Final shakedown: the Prologue of the WEC Super Season

On April 6, Porsche heads into the new season of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) with the two-day Prologue on the Circuit Paul Ricard.

On the racetrack in the south of France, which opened in 1970, the Porsche GT Team will simulate an entire race weekend with the two 911 RSR in order to tackle the 15-month Super Season perfectly prepared. Porsche’s factory driver Gianmaria Bruni celebrates his comeback to the world’s most important race series for sports cars.

The Prologue

Teams and drivers come face-to-face for the first time this year in Le Castellet, France, close to the port city of Marseille. On the 5.861-kilometre Circuit Paul Ricard, teams will run through the procedures of the WEC race weekends. The Porsche GT Team has opted not to participate in the first ever 30-hour nonstop test, which runs through the night, as the squad has collected extensive data and experience with the Porsche 911 RSR in 2017. A total of 35 vehicles take part in the Prologue tests.

The Super Season

The 15-month-long Super Season serves as a transition to a new FIA WEC format. This means that competitors will contest the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the challenging Spa-Francorchamps race twice. The calendar also includes Silverstone, Fuji, Shanghai and Sebring. With Porsche, Ferrari, Ford, BMW and Aston Martin, five manufacturers compete for victories and points in the drivers’ and manufacturer’s classifications of the GTE-Pro class. From 2019, the season begins after the 24 Hours of Le Mans and concludes a year later with the long distance classic in the Sarthe region.

The Porsche drivers

Like last year, the Porsche GT Team fields two Porsche 911 RSR. A new driver pairing, Richard Lietz (A), last season’s vice-champion, and Gianmaria Bruni (I), shares driving duties in the cockpit of the GT racer with the starting number 91. Although this is the Rome-born racer’s first WEC season as a Porsche works driver, Bruni has already clinched two titles in the prestigious series. In 2015, Lietz took home the championship in the GTE-Pro category. In the #92 car, the regular crew of Kévin Estre (F) and Michael Christensen (DK) man the cockpit. Porsche will run four works cars at the Le Mans 24-hour race.

The teams

Porsche GT Team #91
A new driver pairing competes in the Porsche 911 RSR with the starting number 91: Richard Lietz (A) and Gianmaria Bruni (I) share the 510 hp GT racing car. Both drivers can look back on successes in the Sports Car World Endurance Championship. 34-year-old Lietz took home the GTE-Pro title in 2015, with his 36-year-old works driver colleague finishing the 2012 and 2014 seasons at the top of the points table.

Porsche GT Team #92
The driver line-up in the #92 vehicle remains unchanged with 29-year-old Kévin Estre (F) and 27-year-old Michael Christensen (DK). In the 2017 debut season of the 911 RSR, the works drivers scored three podium results at the Nürburgring (Germany), in Austin (USA) and at Fuji (Japan). Both drivers began their GT racing careers in Porsche’s one-make cups.

Team Project 1 #56
After 25 years contesting the Porsche one-make cups, the Team Project 1 tackles the WEC for the first time. Porsche works driver Jörg Bergmeister (D) supports the German squad over the 15-month-long Super Season, in which the 24 Hours of Le Mans (France) as well as the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium) are contested twice. The 42-year-old race driver shares driving duties with 35-year-old Patrick Lindsey (USA) and 42-year-old Egidio Perfetti (N).

Dempsey Proton Racing #77
Hollywood star Patrick Dempsey supports talented youngsters in the team this season again. Porsche Young Professional Matt Campbell (AUS) and Porsche Junior Julien Andlauer (F) take on the WEC with the team owner Christian Ried (D). 23-year-old Campbell earned himself a WEC cockpit after clinching four victories in the 2017 Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup. Julien Andlauer was chosen as a Junior after a selection shootout last year. In 2017, 39-year-old Ried was the recipient of the Porsche Cup, the trophy for the world’s most successful private Porsche driver.

Dempsey Proton Racing #88
Sharing the cockpit of the Porsche 911 RSR fielded by Dempsey Proton Racing are the Porsche Young Professional Matteo Cairoli (I), Khaled Al Qubaisi (UAE) and Giorgio Roda (I). 21-year-old Cairoli scored two wins and four more podium results for the Porsche customer team in 2017. Since 2014, 42-year-old Al Qubaisi has contested the Le Mans long distance classic for the squad, with 24-year-old Roda gaining experience in the European Le Mans Series.

Gulf Racing #86
Michael Wainwright (GB), Ben Barker (GB) and Alex Davison (AUS) tackle the new season in the #86 Gulf Racing racer. 44-year-old Wainwright is the owner of the Gulf Racing team and has raced at the endurance events of Le Mans and Sebring. His 26-year-old compatriot Barker takes on his second season with the squad after climbing the podium twice last year. 38-year-old Davison has an overall victory in the Porsche Carrera Cup Australia to his credit.

The Porsche 911 RSR

After its 2017 debut season, Porsche will again fight for the drivers’ and manufacturer’s world championship titles with the 911 RSR during the Super Season. Depending on the restrictor, the sports car’s water-cooled flat-six engine positioned in front of the rear axle produces 510 hp. Three customer teams, Dempsey Proton Racing, Gulf Racing and Project 1, field a total of four other Porsche 911 RSR in the GTE-Am class.

Comments prior to the Prologue

Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser, Vice President Motorsport and GT Cars: “The Super Season is a very special challenge for our GT squad. We have to maintain focus over 15 months and we have to master the task of contesting Le Mans twice in one season. With the shift in our motor racing activities, many eyes are now turned towards the Porsche GT Team and we’re aware of this responsibility. What’s more, another three strong squads will field the new RSR for the first time in the WEC. We have only the Prologue in Le Castellet and a race at Spa-Francorchamps before we line up with ten 911 RSR at Le Mans. That’ll be a real treat and I’m very much looking forward to it.”

Pascal Zurlinden, Director GT Factory Motorsports: “The Prologue is the best way to prepare for the first race at Spa-Francorchamps. There’s a change in the driver line-up in one vehicle with Gianmaria Bruni, who makes his WEC comeback this season. Obviously we’re hoping to get confirmation that we’re ready for the season. We’ll be simulating an entire race weekend and practice the procedures.”

The Sports Car World Endurance Championship

Sports prototypes and GT vehicles contest the 2012-launched Sports Car World Endurance Championship (WEC) in four classes: LMP1, LMP2, GTE-Pro and GTE-Am. They all compete together in one race but are classified separately. The Porsche GT Team contests the GTE-Pro class, with customer teams fighting for honours in the GTE-Am class.

The race calendar

6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps: 3-5 May 2018
24 Hours of Le Mans: 13-17 June 2018
6 Hours of Silverstone: 17-19 August 2018
6 Hours of Fuji: 12-14 October 2018
6 Hours of Shanghai: 16-18 November 2018
1500 Miles of Sebring: 14-16 March 2019
6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps: 2-4 May 2019
24 Hours of Le Mans: 12-16 June 2019

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