This feature, the third in our four-part mini-series, picks up where we left off last time (Part 2: 2010-2012) and highlights the continued growth and success of the evergreen Porsche 911 on the UK and European motorsport scene between 2013 and 2016. Having benefitted from full media and photographer access at these races, PORSCHE ROAD & RACE was able to get trackside as well as in the pit lane and paddock. With this in mind, we dived into our archive and pulled out a selection that shows the action from a number of different angles and track positions, in an effort to bring you a diverse selection covering these four seasons.
Motorsport season 2013
WEC 6 Hours of Silverstone, 14 April 2013
The 2013 6 Hours of Silverstone was the opening round of the brand-new World Endurance Championship (WEC). The first evening of the week’s activities at Silverstone was taken up with a lavish cocktail party hosted by the WEC in The Wing, where the media mixed with the teams and drivers. It was a great start to a series which is still enjoying popularity eight years on, although this year, 2020, has all but been wiped out by the coronavirus outbreak.
The FIA/WEC used a new qualifying procedure in which two drivers in each team were required to set laps during the qualifying session. The grid would then be determined by averaging the total of the two best laps set by each of the drivers, but this procedure was discontinued as from the following race at Spa.
The April weather played its part during the Friday and Saturday practice and qualifying sessions as these were partly wet. Thursday’s activities were mostly of an administrative nature, with driver and team sign-on, which produced the odd flurry of concern as some drivers were inevitably late or delayed for whatever reason. But, being a new series, all the teams were eager to get track time by the time Friday came around, and so the free practice session was quite a frantic affair. While the race on Sunday was run in dry conditions, the threat of rain was never far away.
In the GTE class, the media and spectator interest was clearly on the two new works Porsches, and although this was their debut race, both cars finished out of contention in fourth and sixth places. During the middle stages of the race, the #91 Porsche dropped back to sixth due to a suspension component failure, but the #92 car moved up through the field and ran in third place for a couple of hours. Apart from the suspension gremlin, the debut of the new 991-generation race car went off well and both cars performed very reliably which looked promising for the rest of the season.
Le Mans 24 Hours, 22-23 June 2013
Although it was ninety years since the race was first held, it was the 81st running of this great event due to the years missed during the war. The 2013 race, initially scheduled for 15-16 June, took place on 22-23 June. The event was pushed out by a week by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) at the request of the FIA in order to harmonize the motor racing calendar. The test day was scheduled to take place two weeks before the race, on Sunday 9th June, while Scrutineering was held on Sunday 16th and Monday 17th June.
In a race which saw a record number of safety car incidents, thanks in part to the unpredictable rain showers, this was certainly Porsche’s weekend, as their two new 911 RSRs finished first and second in the GTE Pro class. The #76 IMSA Performance Matmut 911 GT3 RSR took the honours in the GTE Am class, rounding off a good haul for the Stuttgart manufacturer.
At the end of 2013 WEC season, Porsche finished third in the World Cup for Manufacturers GTE with 230.5 points.
Motorsport season 2014
While Porsche’s first year with the new 911 RSR had not ended as they had hoped, they had scored a valuable 1-2 finish at the all-important Le Mans 24 Hours in 2013. They had of course also learned a lot about their new car during the first year, and were in a strong position for the start of 2014.
WEC Silverstone 6 Hours, 20 April 2014
Besides just being the opening round of the 2014 WEC season, it was also the debut outing for the new Porsche LMP1 car, the 919 Hybrid. Of course, there was a huge amount of attention given to these two cars as Porsche had been making a lot of noise about this new car for more than a year – they were given the numbers #20 and #14, to signify the starting year for this race car, 2014. This, though, was also the second year of competition for the 911 RSR, and there was no shortage of media attention given to this pair of GT cars.
In the Free Practice and Qualifying sessions, the Porsche GT cars looked strong, and they lined up in second and third place on the grid.
But it was not to be the fairy tale debut for the Porsche 919 Hybrids, with one car retiring early and the other finishing in third place, two laps down on the winning Toyota. The race, which had run under mixed weather conditions, was stopped in the final half-hour of competition due to heavy rains, and was not restarted. In such wet conditions, the 911 RSR was in its element, and although they had dropped back slightly during the dry hours, as the heavy rain set in, they came to the fore just as the race was called.
Le Mans 24 Hours, 14-15 June 2014
The two factory GT Porsches qualified in 6th (#92) and 8th (#91) places on the starting grid for the 82nd running of this great test of endurance. The race got underway in dry conditions but it wasn’t long before the rain fell, catching some cars out as they were still on slicks.
The pair of factory RSRs got off to a good start, each making up a position within the first hour. During the night hours, in the GTE class, the #92 RSR was up in fourth place but the #91 car was battling with fuel pressure problems. As the sun rose over Le Mans on Sunday, the two GT Porsches looked to be running smoothly, and at breakfast time (07h07) Fred Mako in the #92 RSR pitted for new brakes while lying third in class.
As the small hand of the clock passed the 12h00 noon position and the race moved into its final stages, the #92 RSR slipped ahead of the Corvette into second place, and the position for Porsche looked quite promising all round. However, the Ferrari 458 Italia was too strong for the rest of the GTE field, as the #51 car took class honours. For Team Manthey, there was a level of satisfaction because the #92 RSR of Holzer/Makowiecki/Lietz finished third in the GTE PRO class.
At the end of 2014 WEC season, Porsche improved on its previous year’s result by finishing second in the FIA World Endurance Cup GT Manufacturers with 262 points. Porsche also finished second in the FIA Endurance Trophy GTE-Pro Teams championship, behind Ferrari.
