For a select group of very special guests, last weekend saw Porsche host its annual Night of Champions gala dinner. This star-studded event, held at our motorsport hub in Weissach, celebrated another fantastic year of international racing and revealed Porsche’s plans for 2019.
The headline story was Porsche’s firm commitment to Le Mans. Despite withdrawing from LMP1 in 2017, Porsche redoubled its efforts in the GTE-Pro class this year and is set to do so again. For the 87th running of the historic 24-hour race, Porsche will again field four works 911 RSRs. This means combining the might of the two cars currently engaged in the World Endurance Championship’s mammoth ‘super season’ alongside the sister pairing who are set to return to the IMSA Weathertech Championship next year.
Le Mans requires a third driver in every car, meaning driving duties in the #91 911 RSR will be shared by Gianmaria Bruni, Richard Lietz and Frédéric Makowiecki, while #92 will be in the proven hands of title defenders Kévin Estre, Michael Christensen and Laurens Vanthoor. IMSA veterans Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber will take up the race in the #93 car, while the #94 car will be a testbed for rising stars of Porsche’s racing programme, with relative youngsters Sven Müller, Mathieu Jaminet and Dennis Olsen making up the final trio.
Just as in 2018, Porsche customer teams contesting the GTE-Am class will also be strongly represented, guaranteeing some fantastic racing throughout the field for Porsche fans. The 2019 Le Mans 24 Hours will be particularly momentous because, for the first time in the history of the WEC, the greatest race in the calendar will also be the last. With double points available at Le Mans for an unprecedented season finale, the championship could come down to the wire here for the first time.
When they’re not seconded to La Sarthe, our other RSRs will be slugging it out once again across the Atlantic in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship. Like last year, the #911 car will be shared by old mates Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet, while the #912 sister car will again be driven by Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor. For the longer races on the calendar – Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and the 10-hour finale of Petit Le Mans – the teams will be joined by Frédéric Makowiecki and Mathieu Jaminet respectively.
All factory drivers who were part of the team in 2018 are also under contract for 2019. The same applies to all Porsche Young Professionals, with the only newcomer to the team being the Porsche Junior Jaxon Evans.
Porsche’s commitment to its drivers goes unchecked for 2019. All factory drivers who were part of the team in 2018 are also under contract for 2019. And the same goes for all Porsche Young Professionals. The only newcomer to the team is the Porsche Junior Jaxon Evans. The 22-year-old New Zealander is the reigning champion of the Porsche Carrera Cup Australia and came out on top at a shootout against ten other talented youngsters from international one-make cup series. A total of 24 drivers now make up the squad for 2019.
Meanwhile, the factory’s intensive support of customer teams continues. The new and improved 911 GT3 R that was unveiled last year at the Nürburgring 24 Hours will be fielded for the first time around the world by numerous privateers. Porsche Motorsport has sold 45 units for 2019, and highly experienced three-man crews will contest all rounds of the Intercontinental GT Challenge and the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup aboard the new car. The line-ups included Romain Dumas, Sven Müller and Mathieu Jaminet alongside Dirk Werner, Dennis Olsen and Matt Campbell. Porsche will also continue to support teams in the Blancpain GT World Challenge America and the ADAC GT Masters, as well as in a number of smaller national series and one-off events.
The new and improved 911 GT3 R that was unveiled last year at the Nürburgring 24 Hours will be fielded for the first time around the world by numerous privateers.
One such race is the Nürburgring 24 Hours, which was won in 2018 by longstanding customer team Manthey-Racing. With factory backing, the squad from Meuspath in Germany will be hoping to defend the title with two new 911 GT3 R cars. It will field the same winning quartet of drivers – Richard Lietz, Frédéric Makowiecki, Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy – in the first car, while Earl Bamber joins forces with the 2018 Le Mans winners Michael Christensen, Kévin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor in the second.
The Nürburgring 24 Hours winning quartet of 2018 remains unchanged, with Richard Lietz, Frédéric Makowiecki, Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy sharing the cockpit of the Porsche 911 GT3 R.
Another big announcement for the Night of Champions was the official confirmation of the new 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport. The new car will make its first appearance at the ‘Roar before Daytona’ test day on January 3, before making its race debut just three weeks later at the 24-hour race. The 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport is the first ever production race car with body parts that are sustainably manufactured, with front hood, doors and rear wing all made of natural-fibre composite material.
Overseeing this momentous new year for Porsche will be Fritz Enzinger, who assumes overall management of Porsche Motorsport as former VP Frank-Steffen Walliser moves across to head up the 911 and 718 road car programme. Enzinger, who previously ran the hugely successful LMP1 team, will look after all of Porsche’s GT racing along with the new and uncharted challenges of Formula E. What a year in prospect. Roll on 2019…