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WEC Sebring

Porsche's WEC performance deficit "very obvious" at Sebring

Porsche feels Friday’s Sebring 1000 Miles exposed the shortcomings of the 963 LMDh package following a subdued showing from the German manufacturer in the World Endurance Championship season-opener.

#5 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963: Dane Cameron, Michael Christensen, Frédéric Makowiecki

The two factory Porsche Penske Motorsport cars finished fifth and sixth in the Hypercar class at the end of eight hours of racing at the Sebring International Raceway, trailing the dominant Toyota GR010 Hybrids by a worrying margin of four laps.

Porsche was in the fight for the final spot on the podium in the first half of the race but didn’t have the pace to hold position against Ferrari or Cadillac, dropping firmly to the middle of the Hypercar field.

The #5 Porsche 963 of Dane Cameron, Michael Christensen and Frederic Makowiecki lost further ground with a drive-through penalty for a full-course yellow infringement, while the result of the sister #6 entry shared by Kevin Estre, Andre Lotterer and Laurens Vanthoor was compromised by an electrical issue in the final hours of the race.

While Porsche was expected to trail Toyota in its first outing in the WEC’s top class since 2017, the fact that it also struggled against Ferrari and Cadillac prompted its motorsport chief Thomas Laudenbach to accept that it has work to do to catch up to its Hypercar rivals ahead of next month’s secound round in Portugal.

“We did the best we could with what we currently have and made significant progress compared to the IMSA series season opener at Daytona,” said Laudenbach, referring to the Porsche 963’s nightmare debut outing in the Rolex 24 in January.

“The reliability of our two Porsche 963 was not an issue this weekend. However, it became very obvious that we still have some catching up to do in many areas. 

“Compared to the competition, we lack performance. We have to work on this directly and intensively over the coming weeks.”

#5 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963: Dane Cameron, Michael Christensen, Frédéric Makowiecki

#5 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963: Dane Cameron, Michael Christensen, Frédéric Makowiecki

Photo by: Porsche Motorsport

Porsche’s factory LMDh director Urs Kuratle echoed Laudenbach’s comment that the 963 LMDh wasn’t a match to its rivals at Sebring, despite the work put in by the German manufacturer since its frustrating Daytona IMSA outing.

However, he expressed confidence that Porsche will be able to bounce back from an underwhelming start to its 2023 campaign, insisting he has faith in the team and the structure it has built for its twin assaults on WEC and IMSA.

“With fifth and sixth place, the result is definitely not yet what we want,” said Kuratle.

“Nevertheless, it’s been a good start into a new era for us in the WEC. Congratulations to Toyota, Ferrari and Cadillac. 

“With the crew here we’ll definitely catch up, the team has enormous potential. We trust our very strong driver squad and have the required infrastructure.”

Vanthoor got an indication of just how fast Porsche’s rivals were when he could put up no real fight to the #2 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac V-Series.R of Alex Lynn in the second hour of the race, losing the battle for the final spot on the podium.

The Belgian said that Porsche must find the areas where it is lacking behind to ensure it can be more competitive in the next two WEC rounds at Portimao and Spa in April.

“That was not an easy race for us,” admitted Vanthoor. "Initially, we tried to fight against the Cadillac. That worked at times, but ultimately, they were too strong for us. 

“At the moment it’s the best we can do. Now we need to figure out where we’re lacking speed and work hard to improve."

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