Porsche heads to the Algarve to defend its world championship lead
The Porsche works team travels to the second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) leading the points
The Algarve beckons for Porsche’s GT Team, as Portugal’s Portimão circuit hosts the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) for the first time this weekend.
The Manthey factory squad has been preparing intensively for the rollercoaster racetrack, with test drives and simulator sessions ahead of them fielding two Porsche 911 RSR cars in the GTE-Pro class. The drivers in each of the cars are the same crews that will tackle the long-awaited 24 Hours of Le Mans in August. Meanwhile, in the GTE-Am category, the Dempsey-Proton Racing, Project 1 and GR Racing customer teams will campaign a total of four cars in Portugal.
“After the big success at Spa-Francorchamps, we’re heading to the second round of the season as the championship leaders. Our goal is very clear: when the chequered flag comes out after the eight-hour race in Portugal, we want to still be in first place in all GTE-Pro categories,” says Pascal Zurlinden, Porsche’s Director of Factory Motorsport. “Our team has worked hard to prepare for the first WEC event in Portimão. We’re ready to tackle the race. What’s more, this eight-hour event complements our preparations for this year’s Le Mans 24-hour race perfectly. It helps our driver crews, engineers and mechanics work even better together and streamline the procedures.”
The Autódromo Internacional do Algarve is nestled in the hilly hinterland close to the coastal resorts of Portimão and Lagos. The 4.684-kilometre circuit, on which Formula One has raced twice, features 16 corners and many up- and down-hill passages. The steepest downhill section of the track has an incline of more than 12 per cent. Drivers are also faced with blind corners and deep gravel beds. The start-finish straight stretches over 969 metres, on which the GTE-Pro vehicles can reach top speeds of about 270 km/h.
“The upcoming race in Portugal offers a number of special features. Since it’s an eight-hour event, more points are awarded compared to the normal WEC races, which generally run over six hours. So we can harvest a bigger haul. That gives us extra motivation,” explains Alexander Stehlig, Head of Operations FIA WEC. “The racetrack in Portimão is physically demanding for the drivers, so it makes sense to compete with the same three-man crews that will contest the Le Mans event. We regard the WEC debut in Portugal as an early trial run for the endurance classic in France and we’re heading to the race weekend feeling very well prepared.”
The race on 13 June – the original date for the 24 Hours of Le Mans – marks the first time that the FIA WEC will be contested on the Algarve track. Meanwhile the 89th edition of the French endurance classic will take place on 21/22 August, at the fourth round of the WEC season.
The Porsche GT Team drivers
In the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR, the works team relies on regular drivers Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz from Austria. They will be joined by Frenchman Frédéric Makowiecki for the eight-hour race in Portugal. The works driver from Montpellier will also compete at Le Mans. Fellow Frenchman Kévin Estre teams up with Neel Jani from Switzerland and Denmark’s Michael Christensen to drive the No. 92 sister car. Estre and Jani won the GTE-Pro class at the opening round at Spa-Francorchamps and currently lead the world championship.
The customer teams
Driving the Dempsey-Proton Racing No. 77 911 RSR will be works driver Matt Campbell from Australia, team owner Christian Ried (Germany) and the former Porsche Junior Jaxon Evans, from New Zealand. Porsche Young Professional Julien Andlauer from France, as well as Dominique Bastien from America and Germany’s Marco Seefried, have been announced as the crew in the No. 88 sister car. The German customer team Project 1 campaigns the No. 56 Porsche 911 RSR with drivers Egidio Perfetti from Norway as well as the two Italians Matteo Cairoli and Riccardo Pera. The all-British driver crew of Michael Wainwright, Ben Barker and Tom Gamble compete for GR Racing in the No. 86 car.
Sunday’s race starts at 11:00 local time and can be watched, for a fee, via the official FIA WEC app.