Stuttgart. The opening eight hours of the long distance classic brought mixed fortunes for the five Porsche customer teams.
The Belgian ProSpeed Competition squad made the best start to the race. After completing the first third of the distance, Porsche works driver Marco Holzer (Germany), Marc Goossens (Belgium) and Jaap van Lagen (Netherlands) rank third in the GTE Pro sports car class in the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.
Flying Lizard Motorsports (USA) follows with factory pilots Joerg Bergmeister (Germany) and Patrick Long (USA) as well as seasoned campaigner Lucas Luhr (Germany) sitting sixth in the strongest-supported class of the 24 hour race.
Driving for the Felbermayr-Proton squad, last year’s winners Marc Lieb (Germany), Richard Lietz (Austria) and Wolf Henzler (Germany) were thrown far back down the field with two mishaps and are now fighting their way through the pack.
An hour before midnight, the Porsche works drivers lie tenth in the GTE Pro class.
“After refuelling we waited for ages for the lights to turn green at the pit exit during the safety car phase,” explains Marc Lieb. “Once we rejoined the race the car suffered tyre damage – I must have picked something up. Unfortunately it happened in the first chicane, that’s about 10 kilometres from the pits.”
Lieb returned to the pits on his rim and lost more time when the crew found that part of the body had also been damaged.
The ProSpeed Competition team are feeling cautiously optimistic.
“The first eight hours ran smoothly,” reported Marco Holzer.
The 22-year-old was a Le Mans rookie last year and now has the role of team leader. For Jaap van Lagen this marks a premiere on the demanding 13.629 kilometre track.
“I know exactly how this feels,” says Holzer. “You need quite some time to find a rhythm and to trust the car and your own ability. Our 911 is running well, the team’s pit stops are super. Our goal is to keep out of any trouble.”
The American Flying Lizard Motorsports team also faced tyre problems. Early on in the race, Joerg Bergmeister fell victim to tyre damage.
“My first stint was difficult because the set-up wasn’t one hundred percent,” said Bergmeister. “We then made a few changes and now the balance is much better. We can’t quite match the pace of the front-runners but we’re looking ahead. We can build on sixth place.”
Heading into the night, the French IMSA Performance Matmut team was not particularly pleased with their eighth place.
Works driver Patrick Pilet was also held up long at the red lights of the pit exit.
“It was really dumb,” complained the Frenchman. “But I had to come in to refuel otherwise I would have been stranded out there. The traffic on the track is brutal and the prototype drivers are at times very aggressive. Nicolas Armindo is a newcomer in our team, but he’s a very controlled driver.” Third in the group is an experienced Le Mans contender, team owner Raymond Narac (France).
The second Felbermayr-911 ranks 13th in the GTE Pro class after eight hours. At the wheel are Le Mans debutant Nick Tandy (Great Britain) and Abdulaziz Al Faisal (Saudi Arabia) as well as American Bryce Miller, who contested the endurance classic last year.
In the GTE Am sports car class, in which only one professional race driver is permitted per vehicle, Larbre Competition lies in a excellent first place with their 911 GT3 RSR in last year’s specification (as stipulated by the regulations for this class). The sister 911 of Flying Lizard Motorsports has settled in to fourth place, with the Proton Competition drivers currently sitting in sixth.
Facts and figures
This is the Le Mans 24 Hours
With grid line-up of 55 vehicles, the 24 Hours of Le Mans consists of two different sports car categories: sports prototypes and modified standard sports cars. The technical regulations of the European Le Mans Series (LMS) and the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) correspond to those of the 24 hour race. All race cars start together in Le Mans; there is an overall classification and a classification for individual classes.
The four classes in Le Mans:
GTE Pro class: The most popular class of car manufacturers (formerly run as the GT2 class) is traditionally the best supported: Modified sports cars with up to 500 hp and a minimum weight of 1,245 kilograms.
GTE Am class: Like the GTE-Pro, but with the 2010-vehicle specifications. Moreover, the regulations stipulate that each vehicle must have one professional driver at the most.
LMP1 class: Sports prototypes with up to 550 hp and a 900 kilogram minimum weight.
LMP2 class: Sports prototypes of around 440 hp, GT-class homologated engines and a 900 kg minimum weight.
Source: Images of the 24 Hours of Le Mans
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