PORSCHE FACTORY DRIVERS, CUSTOMER TEAMS HAVE SUCCESS, DISAPPOINTMENT AT LE MANS; RS SPYDER WINS LMP2, MICHELIN ENERGY AWARDS - GT2 PORSCHES DNF
ATLANTA - June 13 -- While the Porsche RS Spyder is just a memory in North America, it was certainly alive earlier today at the checkered flag for the 24 Hours of Le Mans as the iconic LMP2 sports prototype captured its second Le Mans class win in two tries thanks to the Danish customer team of Casper Elgaard, Kristian Poulsen, and Porsche factory driver Emmanuel Collard.
The Team Essex, which came in second in LMP2 a year ago, beat its Lola Judd rival by more than 14 laps, as well as capturing the energy efficiency classification "Michelin Green X Challenge" as the car with the best overall efficiency, calculated by the ratio between lap times and fuel consumption. Porsche lost its chance for a one-two LMP2 RS Spyder finish only an hour before the end of the race, as the RS Spyder entry of NAVI Team GOH spun off the track while running comfortably in second place. Under braking for the first chicane on the Hunaudières straight on an oil spill of a competitor, Japanese driver Seiji Ara hit the barriers and the car was forced to retire.
"We're proud that in customer hands the RS Spyder not only confirmed its high speed and reliability again but also won the environmental classification. It's such a great pity that the second RS Spyder retired. NAVI Team GOH put in an immaculate performance and really would have deserved to secure second," said Porsche Head of Motorsport, Hartmut Kristen.
In 2008, the RS Spyder won the energy efficiency challenge at all races and championships - in the Le Mans 24 Hours, the American Le Mans Series and the European Le Mans Series. With this, the RS Spyder impressively underlined its status as the world's most efficient sports prototype.
"After claiming second last year we are absolutely over the moon with our victory today," said Essex driver Casper Elgaard (Denmark). "This is a huge success for our Danish team, which only began competing in long distance racing last year."
Porsche works driver Emmanuel Collard (France) added: "The key to success was the RS Spyder. We didn't have the slightest technical problem and turned fast and steady laps."
Only once in the night was there an unscheduled stop. Before the first Hunaudières chicane, the two close-running RS Spyder hit a patch of oil and began to slide. Keisuki Kunimoto (NAVI Team GOH) nudged the Essex car, resulting in both vehicles having body parts replaced.
"Our crew did a super job," said the third Essex driver, Kristian Poulsen (Denmark), who celebrated his Le Mans debut with victory. "I would like to thank the team and mostly Casper and Emmanuel. They did most of the work."
After a break of four years, NAVI Team GOH, Le Mans winner of 2004 with Seiji Ara, looked like they would bring home a second place right up until an hour before the flag - with a ten lap advantage over third position. Oil from a competitor became Ara's eventual fate.
"I had no chance. Two wheels hit the oil that I couldn't see while braking," said Seiji Ara. "It's a bitter end of a great race. I'm pleased that the RS Spyder is not only fast, but also safe." His compatriot Keisuke Kunimoto contested the long distance classic for the first time.
Porsche works driver Sascha Maassen was full of praise: "I salute our team's performance. Perfect preparation, perfect team work in every respect. I'm so sorry that we couldn't bring home the success they deserved." For the perfect work in the pit stops, the team received a special prize from the organizers.
Porsche works drivers Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Romain Dumas (France), lent to Audi for the Le Mans 24 hour race, lost all chances to win with a technical defect in their #3 Audi R15 TDI which resulted in repairs over several hours on Saturday night. With their chase through the field from the back to finish 18th, the two shone with their excellent lap times. "It hurts to be out of contention for overall victory so early on," said Bernhard.
"Still, it was great fun. The Audi crew made us feel very welcome from the first moment on," added Dumas.
In the production-based GT2 class, a one-two qualifying effort for the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR from qualifying could not be turned into a race success. After just two hours, the race came to an end for the three Porsche works drivers Marc Lieb (Germany), Richard Lietz (Austria) and Wolf Henzler (Germany). A problem with the fuel system caused the engine of the 911 to die and not start again - 100 meters from the entrance to the pit lane. As the regulations do not allow a car to be towed in such a case, the leading trio of the German Felbermayr-Proton team had no chance to repair the otherwise technically perfect 911 and retired.
"Of course I'm very disappointed," said Marc Lieb. "But we are looking ahead and already looking forward to the next race in the Le Mans Series, where we want to extend our championship lead with another victory."
For the American Flying Lizard team, the 2009 Le Mans race ended in the early morning hours when Darren Law (USA) collided heavily with the barriers. Prior to this, pole-setter Jorg Bergmeister (Germany) and team owner Seth Neiman (USA) were steadily moving in the direction of a podium result with their GT3 RSR. The French IMSA Performance Matmut team
with Porsche works drivers Patrick Pilet (France) and Patrick Long (USA) as well as Raymond Narac (France) maintained third place for more than two-thirds of the race distance. On Sunday morning a problem with the power transmission put an end to their promising charge.
Unlike the American Le Mans Series, where cars can be ranked in the finals standing as long as they complete 70 percent of the laps of the overall winner, the 24 Hours of Le Mans requires a team to take the checkered flag at the end of the race to be classified in the results. Under ALMS rules, the RS Spyder entry of NAVI Team GOH would have finished third in LMP2