Porsche Penske Motorsport (#6), Andre Lotterer (D), Kevin Estre (F), Laurens Vanthoor (B) (l-r)
· Porsche 963 of Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor finishes third
· Bad luck in the first race lap hampers No. 5 crew
Porsche Penske Motorsport has secured the second podium result in the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC with the Porsche 963. At the sixth and penultimate round of the season at the Fuji Speedway in Japan, works drivers Kévin Estre from France, André Lotterer from Germany and Belgian Laurens Vanthoor finished third. The works team's No. 6 car spent two-thirds of the six-hour race in the lead but was ultimately unable to defend the top spot. The No. 5 sister car only managed to finish in twelfth place due to penalties and technical problems.
Stuttgart. In sunshine and temperatures of around 27 degrees Celsius, Laurens Vanthoor treated the record crowd of 54,700 spectators to some gripping race action right at the start. Heading into the race from P3 on the grid, the Belgian promptly swept past his rivals in the sprint to the first corner. During his two stints, he extended the lead over his pursuers to over ten seconds. Vanthoor then handed the ca. 515 kW (700 PS) hybrid prototype to his works driver colleague Kévin Estre. The Frenchman stayed in the lead until the last lap of his two stints but had to allow the first of two Toyotas past right before the final pit stop.
While Germany's André Lotterer was not quite able to match the pace of the experienced Japanese at their home race in Fuji in the last third of the race, he put in a commanding drive to bring home the second podium finish of the year. However, his brand colleagues Dane Cameron from the USA, Michael Christensen from Denmark and Frédéric Makowiecki from France were plagued by misfortune. The trio in the No. 5 car suffered a puncture on the first lap, had to serve two penalties and ultimately spent a lot of time in the pits for repairs. Despite clocking some very fast lap times, the No. 5 entry finished twelfth in the top hypercar class.
"The Porsche 963 and the entire team put in an extremely strong performance today," says Thomas Laudenbach, Vice President of Porsche Motorsport. "A huge compliment to everyone who worked so hard for such a podium result. Third place was the well-deserved reward today. We showcased the car's potential over the weekend and very much enjoyed our time in the lead in the first four hours of racing. That was fantastic! It's a shame that our number 5 car was hit by bad luck because their pace was very strong, as well. Now we're heading to the season finale in Bahrain feeling highly motivated and confident."
"Congratulations to everyone on our team. Everyone did a first-class job out on the track, in the development centre in Weissach and at the team headquarters in Mannheim and Mooresville," explains Urs Kuratle, Director Factory Motorsport LMDh. "It was great to see how we kept improving the car throughout the weekend. And it was even better that we turned this into a well-deserved podium finish in the race. Congratulations to Toyota for securing the manufacturers' crown early."
"We were aiming for the podium and we achieved that," states Jonathan Diuguid. The Managing Director of Porsche Penske Motorsport is delighted with the success of the No. 6 vehicle. In terms of the sister car, he adds: "Unfortunately, the No. 5 vehicle encountered a lot of bad luck. We'll take a good look at this and work out why. But now we're pleased that our pace was great today and we led the race for four hours. We're very excited about the season finale."
In the manufacturers' championship, Porsche achieved third place and heads to the final round of the 2023 FIA WEC as the best LMDh brand in the overall classification. Finishing in third, Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor advanced to sixth place in the drivers' standings, while their teammates Cameron/Christensen/Makowiecki rank seventh.
The final round of the 2023 FIA WEC will be contested on 4 November at the Bahrain International Circuit. The last world championship race of the year runs over eight hours.
Drivers' comments on the race
Kévin Estre (Porsche 963 #6): "Although the Toyotas were a bit stronger than us today, I'm totally satisfied with third place. Our pace today was great and we deservedly led the race for four hours. Our tremendous progress was obvious here. That makes us very positive. We want to do just as well in Bahrain – preferably even a little better."
Will Stevens (Porsche 963 #38): "It was a clean race with one exception, unfortunately, we were handed a drive-through penalty. If that hadn't happened, we could have grabbed fourth place. Then we would've been in front of the Ferraris! In that sense, it was a positive weekend. We're gradually working our way closer to the factory teams. In this respect, too, we've learned a lot and want to translate this into further progress at the season finale in Bahrain. Then comes the winter break, where we will work just as hard to make real progress for the coming year."
1. Conway/Kobayashi/Lopez (UK/J/ARG), Toyota #7, 229 laps
2. Buemi/Hartley/Hirakawa (CH/NZ/J), Toyota #8, 229 laps
3. Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor (F/D/B), Porsche 963 #6, 229 laps
6. Da Costa/Ye/Stevens (P/CHN/UK), Porsche 963 #38, 228 laps
9. Bruni/Tincknell/Jani (I/UK/CH), Porsche 963 #99, 221 laps
12. Cameron/Christensen/Makowiecki (USA/DK/F), Porsche 963 #5, 185 laps