Porsche extends championship lead after win at Fuji

Race, World Endurance Championship WEC, round 4 in Fuji/Japan

The Porsche GT Team has won the six-hour race at the Fuji Speedway in Japan. At round four of the FIA WEC World Sports Car Championship, Kevin Estre (F) and Michael Christensen (DK) crossed the finish line in first place in the GTE-Pro category with the ca. 510 hp Porsche 911 RSR. The sister car driven by Richard Lietz (A) and Gianmaria Bruni (I) concluded the race in fifth place. With this, Porsche has extended its lead in the manufacturers’ and drivers’ classifications. Porsche also won the GTE-Am category on Sunday: The newcomer team Project 1 with Porsche works driver Jörg Bergmeister from Germany, Patrick Lindsey (USA) and Egidio Perfetti (N) secured its maiden victory in the WEC. 

Ten vehicles from five manufacturers made a bid for victory in the GTE-Pro class under changing weather conditions. After drizzle fell in the first hour of the race, the track slowly dried during a 30-minute safety car phase. After an early switch to slicks, Estre and Christensen concentrated on working their way through the field. With an optimal setup and a clever pit stop strategy, the French-Danish duo systematically reeled in the frontrunners. With about 1.5 hours to go, Christensen swept into the lead. At the final pit stop with a driver change, the Porsche GT Team again timed things perfectly and Estre went on to take the flag in first place. Scoring fifth place on the 4.563-kilometre racetrack, the sister car earned vital points, however Bruni and Lietz struggled with a less than perfect pit stop and deteriorating tyres towards the end. 

Porsche 911 RSR, Porsche GT Team (91), Gianmaria Bruni (I), Richard Lietz (A), Fuji 2018
Porsche 911 RSR, Porsche GT Team (91), Gianmaria Bruni (I), Richard Lietz (A), Fuji 2018

In the GTE-Am class, Project 1 celebrated its first WEC win and Dempsey Proton Racing its second place. Porsche Young Professional Matteo Cairoli (I), the Japanese driver Satoshi Hoshino and Giorgio Roda from Italy were delighted to climb the podium for the first time this year. Porsche Junior Thomas Preining (A) also enjoyed a successful debut. Joining forces with Michael Wainwright (GB) and Ben Barker (GB) for Gulf Racing, he concluded the race on fifth place. A pit stop for repairs threw Porsche Young Professional Matt Campbell (AUS), Christian Ried (Germany) and Porsche Junior Julien Andlauer down the field. Finishing on eighth, the second 911 RSR fielded by Dempsey Proton Racing earned more critical points towards the championship and continues to lead the GTE-Am classification. 

Round five of the FIA WEC World Sports Car Championship takes place in Shanghai/China on 16 November. 

Comments on the race

Alexander Stehlig (Program Manager Factory GT Motorsports): “After the disappointment with the qualifying results, today was a great day. It was a hugely successful weekend for Porsche with the victory at Petit Le Mans in the USA and the two successes here at Fuji in the Pro and Am categories. We almost always made the right decisions during the race and the car was good and fast. The number 92 car drove a flawless race, our number 91 unfortunately had problems during the pit stop. On top of that, the balance wasn’t great in the last stint. But all in all, we’re very satisfied.”

Michael Christensen (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “The changing weather and track conditions were a challenge, but we mastered them very well. We changed to slicks earlier than the others and that was very probably a key factor for our success. The weather forecast was uncertain, but we observed the cars that were already on slicks and took the risk. That ultimately paid off.”

Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “I’m incredibly happy about our victory. Our setup was simply fantastic and the good braking performance was an important aspect of our success at Fuji. After we changed to slicks during the safety car phase early on in the race, our car setup allowed us to brake later than the others and thus gain positions. Our pit stop strategy also ran perfectly.”

Joerg Bergmeister (D), Team Project 1 Kevin Estre (F), Porsche GT Team (l-r)
Joerg Bergmeister (D), Team Project 1 Kevin Estre (F), Porsche GT Team (l-r)

Richard Lietz (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “First and foremost I’d like to congratulate the winners in the GTE Pro and Am categories here and of course at the Petit Le Mans in the USA. That was a great weekend for Porsche, but unfortunately not for our car. We had several problems, which we now need to analyse and of course fix. There was certainly nothing wrong with the performance of the drivers or the speed of the 911 RSR. We’ll come back stronger in Shanghai.”

Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “That was a really difficult race for us. Unfortunately we lost valuable time during the pit stops and therefore lost positions. We will now take a good look, work on it and hopefully do it better at the next race. The changing weather conditions were also not easy, but all in all we did a good job.”

Jörg Bergmeister (Porsche 911 RSR #56): “At first the race ran like the entire weekend: Not so satisfactorily. We had contact, a spin and had to change the door. But midway through the race the tide turned in our favour and we brought home a pleasing victory. It’s the first WEC win for me and also for Project 1. That’s a great step for us in terms of collecting points. We’re all happy with this and it’s going in the right direction.”

Matteo Cairoli (Porsche 911 RSR #88): “A good result for us. The first podium in the WEC season. I very much enjoyed driving the 911 RSR here. It felt really great – especially the overtaking manoeuvres and duels out on the track. We could have actually won because we were the fastest in our category. I was particularly impressed by my teammate Hoshino. This was only his second time in the RSR and he was really fast.” 

Porsche 911 RSR, Team Project 1 (56), Joerg Bergmeister (D), Patrick Lindsey (USA), Egidio Perfetti (N), Fuji 2018
Porsche 911 RSR, Team Project 1 (56), Joerg Bergmeister (D), Patrick Lindsey (USA), Egidio Perfetti (N), Fuji 2018

Thomas Preining (Porsche 911 RSR #86): “That was a good first experience in the WEC. At one point we were even leading with our team and my teammates did a fantastic job. At the end I drove a double stint and managed to work my way up to fifth place with our RSR. For Shanghai we’ll try to optimise a few things. I’m very pleased that I can compete again.”

Matt Campbell (Porsche 911 RSR #77): “I’m a bit frustrated. In the middle of the race we were looking promising, we were fast and within striking distance of the leaders. Unfortunately an electrical problem cost us 25 laps. Ultimately we should be satisfied that we earned some points for the championship classification. However the speed of the 911 RSR was great and we’re feeling optimistic about the next race in Shanghai.” 

Julien Andlauer (Porsche 911 RSR #77): “The race started well and we were fast. Then a technical problem brought us into the pits, unfortunately. I could only rejoin the race 25 laps later. The car then felt good again, the balance and the speed were excellent. It’s a pity because no one made a mistake, it was the technology that hampered us. There’s nothing you can do about that. I think we could have won, but that’s racing.” 

Porsche 911 RSR, Dempsey Proton Racing (88), Matteo Cairoli (I), Satoshi Hoshino (J), Giorgio Roda (I)
Porsche 911 RSR, Dempsey Proton Racing (88), Matteo Cairoli (I), Satoshi Hoshino (J), Giorgio Roda (I)

Race result
GTE-Pro class
1. Christensen/Estre (DK/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 207 laps
2. Blomquist/da Costa (S/P), BMW M8 GTE, 207 laps
3. Priaulx/Tincknell (GB/GB), Ford GT, 207 laps
4. Pier Guidi/Calado (I/GB), Ferrari 488 GTE EVO, 207 laps
5. Lietz/Bruni (A/I), Porsche 911 RSR, 207 laps
6. Mücke/Pla (D/F), Ford GT, 206 laps
7. Sorensen/Thiim (DK/DK), Aston Martin Vantage GTE, 206 laps
8. Tomczyk/Catsburg (D/NL), BMW M8 GTE, 206 laps
9. Lynn/Martin (GB/B), Aston Martin Vantage GTE, 206 laps
10. Rigon/Bird (I/GB), Ferrari 488 GTE EVO, 202 laps

GTE-Am class
1. Bergmeister/Lindsey/Perfetti (D/USA/N), Porsche 911 RSR, 201 laps
2. Hoshino/Roda/Cairoli (J/I/I), Porsche 911 RSR, 201 laps
3. Yoluc/Adam/Eastwood (TR/GB/GB), Aston Martin Vantage GTE, 201 laps
4. Dalla Lana/Lamy/Lauda (CDN/P/A), Aston Martin Vantage GTE, 201 laps
5. Wainwright/Barker/Preining (GB/GB/A), Porsche 911 RSR, 201 laps
6. Flohr/Castellacci/Fisichella (CH/I/I), Ferrari 488 GTE, 200 laps
7. Mok/Sawa/Griffin (MAL/J/IRL), Ferrari 488 GTE, 200 laps
8. Ried/Andlauer/Campbell (D/F/AUS), Porsche 911 RSR, 176 laps
9. Ishikawa/Beretta/Cheever (J/MC/I), Ferrari 488 GTE, 14 laps