With 16 overall victories since 1970, Porsche is the most successful manufacturer by far in the history of the legendary Le Mans 24 hour race. While the German marque has not bid for outright victory for a number of years, the company has continued to participate in the endurance classic with the iconic 911 sports coupe and six examples of the 911 GT3 RSR race car will take to the starting line for the 2010 event on June 12/13.
Amongst the favourites for GT2 class honours are works drivers Marc Lieb (Germany), Richard Lietz (Austria) and Wolf Henzler (Germany) competing for the German Felbermayr-Proton squad. Their factory driver colleagues Joerg Bergmeister (Germany), Patrick Pilet (France) and Patrick Long (USA) as well as Porsche Junior Marco Holzer (Germany) are also tackling Le Mans.
Like last year, Porsche works drivers Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Romain Dumas (France) have been given the green light to compete for Audi. With an Audi R15 TDI, they are eager to go for overall victory in the class for the most powerful vehicles, the LMP1 sports prototypes.
At the 78th edition of the long distance motor sport classic in the Sarthe region, Porsche customer teams face strong opposition with major-league names in the GT2 class. “We are up against tough competition this year from BMW, Ferrari, Corvette and Aston Martin,” states Marc Lieb, who mans the number 77 car. “But the 911 GT3 RSR is reliable and quick. You need a very well balanced car here, particularly for the extremely fast corners – and that’s just what we have. The long full throttle passages also suit our car and Michelin is the perfect tyre partner. We have the chance to fight for class victory, and we’ll be doing everything to make it happen.”
As reigning GT2 champions and current points’ leaders of the Le Mans Series, Richard Lietz teams up with Lieb. Lietz is looking forward to Le Mans: “This race is always something special. The whole affair has flair and the circuit is simply fantastic.”
At the wheel of the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR run by the French IMSA Performance Matmut team, regulars Patrick Pilet and team boss Raymond Narac (France) join forces with support, as usual, from Patrick Long. “We kicked off the season with victory at the 24 Hour race in Dubai, perhaps that was a good omen for our home event,” hopes Pilet. “The 911 GT3 RSR is cut out for the demanding Le Mans circuit. We’re aiming for the podium.” The French 911 bears the start number 76.
Another well-established Porsche outfit comes from the United States: Flying Lizard Motorsports (start number 80), GT class title defender in the American Le Mans Series, brings Joerg Bergmeister as well as Americans Darren Law and Seth Neiman.
BMS Scuderia Italia’s Porsche 911 GT3 RSR also features a top driver line up. Porsche Junior Marco Holzer shares the number 97 cockpit with reigning FIA GT champion Richard Westbrook (Great Britain) and the double DTM champion Timo Scheider (Germany). The sixth 911 with starting number 75 is entered by the Belgian ProSpeed Competition team, with Dutchmen Paul van Splunteren and Niek Hommerson as well as Louis Machiels (Belgium) sharing the cockpit.
For the anticipated 250,000 spectators, the Le Mans 24 Hours is more than just a race. The fans look forward to a one-week festival, which kicks off with the technical scrutineering on Sunday and Monday (6/7 June) in the market square in the town of Le Mans. On Wednesday from 16.00 to 20.00 hours is the free practice, followed by the hunt for top grid positions with the first qualifying session from 22.00 hours to midnight. Qualifying sessions two and three take place on Thursday from 19.00 to 21.00 hours and from 22.00 to 24.00 hours. On Friday from 18.00 to 19.00 hours, the masses flock to the town centre of Le Mans for the traditional drivers’ parade, creating the usual traffic chaos.
The lights go off at 15:00 on Saturday, 12 June, signalling the start for the 55 competitors on their 24 hour chase around the 13.650 kilometre race track. Television stations Eurosport and Eurosport 2 report at length from Le Mans. From Monday, 7 June, daily previews and interesting background stories will be broadcast. The free practice, final qualifying and the warm up will also be televised. Eurosport, as a major sports channel, broadcasts about two-thirds of the race live.