The Porsche GT Team kicked off the new FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season with victory at Sebring International Raceway. Michael Christensen and Kévin Estre won the GTE-Pro class at the Sebring 1000 Mile race in the US state of Florida ahead of the Corvette driven by Nick Tandy and Tommy Milner. Richard Lietz and Gianmaria Bruni finished third with their 911 RSR. The eight-hour WEC race had to be halted and eventually halted a good 60 minutes before the end of the race due to a thunderstorm warning. In the GTE-Am class, American Brendan Iribe and two British racing drivers Ollie Millroy and Ben Barnicoat finished third with the same 911 fielded by customer team Project 1.
“We scored important points for the championship. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite enough for a brace today, which would have been possible. During a pit stop, we weren’t able to remove a wheel from car #91 for a while. We need to take a closer look at this. This incident prevented us from finishing first and second. It was still a good start to the season. I have nothing but praise for the drivers and the team. We can be satisfied with this result. Of course, it would have been nicer to achieve this success over the full eight-hour distance. »commented Thomas Laudenbach, Vice President Porsche Motorsport.
“It was a long and crazy race. And we won – the season couldn’t have started better. We had a great run throughout our time at Sebring and managed to work our way through each session consistently and consistently. The Corvette turned out to be a serious rival. Sometimes we had the advantage, sometimes they were fun. We kept our composure during the interruptions and finally won a well-deserved victory. We are happy to collect the points and we are looking forward to the next WEC race at Spa-Francorchamps. »said Alexander Stehlig, FIA WEC Factory Motorsport Director.
This is the third time that a WEC World Endurance Championship event has been held at the former military airfield in Florida. In 2021, works riders Richard Lietz, Marc Lieb and Patrick Pilet finished second. In the 2018/2019 season, Lietz and teammate Gianmaria Bruni won the GTE-Pro category with the Porsche 911 RSR. Porsche is by far the most successful constructor in the long history of endurance racing at Sebring, with the Stuttgart marque notching a total of 18 overall wins.
As starting drivers, Kévin Estre and Gianmaria Bruni initially took the lead in the eight-hour race. However, after a good 30 minutes, the Italian had to give way to Nick Tandy’s Corvette when he was held up by traffic. While the two factory Porsches stopped to change two tires and swap drivers during the first pit stop, Tandy only filled up. Thanks to the time saved, the British driver climbed to first place. In addition, due to rule violations on the formation lap before the start, the race director imposed a 15-second penalty on the two Porsche 911 RSRs in the GTE-Pro category, which they had to serve on the second pit stop. Nevertheless, both racing cars were still ahead of the Ferraris fielded by the factory AF Corse team.
A serious accident involving a Hypercar category vehicle after three and a half hours of racing led to a 45-minute break. Estre, who had in the meantime taken over the wheel from Michael Christensen, seized his chance shortly after the restart: the Frenchman overtook the leading Corvette and pulled away. A good 35 minutes later, Bruni had worked his way up to second place after a spirited charge. But that was not the end: a problem during a tire change before the last quarter of the race cost around 20 seconds. Suddenly, Richard Lietz is relegated to third place at the wheel of his Porsche n°91. At this point, with the season-opening race about to be called off, the Austrian had closed the gap and was close to reclaiming second place, but ran out of time to perform. decisive overtaking.
In the GTE-Am class, two Porsche customer teams had chances to win. At the start, the Porsche 911 RSR driven by Dempsey-Proton Racing with team owner Christian Ried and racing drivers Sebastian Priaulx and Harry Tincknell had the most promising prospects. In the second half of the race, Ollie Millroy and Ben Barnicoat along with Brendan Iribe took control and briefly took the class lead. In the final push, however, both teams were hampered by bad luck with the timing of their pit stops. Iribe/Millroy/Barnicoat finally finished the race in third place on the same lap as the winners, closely followed by Ried/Priaulx/Tincknell.
1. Estre/Christensen (F/DK), Porsche GT Team, Porsche 911 RSR #92, 183 laps
2. Milner/Tandy (USA/GB), Corvette Racing, Corvette C8.R #64, 183 laps
3. Bruni/Lietz (I/A), Porsche GT Team, Porsche 911 RSR #91, 183 laps
4. Calado/Pier Guidi (GB/I), AF Corse, Ferrari 488 GTE Evo #51, 183 laps
5. Fuoco/Molina (I/E), AF Corse, Ferrari 488 GTE Evo #52, 182 laps
1. Dalla Lana/Pittard/Thiim (CDN/GB/DK), Northwest AMR, Aston Martin Vantage AMR, #98, 180 laps
2. Keating/Latorre/Sörensen (USA/F/DK), Aston Martin Vantage AMR, #33, 180 laps
3. Iribe/Millroy/Barnicoat (USA/GB/GB), Team Project 1, Porsche 911 RSR #56, 180 laps
4. Ried/Priaulx/Tincknell (D/GB/GB), Dempsey-Proton Racing, #77 Porsche 911 RSR, 180 laps
10. Poordad/Lindsey/Andlauer (USA/USA/F), Dempsey-Proton Racing, #88 Porsche 911 RSR, 169 laps