Today is the start of the 2020 24 Hours of Le Mans. Like so much of life in 2020, this year’s motorsport season has been a challenge but it’s good to see racing at La Sarthe.
Porsche is fielding several entries in the GTE-Pro and GTE-Am categories. Leading the charge are the factory RSRs, numbers 91 and 92. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Stuttgart’s first win at Le Mans is the 91 car, painted in the red and white Porsche KG Salzburg racing colours of the Austrian national flag. The 92 car runs an identical livery, with black replacing the red.
Porsche drivers for Le Mans 2020
Richard Lietz and Gianmaria Bruni share the wheel of number 91, with Frédéric Makowiecki supporting. This partnership has previously achieved two second-place finishes. In the sister car are the reigning World Endurance Champions: Michael Christensen and Kévin Estre, supported by Laurens Vanthoor, defending champion of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. This trio won the event last time out with a 911 RSR presented in Pink Pig livery, so the factory enters the race with its best foot forward.
About the 2020 Le Mans 24 Hours
Racing at the 13.6km Circuit des 24 Heures is the highlight of the World Endurance Championship every year. Normally run in mid-June, this year’s race was postponed until September due to the coronavirus pandemic. The three-month postponement means different weather and light conditions.
“The fact that Le Mans is being held in September this year will have a huge impact on the race,” said Richard Lietz. “It gets dark earlier on Saturday and light much later on Sunday. We’ve never experienced such a ratio between day and night before at this 24-hour classic. What’s more, we’re facing very changeable weather. All of this promises an extremely thrilling race. Our tests in the lead-up to Le Mans went well and class victory is our clear goal.”
The 2020 Le Mans 24 Hours is the latest RSR’s first time at the world’s greatest long-distance circuit race. Cancellation of pre-race testing threw an additional spanner in the works. Most of the racetrack is public roads and conditions can change year to year, as hundreds of trucks and cars drive over the famous Mulsanne Straight daily on their way from Le Mans to Tours. The team had to set up the cars based on previous experience and this initially did not work out too well.
“We had a lot of work to do in first practice, as the setup that we’d worked out in advance didn’t really work at first,” said Alexander Stehlig, Head of WEC Operations for Porsche. We made many changes so that the drivers could get more comfortable with the handling of the car. Things went significantly better in the second practice session. We made it into the Hyperpole, but qualifying fifth and sixth there was not good enough.”
Things went much better in Hyperpole, as the number 91 car claimed pole position. Italy’s Gianmaria Bruni set the fastest lap at the wheel of the 91 Porsche 911 RSR with a time of 3:50.874 minutes. Michael Christensen claimed sixth place for the number 92. In GTE-Am, works driver Matt Campbell was the fastest 911, claiming the second grid spot in his class with the No. 77 Porsche 911 RSR fielded by Dempsey-Proton Racing, a mere five one-hundredths of a second off the top time.
Where to watch the 2020 Le Mans 24 Hours
The 2020 Le Mans 24-Hours starts at 13:30 UK time today. Watch the race on Eurosport, BT Sport or via the WEC app. I found a free stream last year somewhere so will probably dip in and out of that while kicking around in the garage. Lots going on here at home, with kids finally about to head back to uni and the builders on site.