Porsche takes GT win

Five Porsches are the only finishers in the GR class at Le Mans; the Racers Group Porsche 911 GT3 Rs completes Le Mans/Daytona sweep. ATLANTA -- June 16 -- The Racers Group Porsche team, based in Sonoma, Calif., completed an amazing week at Le...

Five Porsches are the only finishers in the GR class at Le Mans; the Racers Group Porsche 911 GT3 Rs completes Le Mans/Daytona sweep.

ATLANTA -- June 16 -- The Racers Group Porsche team, based in Sonoma, Calif., completed an amazing week at Le Mans by winning the GT class by a little over a minute in its Porsche 911 GT3 RS with team owner Kevin Buckler and Porsche factory drivers Lucas Luhr and Timo Bernhard.

Luhr had put the car on the pole earlier in the week, but the car lost its lead position only an hour into the race when a seat belt snafu caused a delay during the team's first pit stop. With the Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 RS taking over first place with its experienced GT driving crew of Sascha Maassen/Jorg Bergmeister/Romain Dumas, it looked like Buckler's car would not be able to catch up.

"The gap went to three minutes, and the faster we drove, the faster they drove, and we weren't making up any time. We just had to stay with our program, and hope something would develop," said Buckler.

"This was a hard race, especially because I knew exactly how fast the drivers on the other team were," said Lucas Luhr. "When the checked flag fell, it was relief like I had passed a stone."

Something did develop in the 18th hour as the Freisinger Porsche lost six minutes in the pits changing brake pads and rotors, and suddenly a three minute deficit turned into a three-minute lead. But the Freisinger team started pushing hard, and the lead shrunk to less than a minute during much of the last three hours. Lucas Luhr was able to turn laps in the 4:15 range at the end -- too fast for ALMS teammate Sascha Maassen to make up any time.

Defending Le Mans GT champions, the Seikel Motorsport Porsche, with Luca Drudi, Luca Riccitelli, and Fabio Rosa at the helm, had a 12-hour battle with the Team Taisan Porsche 911 GT3 RS of Iida/Yogo/Nishizawa, but the Japanese drivers prevailed to finish third, with the Italian drivers fourth.

The Luc Alphant Aventures Porsche of Luc Alphant/Christian Lavieille/Oliver Thevenin finished fifth despite four flat tires and some steering problems. No other cars were running in the GT class at the finish as the Ferraris, Morgan and Spyker all broke before the finish. The Orbit Racing Porsche retired with transmission problems, while the PK Sport, Ltd. Porsche lost its engine due to overheating.

This is the 51st year that Porsches have run at Le Mans -- more than any other manufacturer (Ferrari is second with 41 years), and Porsches have won their class or overall 47 percent of the time they have entered (Ferrari is second with 36 percent). Porsches have won the Le Mans GT class eight years in a row.

Since the Porsche 911 GT3 RS family of race cars was introduced in 1999, the car has been updated and improved, but race fans will be hard pressed to tell the difference between the 1999 and 2000 GT3 R, and the 2001 and 2002 GT3 RS.

The latest version of the Porsche 911 GT3 RS is almost identical to the 2001 model. The engine and drivetrain are the same, and the car still produces 420 horsepower, but improvements have been made in the suspension, including a blade adjustment for the front sway bar for easy pit lane adjustments, and new rear suspension uprights. The bodywork is slightly wider to accommodate the wider offset Michelin tires.

Built at the Porsche Motorsport in the Research and Development Department at Weissach, the Porsche 911 GT3 RS delivers the 420 horsepower from its 3.6-liter normally-aspirated engine. In 1999, its first year of competition, the car finished 1-2 in class at Le Mans, and has won its class in the both the Grand Am and American Le Mans Series two years in a row. The car has also won its class three years in a row at the Daytona 24 Hours, the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

More than 80 Porsche 911 GT3 RS have been sold so far worldwide, with almost half of those cars having raced in the U.S.

The official Porsche web site -- www.porsche.com - has race reports and photos from the race for all the Porsches entered. Porsche web site uses should click on "North America" from the home page when prompted to select a country, choose "motorsports," then "news" to find the Le Mans updates. The Porsche Motorsport North America pages (www.porsche.com/motorsport) and the Porsche Cars North America media site (www.press.porsche.com - user ID and password are both the word "carrera") also have motorsports news, with the media site containing driver bios and team information as well.

24 Hours of Le Mans -- Final GT standings

#81 PORSCHE 911 GT3 RS (LM GT)
Buckler, Kevin. (USA)
Luhr, Lucas (DEU)
Bernhard, Timo. (DEU)
319 laps, Best lap -- 4:11.137

#80 PORSCHE 911 GT3 RS (LM GT)
Dumas, Romain. (FRA)
Maassen, Sascha. (DEU)
Bergmeister, Jorg. (DEU)
319 laps, Best lap - 4:12.346

#77 PORSCHE 911 GT3 RS (LM GT)
Iida Akira. (JPN)
Yogo Asushi. (JPN)
Nishizawa Kazauki. (JPN)
313 laps, Best lap - 4:16.487

Rosa, Fabio (ITA)
Drudi, Luca. (ITA)
Riccitelli Luca. (ITA)
313 laps, Best lap - 4:16.143

#72 PORSCHE 911 GT3 RS (LM GT)
Alphand Luc. (FRA)
Lavieille Christian. (FRA)
Thevenin Oliver. (FRA)
297 laps, Best lap - 4:21.071

#73 MORGAN AERO 8 (LM GT) -- retired/engine
Stanton Richard. (GBR)
Hyde Steve. (GBR)
Hay Richard. (GBR)
181 laps, Best lap - 4:26.453

#75 PORSCHE 911 GT3 RS (LM GT) -- retired/transmission
Hindery, Leo. (USA)
Baron, Peter. (USA)
Kester, Tony. (USA)
165 laps, Best lap - 4:19.852

#85 SPYKER C8 DOUBLE 12R (LM GT) -- Retired/engine
Kox, Peter. (NLD)
Hugenholtz, John. (NLD)
Simon Norman. (DEU)
142 laps, Best lap -- 4:24.991

#74 FERRARI MODENA (LM GT) -- retired/electrical
Gomez Gian. (FRA)
Fukuda Rio. (FRA)
Cazenave Laural. (FRA)
119 laps, Best lap - 4:23.041

#71 FERRARI MODENA (LM GT) - retired/engine
Schultheis Gary. (USA)
Mac Allister Chris. (USA)
Earle, Dr. Stephen. (USA)
85 laps, Best lap - 4:28.745

#78 PORSCHE 911 GT3 RS (LM GT) -- retired/overheating
Liddell, Robin. (GBR)
Warnock, David. (GBR)
Masarati Piers. (GBR)
88 laps, Best lap - 4:15.531

#70 FERRARI MODENA (LM GT) -- retired - crash
Short Martin. (GBR)
Wagner, Cort. (USA)
Hancock Sam. (GBR)
16 laps, Best lap - 4:22.025


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About this article
Series Le Mans
Drivers Norman Simon , Sascha Maassen , Lucas Luhr , Jörg Bergmeister , Timo Bernhard , Luca Riccitelli , Luc Alphand , Akira Iida , Martin Short , Fabio Rosa , Richard Stanton , Piers Masarati , Christian Lavieille , Richard Hay , Steve Hyde , Sam Hancock