In the close battle among manufacturers in the GTE-Pro class, Porsche clinched positions one and three in a successful qualifying session and tackled the endurance race in Japan with high hopes. However, it became apparent early on in the race that the competitiveness on race day did not meet those expectations. The most important factors in the race are the tires and the BoP rating of the vehicles.
“Sure, we made mistakes, but there was no doubt that today’s performance would never have been enough to beat Ferrari,” concludes Thomas Laudenbach, Vice President Porsche Motorsport. “It’s disappointing, but we have to move on and analyze the reasons. Perhaps the Balance of Performance issue needs to be revisited. Our goal is unchanged: we want to win the world championship in Bahrain.”
“Was it our fault today? Was it the Balance of Performance? We have to take a close look and then discuss it. The competition was similar for our customers in the GTE-Am class,” says Alexander Stehlig, Director Factory Motorsport FIA WEC. “It was not a good day for us. We have a lot of work ahead of us but, despite today’s events, we’re optimistic that we’ll be back in force in Bahrain and we can win the world championship.”
In air temperatures of around 29 degrees Celsius and bright sunshine, the asphalt temperature had reached over 50 degrees by the time the race started in the late morning. This threw a tough challenge at the teams, who had experienced cooler conditions in the previous practice sessions. The focus turned to the durability of the Michelin racing tires which became a critical factor in the race. The Porsche GT Team opted for a soft-hot compound at the start of the race. This specification only offered about 30 minutes of decent grip before it decreased significantly and lap times increased.
Halfway through the first stint, both of the works team’s Porsche 911 RSR dropped from positions one and three to P3 and P4. Switching to a medium tyre compound brought more consistency, but still no real advantage in the fight for class victory. The positions were quickly established, with an unchanging order in the GTE-Pro category over long stretches. The 911 racing cars remained in their positions for the remainder of the race. Two penalties and a collision with an amateur vehicle relegated the No. 91 entry well behind its sister car.
In the GTE-Am category, Dempsey-Proton Competition celebrated a special anniversary: The No. 77 car contested its 77th WEC race. The 911 RSR driven by the German team owner Christian Ried and the two UK drivers Harry Tincknell and Sebastian Priaulx was also unsuccessful. After about four and a half hours of racing, the car retired with a technical defect. The best-placed 911 in the amateur class was the No. 46 vehicle campaigned by the customer team Project 1 in sixth place. The sister car took the flag in eighth place. Dempsey-Proton Racing’s No. 88 car crossed the finish line in ninth, with the GR Racing team in twelfth.
In the overall rankings, Porsche surrendered the lead in the manufacturers’ championship. The gap to the top of the leaderboard is only one point. In the drivers’ championship, Estre and Christensen still have a chance of clinching the title in second place. The final race of the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship WEC will be contested in Bahrain on 12 November. The event near the capital Manama runs over eight hours and is the last factory outing for the successful Porsche 911 RSR.
Drivers’ comments on the race
Michael Christensen (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “We tried everything but we couldn’t do more today. We lacked quite a lot of speed. After starting from pole position, we managed to fend off the Ferraris for a while, but eventually, we couldn’t hold them off anymore. They then gradually pulled away from us. The only possible chance would have been to make a smart strategic decision during a safety car phase, but this scenario didn’t eventuate in the race.”
Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 RSR #92): “Ferrari was too strong, we couldn’t match the pace. On the long straight, they were quite a bit faster than us. We could never make up for that in the corners – no chance. Although we put in an immaculate drive, we were more than 30 seconds behind at the end. That says it all.”
Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “We had a really good car and squeezed everything we could out of it. But it wasn’t enough to seriously challenge the competition today. Compared to our rivals, we lacked top speed and acceleration. That was obvious. Unfortunately, Porsche only managed to finish third and fourth. We have to turn this around in Bahrain.”
Richard Lietz (Porsche 911 RSR #91): “We were clearly too slow. In such circumstances, it’s not much fun if you’re trailing behind. But we couldn’t do more today. The car handled very well and our team did a great job.”
1. Pier Guidi/Calado (I/UK), Ferrari 488 GTE #51, 217 laps
2. Molina/Fuoco (E/I), Ferrari 488 GTE #52, 217 laps
3. Christensen/Estre (DK/F), Porsche 911 RSR #92, 217 laps
4. Bruni/Lietz (I/A), Porsche 911 RSR #91, 216 laps
5. Milner/Tandy (USA/UK), Corvette C8.R #64, 215 laps
1. Keating/Chaves/Sörensen (USA/P/DK), Aston Martin #33, 213 laps
2. Frey/Gatting/Bovy (CH/DK/B), Ferrari 488 GTE #85, 212 laps
3. Hoshino/Fujii/Fagg (J/J/UK), Aston Martin #777, 212 laps
6. Cairoli/Pedersen/Leutwiler (I/DK/CH), Porsche 911 RSR #46, 211 laps
8. Kimura/Millroy/Barnicoat (J/UK/UK), Porsche 911 RSR #56, 211 laps
9. Poordad/Lindsey/Heylen (USA/USA/B), Porsche 911 RSR #88, 211 laps
12. Wainwright/Barker/Pera (UK/UK/I), Porsche 911 RSR #86, 193 laps
DNF. Ried/Priaulx/Tincknell (D/UK/UK), Porsche 911 RSR #77, 128 laps
Full results: https://fiawec.alkamelsystems.com
Edited Porsche Factory Press Release
Pictures courtesy Porsche AG