Porsche tackles round two of the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC in Portugal from the front row of the GTE-Pro-class grid. At the debut of the WEC on the 4.684-kilometre Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, works driver Kévin Estre turned the fastest lap with the ca. 515 PS Porsche 911 RSR in 1:37.986 minutes. With this, the Frenchman repeated his qualifying success from Spa-Francorchamps. His Italian teammate Gianmaria Bruni set the third quickest time on the undulating circuit in the backcountry of the Algarve in 1:38.389 minutes and takes up the race from the second grid row. Like at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the highlight of the WEC season, each of the two factory-run 911 fielded by Manthey will be manned by three drivers for the eight-hour race. The championship leaders Estre and Neel Jani (Switzerland) receive support from Denmark’s Michael Christensen. Bruni and the Austrian Richard Lietz join forces in the cockpit with French factory driver Frédéric Makowiecki.
Estre used his second flying lap in the short ten-minute qualifying session to set his top time. Unlike the competition, he kept his 911 RSR within the track boundaries of the Grand Prix circuit. Bruni posted his fastest time in his first hot lap. Ultimately, the native of Rome was a mere three-hundredths of a second off a front-row spot.
“Positions one and three, just like at Spa-Francorchamps: the second qualifying success for us this year,” said a delighted Alex Stehlig, Head of Operations FIA WEC. “Still, the challenges here in Portugal are big – from the demanding circuit to the warm temperatures. But the team did a great job and worked perfectly to plan, which resulted in pole position for our number 92 car. Now we have a great starting position for this very important eight-hour race – there are a lot of points up for grabs at this event. Tomorrow we’ll try to continue our form from today.”
In the GTE-Am class, two Porsche customer teams share the first grid row. Egidio Perfetti drove the fastest time with the Project 1 squad’s No. 56 911 RSR in 1:40.191 minutes. The Norwegian was 0.045 seconds faster than the Dempsey-Proton Racing team owner Christian Ried from Germany in the No. 77 Porsche. Britain’s Michael Wainwright turned the tenth quickest lap in the GTE-Am category at the wheel of GR Racing’s No. 86 car, with the American Dominique Bastien planting the second Dempsey-Proton 911 (#88) on P13.
Round two of the World Endurance Championship WEC, which runs over eight hours, takes off on Sunday, 13 June at midday (CEST).
Drivers’ qualifying quotes
Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “My lap wasn’t great. We’re still searching for the last fractions of seconds. We changed two things on the car prior to the qualifying but that didn’t quite pay off. Now let’s see what we can do in tomorrow’s race.”
Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “That was a tough qualifying, to be honest. The conditions were different compared to the third free practice session, where we’d prepared for the qualifying. But I reckon no one managed a really perfect lap here. Everyone made a minor mistake, for example, with the track limits. It was all about having a good car and turning a clean lap. I managed that. I’m thrilled because we‘ve made a mega start to the season. Still, the big day won’t come until tomorrow.”
Egidio Perfetti (Porsche 911 RSR #56): “I’m extremely pleased with pole position, of course. After the accident at Spa-Francorchamps, the team put in a huge effort to repair the car in time for Portimão. Matteo Cairoli also did a fantastic job of setting up our car. We’ve been extremely strong so far this weekend. I’m looking forward to the race. Let’s see what happens.”
Result GTE-Pro class
1. Estre/Jani/Christensen (F/CH/DK), Porsche 911 RSR #92, 1:37.968 minutes
2. Pier Guidi/Calado (I/GB), Ferrari 488 GTE #51, 1:38.359 minutes
3. Bruni/Lietz/Makowiecki (I/A/F), Porsche 911 RSR #91, 1:38.389 minutes
Result GTE-Am class
1. Perfetti/Cairoli/Pera (N/I/I), Porsche 911 RSR #56, 1:40.191 minutes
2. Ried/Evans/Campbell (D/NZ/AUS), Porsche 911 RSR #77, 1:40.236 minutes
3. Lacorte/Sernagiotto/Fuoco (I/I/I), Ferrari 488 GTE EVO #47, 1:40.885 minutes
10. Wainwright/Barker/Gamble (GB/GB/GB), Porsche 911 RSR #86, 1:41.604 minutes
13. Bastien/Seefried/Andlauer (USA/D/F), Porsche 911 RSR #88, 1:43.374 minutes