 2017. In the current 2018/2019 Super Season, the racer from Weissach has clinched a one-two result in the GTE-Pro class at Le Mans as well as the GTE-Am category class win. The RSR with its water-cooled four-litre boxer engine is based on the seventh generation of the iconic 911 sports car and produces around 510 hp depending on the restrictor. The #91 and #92 vehicles tackled Le Mans in a special historic design.
Round six of the season at Sebring gets underway on Friday, March 15, 2019, at 16:00 hrs local time (21.00 hrs CET) and is contested over a distance of 1,000 miles.
Comments before the race
Fritz Enzinger (Vice President Porsche Motorsport): “The race weekend in Sebring is very special for us. With the WEC and IMSA series being run as a joint event, the effort is huge. Like at the major Le Mans outing last year, optimal teamwork is essential. We’re not the only manufacturer to field factory cars in both series. The communication and exchange of information between teams will be key factors. The fact that we’re obviously good at this was clearly demonstrated by our success at Le Mans in 2018. I’m certain that we’ll also be in the fight for victory in Sebring.”
Pascal Zurlinden (Director GT Factory Motorsport): “Thanks to the excellent results from the first five races of the current season, we’re travelling to Florida as leaders of the manufacturer’s and drivers’ championships. We want to continue this great run. Our victory last year at the IMSA race in Sebring has clearly shown that the Porsche 911 RSR is very competitive on this special racetrack. We are eager to turn this into another win and expand our championship lead in the WEC.”
Richard Lietz (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “From the winter break straight into the mogul run of Sebring – that’s a tough but wonderful challenge. I’m excited to see how this race works with its 1,000-mile format. Because of the schedule with the late starting time we’ll have to contest most of the race at night. Two of us share one car. On the positive side, each driver will get a lot of track time. Our team is looking good in the championship. We also want to earn plenty of points at Sebring to consolidate our position.”
Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “I find it great that the WEC is finally returning to Sebring after so many years. The last time the series raced there was in 2012. Not a lot has changed on the track since then. Last year I competed there with our IMSA factory squad so I know that the Porsche 911 RSR is well suited to the vagaries of Sebring. We want to bring home another top result to extend the lead in the manufacturers’ championship as much as possible.”
Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “Our winter break was about four months long and now our current season continues in a new calendar year. It feels strange – it’s something new. But it doesn’t change our goals and aspirations. We want to be amongst the frontrunners at Sebring and further consolidate our top position in the championship. It’s going to be a tough job. We’re contesting the 1,000-mile race with just two drivers per car. If rain or heat is added to the mix, then it’ll become the most demanding race of the year.”
Michael Christensen (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “I’m especially looking forward to the return of the WEC to Sebring. In 2014, I won the IMSA race there. It may be a different series, but essentially the task is the same on the demanding circuit. The winter break has certainly not hindered our good run so far this season. I’m firmly convincing that we’ll also be perfectly prepared in Sebring and have good chances of winning.”
Jörg Bergmeister (Porsche 911 RSR #56): “The 1,000-mile race at Sebring is a great challenge when I think of the hefty bumps and hardships that come with it. I find it somewhat strange that the WEC hasn’t been contested in Sebring for a long time and yet, in contrast to all previous tracks, it’s the one that all the drivers in our team know. I’m very confident that we’ll achieve another strong result.”
Matt Campbell (Porsche 911 RSR #77): “The 2019 racing year started perfectly for me with a victory at my home race in Bathurst. It can continue like this. After the long winter break of the WEC, I’m really looking forward to my next race outing in the Porsche 911 RSR. I’ve heard a lot of interesting stories about this circuit – I’m very curious. This is my first time at Sebring, but I’m very sure that we’ll be extremely competitive there, too.”
Thomas Preining (Porsche 911 RSR #86): “At last the WEC Super Season goes on. I very much look forward to sitting in the cockpit of Gulf Racing’s Porsche 911 RSR for this upcoming race. I’ve never raced at Sebring before so I’m super excited. This track has so much tradition. You simply have to drive there. We’ll prepare as optimally as possible. I’m confident that our team will do well with this proven car.”
Matteo Cairoli (Porsche 911 RSR #88): “I’ve not yet experienced this track live, but I turned a lot of laps in the simulator. This helps tremendously with the preparation. I realise that the race on this very demanding circuit is challenging, but all the drivers from the Porsche squad should be perfectly prepared. We took part in our fitness camp recently. That was extremely exhausting but it certainly gives us the physical fitness we need to master challenges like Sebring.”