The dream of any sports person aiming for a professional career is to reach the summit. In the case of a driver like Kevin Estre who has clinched the official titles of French champion, European and World champion, who has won the majority of blue riband events in the grand touring category, the objective could only be to apply his talent in the top-tier endurance category. This dream is going to become reality for the driver from Lyon who lives in Austria as Porsche has just announced that he is part of the squad that will drive its LMDh prototype – the brand new 963 – in 2023. And of course, the aim is obviously to win the greatest races as often as possible!
Kevin was a redoubtable kart racer and won the Formula Campus title in his very first season in motor racing. A little later on he oriented his career towards the Porsche Carrera Cup winning two overall titles and a total of 35 outright victories in the French Cup, the German Cup and the Supercup. He then became a McLaren GT works driver, but Porsche very soon asked him to rejoin its ranks and in 2015 at the age of 26 he became one of the Stuttgart manufacturer’s team’s works drivers. He accumulated experience and success at the wheel of 911 RSR ‘17s and RSR-19s in the World Endurance Championship between 2016 and 2022. The highlights? His victory in GTE Pro in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June 2018 and the FIA GT Drivers’ world champion title in the 2018-2019 super season. Although this programme was his priority, Kevin added to his laurels two classics that he had a burning desire to win: the 24 Hours of Spa and the ADAC 24h at the Nürburgring Nordschleife at the wheel of the Porsche 911 GT3 R.
After such a career, the LMDh programme that Porsche is preparing to launch in partnership with Team Penske, which will look after the operational side, comes at just the right moment for Kevin, who frequently dropped hints that he was ready for such a challenge.
The Frenchman spoke about the immense satisfaction he felt when his name was announced. “When Porsche decided to launch itself into the FIA WEC and IMSA with this car, I didn’t really have to apply as they knew I was interested. After that, some time elapsed before I heard anything more about it. At the end of 2021, I was integrated into the development programme. I did six days running on the Porsche test track in Weissach near Stuttgart, as well as tests in Barcelona and at Motorland Aragon. For me it was an aim I had set myself ever since I opted for endurance: win outright after having won in GT! Now, I’m at the very summit of endurance; it’s really fantastic!”
The new Porsche racer in compliance with the LMDh regulations has an LMP2-type chassis. This is supplied by Multimatic (HQ in Canada), a major constructor of racing cars with development facilities in Great Britain and in the USA. The other technical partners are: Williams Advanced Engineering for the battery, Bosch for the electric motor and Xtrac for the gearbox while Porsche is responsible for the internal combustion engine.
For Kevin, this concentrate of technology represents a raft of novelties. “The hybrid system imposes a level of battery charge that never falls below a minimum or exceeds a maximum. Its management is automatic, but the manual mode is available if needed. The car requires a different working method to the one I’m familiar with. You have to relearn a lot of things when you swap from GT to such a prototype. Concerning the aerodynamics, I’ve never driven a car with so much downforce. It’s also lighter with a lower centre of gravity.”
The driver announcement for the LMDh programme was made today at the Festival of Speed at Goodwood where several legendary Porsches from the world of endurance were present. The composition of the line-ups and the championships in which each driver will be involved will be unveiled at a later date. “This year at Le Mans I was thinking about it in some of my stints when I saw the Hypercars and LMP2 prototypes passing me on the outside in the Porsche Esses. Next year, I’ll be going round the GTs on the outside in the races I’ll do at the wheel of the Porsche 963!”
And between now and then, the perspective of winning his second GT World Endurance Championship title – which he just missed out on last year – would not displease Kevin or his employer!
Source. Romane Didier / future racing
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