This year's 24 Hours of Le Mans was a good one for Porsche, as the car maker extended its record at the famed endurance race with class wins number 99 and 100. On the Circuit des 24 Heures, the new Porsche 911 RSR fielded by Porsche AG Team Manthey with Porsche works drivers Romain Dumas (France), Marc Lieb (Germany) and Richard Lietz (Austria) won the fiercely competitive GTE-Pro class against strong opposition from Aston Martin, Chevrolet, Ferrari and Viper. In the second 911 RSR, their works driver colleagues Joerg Bergmeister (Germany), Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Patrick Pilet (France) finished second, making the race car from Weissach perfect. In the GTE-Am class, the Porsche 911 GT3RSR run by the customer team IMSA Performance Matmut clinched victory with Frenchmen Raymond Narac, Jean-Karl-Vernay and Christophe Bourret.
The victory comes at an appropriate moment for the car maker. In case you'd forgotten, Porsche is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 911 this year
'. Since its introduction and competition debut, the iconic car has accounted for near-countless motorsport victories around the world. Of the 100 Le Mans class titles, 911-based racers have earned more than half. Porsche has stood on the top step of the podium at Le Mans overall 16 times. In 2014, Porsche will return to the
overall prototype category.
The 81st running of the long distance classic took place in changeable weather with constant showers and under the most difficult conditions. Amidst those celebrating the teams efforts stood Dr. Wolfgang Porsche, Chairman of the Supervisory Board at Porsche AG, and CEO Matthias Miller, as well as Board Members Wolfgang Hatz (Research and Development) and Bernhard Maier (Sales and Marketing) who had witnessed most of the race firsthand round-the-clock in the Porsche pits. In the first hour of the race, the 911 RSR made up positions at just its third outing in the sports car World Endurance Championship WEC, which yielded double points at Le Mans as the third round.
With fast lap times and utmost reliability, the Number 92 in particular fought for victory right from the start. The pit stops were predominantly just routine: refuel, tires, driver change then back out on the track. Both works-run Porsche completed the entire distance without the slightest technical problem, apart from a rear light that had to be replaced on the Number 91 Porsche 911 RSR after being nudged by a competitor. The second racer fielded by Porsche AG Team Manthey was thrown back in the field shortly after the start when the safety car was deployed right in front of Joerg Bergmeister which cost the Porsche factory pilot almost two minutes.
While some competitors struggled on the difficult and partly wet circuit, the 911 RSR made it safely through the night without any problems and underlined the intention to clinch its maiden victory with consistently fast lap times. Even when torrential rain fell an hour before the finish and its pursuers launched a final attack, Richard Lietz remained unfazed at the wheel of the 91 car. In the
final race hours, the Number 91 also gained ground and slipped into second place ahead of the Aston Martin and Ferrari.
In the GTE-Am class, at times three Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs ran at the front. At the flag, Raymond Narac, Christophe Bourret and Jean-Karl Vernay, who receives support from Porsche in his Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup campaign this season, brought home the victory. Porsche race driver Patrick Dempsey, one of an all-American driver trio helming the Dempsey Del Piero-Proton 911 GT3 RSR with Porsche works driver Patrick Long and Joe Foster, also held the lead at times.
However, after he was blamelessly shunted off the circuit by a sports prototype he had to bury his dream of winning his first Le Mans outing with Porsche. The Le Mans race was overshadowed by the death of Denmarks Allan Simonsen. In the fourth race lap, the Aston Martin pilot crashed into the barriers in the fast Tertre Rouge corner and died from his injuries shortly afterwards in the Circuit des 24 Heures Medical Center.
1. Dumas/Lieb/Lietz (F/D/A), Porsche 911 RSR, 315 laps
2. Bergmeister/Bernhard/Pilet (D/D/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 315
3. Dumbreck/Mcke/Turner (GB/D/GB), Aston Martin, 314
4. Magnussen/Garcia/Taylor (DK/E/USA), Chevrolet Corvette, 312
5. Beretta/Kobayashi/Vilander (MC/J/SF), Ferrari 458 Italia, 312
6. Bruni/Fisichella/Malucelli (I/I/I), Ferrari 458 Italia, 311
1. Narrac/Bourret/Vernay (F/F/F), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 306 laps
2. Perazzini/Case/OYoung (I/I/CDN), Ferrari 458 Italia, 305
3. Gerber/Griffin/Cioci (ZA/IRL/I), Ferrari 458 Italia, 305
4. Dempsey/Long/Foster (USA/USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 305
7. Henzler/Gibon/Milesi (D/F/F), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 300
8. Ried/Roda/Ruberti (D/I/I), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 300
9. Collard/Perrod/Crubile (F/F/F), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 298