The 2019-2020 season of the World Endurance Championship resumes after more than a 24-week break due to the coronavirus pandemic. On August 15, round six of the World Endurance Championship WEC will be held at Spa-Francorchamps. Porsche tackles the six-hour race with two of the latest 911 RSR racers. The defending world champions Michael Christensen (Denmark) and Kévin Estre (France) share the cockpit of the No. 92 car, with their teammates Richard Lietz (Austria) and Gianmaria Bruni (Italy) joining forces in the No. 91 Porsche. The factory squad returns to Belgium with positive memories: Last year, Porsche claimed an early world championship title in the GTE-Pro manufacturer’s classification. Cur-rently, the title defender ranks second in the GTE-Pro class after five races. The cus-tomer teams Dempsey-Proton Racing, Project 1 and Gulf Racing field five of last season’s 911 RSR in the GTE-Am class.
The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is located in the far east of Belgium close to the German border. Opened in 1921, the 7.004-kilometre racetrack featuring 21 corners undulates through the Walloon countryside – not surprisingly, the circuit is also known as the “Ardennes rollercoaster”. Fast passages like Raidillon, Eau Rouge and Blanchimont are as notorious as the La Source hairpin at the end of the start-finish straight.
The Porsche 911 RSR
The current Porsche 911 RSR-19 contests its maiden WEC season. The engineers in Weissach were able to improve the ca. 515-hp vehicle compared to its extremely successful predecessor model, most notably in areas such as drivability, efficiency, ergonomics and serviceability. About 95 per cent of all components are new. The 911 RSR is powered by a 4.2-litre, six-cylinder boxer engine.
The Porsche GT Team drivers
After scoring second place at four of the five rounds so far this season, the reigning WEC champions Michael Christensen and Kévin Estre rank third in the WEC drivers’ classification. Richard Lietz and Gianmaria Bruni, the winners of the season-opening round in Great Britain, lie fifth. The latest Porsche 911 RSR underlined its potential at the previous races of the 2019/2020 season with pole positions in Japan, China and Bahrain.
The customer teams
At the WEC restart, Dempsey-Proton Racing fields two Porsche 911 RSR from the 2017 model year. At the wheel of the No. 77 car is Porsche works driver Matt Camp-bell (Australia), team owner Christian Ried (Germany) and the Italian Riccardo Pera. Vutthikorn Inthraphuvasak (Thailand), Ricardo Sanchez (Mexico) and Lucas Legeret (Switzerland) share the cockpit of the No. 88 sister car. The German customer team Project 1 also campaign a pair of 2017-generation 911 RSR. The No. 56 cockpit is shared by Laurents Hörr (Germany), Egidio Perfetti (Norway) and Matteo Cairoli (Ita-ly). Ben Keating (USA), Felipe Fraga (Brazil) and Jeroen Bleekemolen (Netherlands) drive the No. 57 car. Gulf Racing entrusts the No. 86 vehicle to the all-British crew Michael Wainwright, Ben Barker and Andrew Watson.
The schedule (all times CEST)
Thursday, 13 August
4:25 to 5:55 p.m. – Free practice 1
Friday, 14 August
9:30 to 11:00 a.m. – Free practice 2
2:00 to 3:00 p.m. – Free practice 3
6:00 to 6:20 p.m. – Qualifying GTE-Pro and GTE-Am
Saturday, 15 August
1:30 to 7:30 p.m. – Race
Comments before the race
Pascal Zurlinden (Director Factory Motorsport): “The wait for the next round of the World Endurance Championship is now over, as well. I’d like to pay a big com-pliment to the WEC organisers on successfully laying the foundations for the restart. In the upcoming races, we still have the best chances to defend our titles. Prepara-tions for the final rehearsal before the 24 Hours of Le Mans went well. We’re aiming to score our second win of the season at Spa-Francorchamps.”
Alexander Stehlig (Head of Operations FIA WEC): “We were able to use the com-pulsory Corona-related break to work through many details and we’ve also complet-ed successful test drives. We’ve further improved the drivability and the balance of the 911 RSR and honed the team’s processes. In the first race after the long break, it’s important that we get back to our usual routine quickly. We want to earn as many points as possible in Belgium and we aim to win.”
Richard Lietz (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “We can finally contest the WEC again – but unfortunately without any spectators. Still, the main thing is to compete again. Every-one in the team feels highly motivated and wants to achieve a good result. We’re heading to Spa very well prepared. The podium is our minimum target.”
Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “Spa-Francorchamps is one of my fa-vourite racetracks on the WEC calendar. I can hardly wait to finally race again. Rich-ard Lietz and I are eager to achieve more race victories and podium results with the new 911 RSR. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have to be careful and com-ply with the guidelines, but we’re very well organised in this respect, as well.”
Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “We had a crazy race at Spa last year with snow, rain and sunshine. Still, we reached the podium and managed to secure the manufacturers’ title for Porsche – that was fantastic. Obviously, everything will be very different this year. We’re competing at a different time of the year and it’s the first WEC round after the coronavirus break. We’ll miss the spectators and we’ll all be wearing facemasks. With the new 911 RSR, we want to move closer to the top of the championship.”
Michael Christensen (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “It’s important that we come back strong after such a long break. We’re still in the running for the title and we want to catch the championship leaders. During the break, we tried to keep in touch with each other and give good feedback so that we could continue to improve. We went testing with the new 911 RSR. It felt good to work with the Manthey squad again and to prepare for the races at Spa and Le Mans.”
Matt Campbell (Porsche 911 RSR #77): “I’m looking forward to competing in the WEC again with Christian Ried and Riccardo Pera. We want to push hard to achieve another top result and put the team on the podium.”
The Sports Car World Endurance Championship WEC
In the Sports Car World Endurance Championship (WEC), which was first contested in 2012, sports prototypes and GT vehicles compete in four classes: LMP1, LMP2, GTE-Pro and GTE-Am. They all compete together in one race but are classified sep-arately. The Porsche factory squad contests the GTE-Pro class as the reigning world manufacturers’ champions, while the customer teams Dempsey Proton Racing, Pro-ject 1 and Gulf Racing fight for honours in the GTE-Am class.