Porsche Penske Motorsport’s WEC squad have wrapped up preparations for the maiden outing of the new 963 hybrid prototype in the World Endurance Championship. During the FIA WEC prologue at the Sebring International Raceway, the two ca. 500 kW (680 PS) racing cars from the new top hypercar class covered more than 2,600 kilometres. The priority during the two test days was on tyre testing and finding the best possible setup for the upcoming season opener, which will be held at the same venue on 17 March. In the GTE-Am category, customer teams performed impressively with the Porsche 911 RSR, setting fast lap times over long distances.
The tests on Saturday and Sunday took place under perfect weather conditions. The sun shone over the notoriously bumpy racetrack in the middle of the US state of Florida, with summery air temperatures reaching around 30 degrees Celsius. Porsche Penske Motorsport’s WEC team used the ideal conditions to gather as much information as possible about the two Michelin tyre compounds, the setup and the race strategy. In the combined results of the four test sessions, the two Porsche 963 with the starting numbers 5 and 6 finished fourth and fifth.
“Our FIA WEC team is brand new and very strong. The squad did an excellent job. At our tests in Portugal last month, this crew came together and used the new equipment for the first time. Everything clicked perfectly. Then we went straight to Florida,” states Urs Kuratle. The Director of Factory Motorsport LMDh adds: “All in all, the prologue was extremely busy and tough for us. We didn’t have any major problems with the cars, but we did encounter a few minor ones. That meant we had to work late into the night. We still managed to cover a lot of distance and gain important insights for the race. We still have to work on the finer details of our car. While we can be quietly confident about the test times, I don’t think anyone was chasing top times in the prologue.”
In the GTE-Am class, in which the successful 911 RSR will be campaigned for the last time this year, Porsche’s partner teams performed impressively on both days. On Saturday, the new Iron Dames customer squad turned heads with top times in both sessions thanks to drivers Rahel Frey (Switzerland), Michelle Gatting (Denmark) and Sarah Bovy (Belgium). Scoring positions three and five on Sunday, the swift trio collected important insights for the season-opening round at Sebring.
The sister car fielded by Iron Lynx achieved P5 in the combined results. The 911 RSR entries from GR Racing and Project 1 topped the timesheets in the GTE-Am classification in both sessions on Sunday. At the wheel of Project 1’s 911 RSR, the former Porsche Junior Matteo Cairoli from Italy clocked the best lap time of the weekend. Proton Competition’s two 911 racers also achieved top positions.
During the two-day test, the Porsche 963 vehicles faced the competition in the hypercar class for the first time. This year’s rivals in the fight for overall victory in the World Endurance Championship are Ferrari, Toyota, Cadillac, Peugeot, Vanvall and Glickenhaus. The 1,000 miles of Sebring takes off next Friday (17 March) and opens the 2023 season. The very next day, round two of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship gets underway at the Sebring International Raceway. The tradition-steeped 12-hour race will be held for the 71st time on Saturday, 18 March.
Drivers’ comments on the prologue
Frédéric Makowiecki (Porsche 963 #5): “It was great to get an idea of the competition in the hypercar class. We learned a lot about our new car during the prologue. With this information, we now have to make the most of what’s possible. In the FIA WEC, the best tyre use is often the key to success. Let’s see how well we can do in this area. We have collected a vast amount of data that we now need to analyse before the start of the race.”
André Lotterer (Porsche 963 #6): “It’s exciting for me to be back in the FIA WEC. Finally back to the old familiar paddock. I recognise a lot of faces. However, the competition is very different. The new hypercar era begins with many cars contesting the top class. During the prologue, we prepared for the first race. Not everything ran perfectly, but we’re making progress. We still have a lot of work ahead of us. The competition is very strong and the opening round won’t be easy for us.”
Sarah Bovy (Porsche 911 RSR #85): “We’re very pleased with the car. It suits us really well. Michelle, Rahel and I worked on improving our performance systematically. We also attempted to maintain a steady pace on the long runs. We have a lot of fun in the Porsche 911 RSR and we’re really looking forward to this coming weekend. Let’s see how the competition looks. Our expectations are high. We aim to bring home our first class win this year.”
Matteo Cairoli (Porsche 911 RSR #56): “We still hadn’t worked out the right setup for our Porsche 911 RSR on Saturday, but everything went much better on Sunday. We scored first place in the morning. That doesn’t mean much but it still feels good. I’m sure everyone is playing their cards close to their chests. This was just a test. Race week begins on Wednesday. We’ll do our very best and we want to kick off the season with a class win.”
Picture Gallery Prologue 2023 Sebring 12 Hours
Porsche 911 RSR, GR Racing (#86), Ben Barker (UK), Riccardo Pera (I), Michael Wainwright (UK)
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Edited Porsche Factory Press Release
Pictures courtesy Porsche AG