Matt Campbell and Jaxon Evans to start from 12th in GTE-Am
In Hyperpole for the Le Mans 24-hour race, six Porsche 911 RSR in the GTE-Pro and GTE-Am classes get the chance to fight for the top grid spots, while Matt Campbell and Jaxon Evans will start from 12th in the GTE-Am class.
The works team with drivers Kévin Estre from France and Italy’s Gianmaria Bruni wrapped up the 60-minute qualifying session on Wednesday evening in positions three and six in the fiercely contested GTE-Pro category. The Belgian Dries Vanthoor also achieved a spot in the top six with the 911 fielded by the HubAuto Racing customer squad and thus gained entry into the shootout on Thursday evening (19 August, from 9:30 pm CEST). In the GTE-Am class, the identical vehicles campaigned by Dempsey-Proton Racing, GR Racing and Project 1 finished first, second and fifth.
“The goal was to make it into the Hyperpole with both cars – and we did it,” said a pleased Alexander Stehlig, Head of Operations FIA WEC. “We were very efficient with the No. 92 car: Kévin needed only one attempt. He immediately planted the Porsche up the front and then simply had to wait and see. The sister car also made it into the top six. Moreover, I’m thrilled for our GTE-Pro customer team HubAuto Racing and the strong squads in the Am-class. Porsche occupies 50% of the Hyperpole spots in the GT classes with the 911 RSR. That’s fantastic!”
At the start of the one-hour qualifying session on the storied 13.626-kilometre circuit in France, Kévin Estre put in a dazzling performance in the No. 92 car. The local hero set a new lap record for GTE cars in 3:46.779 minutes on his very first flying lap. This time was then undercut again by two Ferraris. For the race, Estre shares the cockpit of the 911 RSR with his works driver colleague Neel Jani from Switzerland and Denmark’s Michael Christensen. The Italian Gianmaria Bruni also qualified the second factory-run 911 RSR for the Hyperpole. His co-drivers for the race are Richard Lietz from Austria and Frenchman Frédéric Makowiecki.
The drivers of Porsche’s strong customer team contingent also turned heads. In the GTE-Pro class, Dries Vanthoor turned a blistering lap in the second half of the session and planted the No. 72 entry from HubAuto Racing on a sensational fifth place.
In the GTE-Am category, the Porsche Young Professional Julien Andlauer also shone: The Frenchman set a new record for the amateur class with Dempsey-Proton Racing’s No. 88 car in 3:48.620 minutes and landed on P1 with a lead of almost half a second. Britain’s Benjamin Barker secured second place in the identical 911 RSR fielded by GR Racing. At the very last moment, Italy’s Matteo Cairoli scored fifth with the No. 56 entry from Project 1.
The #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR of former Carrera Cup Australia champions, Matt Campbell and Jaxon Evans, as well as German, Christian Ried qualified in 12th in GTE-Am, with a lap time of the 3:49.913 minutes.
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Drivers’ comments after the qualifying
Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “We wanted to set the pace in the very first lap. That worked and was enough for P1 at that moment. We were sure that this time would give us entry into the Hyperpole so we stayed in the pits – and things turned out just as we’d thought. Third place with a gap of seven-tenths of a second to the fastest is okay for the qualifying session. The lap times are incredibly fast: Gimmi’s top time from three years ago was beaten by 1.5 seconds. But we’re where we want to be: in the Hyperpole. Tomorrow we’ll go for P1.”
Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “That was a really intense qualifying. Both works cars made it into the Hyperpole. We have to see what we can do in the shootout. Our No. 91 car ran well, but it’s not yet perfect. We’ll take another close look at the data and we hope to extract a little more performance for the Hyperpole.”
Dries Vanthoor (Porsche 911 RSR #72): “We didn’t expect we’d make it into the Hyperpole but our team did a great setup job for the qualifying and it went really well. The fastest lap wasn’t the best lap of my life, but it was okay – and it was enough to get into the Hyperpole. That was our big goal. I’m really excited to see what we can do in tomorrow’s shootout.”
Julien Andlauer (Porsche 911 RSR #88): “We didn’t have enough time in the first practice session to find a perfect setup for our car. So in the session, we went out on used tyres to get a feel for it and to check out how it felt. What can I say? The car was simply fantastic! I veered off the track slightly on the first fresh set of tyres, so the first lap time was voided. On my second attempt, everything came together perfectly. The performance was good but we haven’t yet achieved everything. Tomorrow we’ll go max-attack in the Hyperpole!”
Benjamin Barker (Porsche 911 RSR #86): “Second place is great but I don’t attach a lot of importance on qualifying for a 24-hour race. In my view, it’s much more importance for the car to have excellent balance. That helps us in the race – especially when it really matters. Still, I’m pleased with the result of course. I think we can go even faster. Let’s see if we can do that in the Hyperpole.”
Matteo Cairoli (Porsche 911 RSR #56): “That was the toughest qualifying in my life so far! The pressure intensifies as the session progresses. On my flying lap, I kept running into slower traffic just before the finish line. I never got a really free run. I just scraped into the top six shortly before the end of the session. I’m really pleased about that. Tomorrow is another day and we’ll do our very best again.”