The quartet of Porsche teams were frustrated to miss out on GT2 class pole in today's (Saturday) qualifying at Paul Ricard the best 911 GT3 RSR finishing second fastest in the class.
The reigning class champions Marc Lieb and Richard Lietz will lead the challenge for the Stuttgart based manufacturer after recording a fastest lap of 1:58.216 round the 5.8 kilometre circuit, just under four-tenths behind the pace setting AF Corse Ferrari of Gianmaria Bruni.
“We're not unhappy with second place, although we are of course a little annoyed at narrowly missing out on an extra point for pole position,” concedes Lietz, who was given the responsibility of beginning the competitive title defence for the Team Felbermayr-Proton squad. However, the Austrian remains optimistic ahead of the eight hour race claiming “We see our chance mostly over the distance where it's important to drive consistently and without error.”
“Luckily for us the track is long and wide and offers many chances to overtake,” he continues. “The fast prototypes can get past which isn't the case on the more twisty tracks. We have many strong rivals in our class – but we'll give everything we've got. Marc is the best teammate you can have which already gives me an advantage over our opponents!”
There was further annoyance for the other three Porsche squads who will take the green flag in eighth, tenth and twelfth in the thirteen car class.
“We made a change to the set-up between practice and qualifying but it was a mistake. Afterwards our balance wasn't as good. The car was oversteering, and on top of that I experienced a lot of traffic in my flying lap.” says Patrick Pilet who qualified the IMSA Performance entry eighth best.
“But it doesn't matter,” he reasons. “Our strategy is the same as in 2009. We're not concentrating on our grid position but on the race set-up. We need our car to be easy to handle – and we'll achieve this by tomorrow.”
The second Felbermayr-Proton Porsche was a “disappointing” tenth according to Austrian driver Martin Ragginger, but most surprising were the struggles of Prospeed Competition, twelfth fastest with FIA GT2 champion Richard Westbrook at the wheel. However, like so many other teams at the opening race of the season the team are treating the race like an extended test.
“We're new here and have a lot to learn,” said Westbrook. “By now we've only driven two hour races. A six or eight hour race needs a totally different strategy. The most difficult factor for me personally is getting used to completely different tyres.”
“We aim to keep out of any duels and see the finish line. For us we can notch up experience from every race kilometre.” Expands his driver partner Marco Holzer. “It'll be a huge challenge as GT drivers not only to race against twelve strong class rivals but also to constantly keep an eye out for the faster prototypes.”
The Eight Hours of Le Castellet starts at 10am UK time (BST) with live timing available from www.lemans-series.com.