Motorsport season 2015
WEC Silverstone 6 Hour, 12 April 2015
Silverstone Circuit once again served as the opening round of the 2015 World Endurance Championship. Saturday’s afternoon qualifying session was divided into two groups lasting 20 minutes each, and Brendon Hartley helped put the #17 Porsche 919 Hybrid on pole. The fastest team and drivers were awarded one point which counted towards their respective championships. In the GTE Pro class, the #92 Porsche was placed fourth on the grid followed by the #91 car in sixth. In the GTE Am class, the two Porsches occupied fourth and eighth places.
The race started under clear skies, and this saw Porsche teammates Richard Lietz and Patrick Pilet gaining places early on. About two hours in, Makowiecki’s #92 Porsche moved into the GTE Pro lead when Rigon pitted in the #71 AF Corse Ferrari. At the end of the day’s racing, the #91 Porsche of Michael Christensen and Richard Lietz took second place, so the GTE Pro class podium looked as follows: Ferrari-Porsche-Ferrari. The #92 Porsche finished in seventh place in class.
Le Mans 24 Hours, 13-14 June 2015
The GTE Pro cars had a somewhat indifferent start to the 2015 season. At Silverstone, the #91 finished in second place in the race and at Spa the two cars finished in second and third places. But at Le Mans, Porsche’s opposition in the GTE Pro class came not only in the form of its 4-wheeled competitors, but also in the Balance of Performance (BoP) regulations. Neither of the two RSRs had taken pole position in any race since their return to the WEC as a works team in 2013. At the end of Thursday evening’s qualifying, it was no different from previous events, and the RSRs were left down in seventh and eighth places for the start.
The event got off to a solid start in good weather, and the race settled into its early pattern. With 48 minutes on the clock, the #92 car was the first of the Porsche GTE cars to pit, and Pilet stayed seated for a second stint. At 15h53 the #91 car pitted, and Richard Lietz took on a load of fuel and before long was back in action. A short while later there was a clear stream of smoke coming from the back of the #92 car as it approached the chicane on the Mulsanne straight. Around the circuit hearts sank, while in the pit garage there was collective shock as Pilet guided the Porsche to a stop, and as he did so leaking oil splashed onto the hot exhaust, causing an instant fire. A conrod had broken which came through the crankcase wall, and the oil spewed out over the hot exhaust system, and as a result a fire broke out.
Following this incident with the #92 car there was obviously some concern in the garage, but the #91 sailed on without such a mishap, Richard Lietz remaining in the car for the first two hours. Five hours into the race the #91 car was lying in fourth place, and by midnight the squad moved third place, a position it held through until 11h04 on Sunday morning. However, a leaking gearbox and two broken shock absorbers set the car back around 40 minutes in total.
The #91 RSR finished in a disappointing fifth place, a result that could have been much better had it not been for the failed shock absorbers. In the GTE AM class, the #77 Proton Racing 991 RSR of Patrick Dempsey/Patrick Long/Marco Seefried drove a near faultless race to finish a fine second in class.
Motorsport season 2016
WEC Silverstone 6 Hours, 17 April 2016
This was the season in which Porsche did not have a new car with which to enter the WEC. It was the year in which the factory had decided that their new car was not quite ready, and it would only break cover later in the year for the following season. As a result, it was decided that the factory would put its effort behind a customer team in the Pro class.
The GTE Pro field consisted of four manufacturers (Aston Martin, Ford, Ferrari and Porsche), while the GTE Am class consisted of six teams: Aston Martin Racing, AF Corse, KCMG, Larbre Compétition, Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing and Gulf Racing. The whole field comprised 33 cars, which was a healthy number for this championship.
The race got underway under bright skies, although it was a fairly chilly day. Folk will remember this race for the collision between Brendon Hartley in the #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid and Michael Wainwright in the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche 911 RSR. Wainwright was minding his own business as he approached the Farm Curve, and Hartley cut across his bows causing the retirement of both cars. This handed the lead temporarily to Neel Jani in the sister #2 Porsche.
Christensen’s right-front tyre was punctured at Becketts corner and he made a pit stop for a replacement wheel, while Bachler suffered a front-right suspension issue on his car. Otherwise, it was a fairly uneventful race as far as the Porsche 911s was concerned, as they were all running with 2015 machinery, being effectively outclassed.
Le Mans 24 Hours, 18-19 June 2016
Fifty years earlier, to the day, Ford celebrated their first overall Le Mans 24 Hours victory, and they did it in style with a 1-2-3 finish with a trio of Ford GT40s! Now, fifty years on, Ford wanted desperately to replicate their 1-2-3 result in their hope of a clean sweep in the GTE Pro class with their new Ford GTs. Alas, it was not to be, as Ferrari spoilt their party finishing second in class, and so Ford had to be content with a 1-3 finish.
As mentioned earlier, Porsche had not prepared their factory cars for the WEC, but they entered the Le Mans 24 Hours with a factory contingent because of the importance of the race. The 2015 911 RSR was suitably upgraded to satisfy the regulations and to give the cars a chance of competing. However, the pair of Porsche 911 RSRs did not get a look in as both factory cars retired with mechanical problems. The top finishing Porsche was the #88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing 911, a privately entered car in the GTE Am class. They did however have the satisfaction of finishing third in the GTE Am class. Although Porsche did win the race overall with the #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid, for the two GTE Pro teams, it was a year they would probably like to forget as the 911 RSRs were so handicapped with their BoP settings, they stood no chance from the word go.
This was the final year of the 911 RSR in the traditional rear-engine format, a hallmark of the model since its inception. The following season would see an altogether different car, one with its engine located ahead of the rear axle, and its gearbox behind! For the GT teams, this was not the way that they had wanted to bow out with such an iconic racer, one on which Porsche had built its reputation, but sometimes these factors are out of your hands.
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by: Virtual Motorpix/Glen Smale