A Spa day for Porsche's works drivers

The Porsche works team is getting ready to ride the Ardennes Rollercoaster, as the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season kicks off.

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Round one of the World Endurance Championship (WEC) kicks off at Spa-Francorchamps from 13:30 (CEST) today (Saturday), with a six-hour test of endurance.

Earlier this week the sun shone on two labour-intensive test days (known as the prologue) at the iconic Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, where the two Porsche 911 RSR cars competing this season covered a total distance of 2,977 kilometres.

The main focus of the tests was on the set-up and tyre use as well as optimising the procedures within the team, which features a slightly different driver line-up this year. Works driver Kévin Estre, from France, turned the fastest lap in the GTE-Pro class with a time of 2:12.916 minutes.

“The prologue was great,” says Alexander Stehlig, Head of Operations FIA WEC. “We ticked everything off our programme and there were no surprises. Our ideas for the set-up worked positively out on the track. That was our priority on Monday. On the second day, we practically ran a full simulation of the race weekend, included qualifying and long stints. The lap times looked good, but they don’t say much yet. All in all, we feel well prepared for the start of the 2021 season.”

The customer teams GR Racing, Project 1 and Dempsey-Proton Racing sent a total of five 2019 cars to take part in testing at the 7.004-kilometre track. In the GTE-Am class this year, the latest generation Porsche 911 RSR will be campaigned and the three teams used the prologue to familiarise themselves as much as possible with the new racing cars.

All teams managed to collect extensive data and make significant progress in setting up their vehicles but the testing wasn’t without its issues: after an accident on Monday morning involving Anders Burchardt (Norway), the No. 46 car could no longer participate in Tuesday’s tests and Burchardt and his teammates Dennis Olsen (Norway) and Axcil Jefferies (UK) will be unable to race today.

Neel Jani, who shares a Porsche 911 RSR with Estre, said: “The prologue ran really well for us. We drove a total of 220 laps with our number 92 car and tried a few new setup solutions. In the process, we learned a lot. Our simulated racing stints looked good, so we head to the start of the season this weekend feeling positive. We were extremely productive during the two days of testing and, for me personally, it was an important experience because I’ve never driven the Porsche 911 RSR at Spa-Francorchamps before.”

The factory drivers Gianmaria Bruni from Italy and Richard Lietz from Austria share the cockpit of the number 91 car.

Driving for Dempsey-Proton Racing will be Porsche works driver Matt Campbell, from Australia, who joins forces with the team owner Christian Ried (Germany) and the former Porsche Junior Jaxon Evans from New Zealand. Andrew Haryanto from Indonesia, German Marco Seefried and Alessio Picariello from Belgium will share driving duties in the No. 88 sister car.

The German customer team Project 1 is also campaigning two 911 RSR cars in all six WEC events this season. The squad from the German town of Lohne in Lower Saxony tackles round one with the Norwegians Dennis Olsen and Egidio Perfetti as well as the Italians Matteo Cairoli and Riccardo Pera. The all-British driver crew, Michael Wainwright, Ben Barker and Tom Gamble, compete for GR Racing in the No. 86 car.

To find out where to watch the race, which is due to run from 13:30 to 19:30 local time, visit: www.fiawec.com/en/news/where-to-watch-the-fia-wec-in-2021/7024

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