At the qualifying race in China’s gamblers’ paradise of Macau, the Porsche drivers have secured excellent starting positions for the FIA GT World Cup (17 November). At the 12-lap event on the 6.1-kilometre street circuit, works drivers Earl Bamber (New Zealand) and Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) claimed positions two and three. The two Porsche 911 GT3 R fielded by Rowe Racing will tackle the main race from the first and second grid row. In the identical 500+hp vehicle campaigned by Absolute Racing, Alexandre Imperatori (Switzerland) and Kévin Estre (France) achieved positions six and eight.
The qualifying race, which started 30 minutes late due to technical problems with the start lights, was punctuated by accidents and safety car phases. Bamber and Vanthoor took up the qualifying race from positions three and four and made up one place each in the first lap. The two reigning IMSA champions then proceeded to put the leader under pressure. In the final phase, the two works drivers posted the fastest lap times in their Porsche 911 GT3 R racers, which is based on the high performance 911 GT3 RS* road-going sports car. The Guia Circuit, parts of which are only seven metres wide, made overtaking difficult.
World sports car champion Estre put in a spirited charge in the No. 912 vehicle. After an accident during practice which required the engine to be swapped out, the Frenchman had to start from the last grid position and made up nine positions over the course of the qualifying race. His teammate Imperatori (No. 911) put in a flawless drive to finish on sixth.
The main race over 18 laps takes off on Sunday, 17 November, at 12:25 hrs local time (5:25 hrs CET).
Quotes from the qualifying race
Sebastian Golz (Project Manager Porsche 911 GT3 R): “We had a clean and successful qualifying race. Our goal was to get all the cars further up the field. We achieved this – all four 911 GT3 R made up ground. It was very clear that our car has a lot of power. Now we’ll focus totally on meticulously preparing for the main race and then go all-out. We now want to take the final step to the top.”
Earl Bamber (Porsche 911 GT3 R #98): “That was a great race. I made up one position and now I can start the main race from the first grid row. This starting position gives me a good chance to win my first Macau race – but Laurens starts from third so anything is possible. Still, right now I’m simply thrilled about today’s result. Two Porsche 911 GT3 R on the podium – it’s a great day for us.”
Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 GT3 R #99): “We took a step in the right direction in the qualifying race, namely forwards. From third on the grid I expect I have good chances in the main race. Still, it’s difficult for us to overtake on the long straights. Corners are our strong point, but you can’t get past the other cars there. That’s why it’s important to get a really good jump off the line tomorrow.”
Alexandre Imperatori (Porsche 911 GT3 R #911): “There were a lot of incidents in the race with safety car phases and duels. I got caught, too, when a competitor had a puncture and collided with me. I’m surprised that with the minor damage and a skewed steering wheel I could still turn really fast laps. I actually made up three positions. P6 is a great starting position for Sunday’s race.”
Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 GT3 R #912): “I had to start from the back of the field so I had only one choice: I had to take some risks to get as far up the order as possible. This worked brilliantly, particularly in view of all the accidents in front of me. My car was really strong in the qualifying race. Tomorrow I start from eighth place on fresh tyres and I plan to go for broke.”
Result qualifying race
1. Raffaele Marciello (I), Mercedes-AMG GT3, 12 laps
2. Earl Bamber (NZ), Porsche 911 GT3 R, + 0.866 seconds
3. Laurens Vanthoor (B), Porsche 911 GT3 R, + 1.538 seconds
6. Alexandre Imperatori (CH), Porsche 911 GT3 R, + 10.377 seconds
8. Kévin Estre (F), Porsche 911 GT3 R, + 11.720 seconds