FIA WEC

Kevin Estre: “It wasn’t nearly as easy as it might have looked from the outside”

3 Mins read
Credit: Porsche AG

Kevin Estre has revealed that the dominant victory at the Qatar 1812km was not as straightforward as spectators might assume.

The Porsche Penske Motorsport #6 Porsche 963 put on a dominant display at the opening round of the 2024 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), winning by the 10 hour race by over 30 seconds, and leading an all-Porsche podium. However, as the drivers reveal, victory wasn’t assured until the chequered flag fell.

The triumphant #6 driver line-up of (L-R) Laurens Vanthoor, André Lotterer, and Kevin Estre. Credit: Porsche AG

On lap 290 out of 335, there was contact between the leading #6 car and one of the Akkodis ASP Team Lexus RCF LMGT3 cars, spearing the Lexus off into the gravel and damaging the side of the #6 Porsche. According to WEC rules, the car’s number must be visible on each side of the car. So, with just a few laps to go, Estre was told to pit by his team and a new #6 sticker was hastily stuck on the side of the car. A makeshift repair, perhaps, but it did the job and ensured Porsche could claim their maiden Hypercar victory.

I’m incredibly proud that we all achieved this together” Estre said after the race. “It wasn’t nearly as easy as it might have looked from the outside – definitely not! We encountered many tricky situations and we also had some contact with other cars. Two hours before the flag, a collision caused significant damage. But even with a less-than-ideal car, we did it.

The extraordinary sight of a Porsche podium lockout. Credit: Porsche AG

The other drivers of the #6 car were thrilled by the victory. André Lotterer explained “This triumph is thanks to every single person in the team. Everyone worked incredibly hard and improved so many things for the new season. It works perfectly. We also experienced some nail-biting moments in the race but we kept our cool and brought home the win.” He also added, in a great understatement, “we’d be happy to continue like this!

I’ve dreamed of this day for a long time!” enthused Laurens Vanthoor. “It’s simply incredible to see how much we’ve progressed compared to the start of the last season. We’ve improved significantly in all areas. It’s great to be a part of it.”

The sister Porsche Penske #5 car performed equally as impressively, achieving pole position, fastest lap, and finishing third on the podium despite tyre dramas forcing unscheduled stops. Acknowledging the progress the team has made, #5 car driver Frédéric Makowiecki said “It’s fantastic to kick of the year like this after the difficult 2023 season. After a few setbacks, we pulled out all the stops to get back to the top. Okay, it wasn’t entirely successful but at least we were all on the podium together.”

The pair of Hertz Team JOTA Porsches before the #38 car had to retire with 30 minutes to go. Credit: Porsche AG

Elsewhere in the Porsche paddock, privateers Hertz Team JOTA did a stunning job, securing second place, sandwiched between the two works Porsches. Making his debut with the team, Callum Ilott was magnanimous following their excellent result, saying “Hertz Team JOTA did an amazing job and the team was incredible to work with. They made it super easy for me on my Hypercar debut.” His teammate Norman Nato seemed to be in disbelief after the race, saying “Did we expect to finish on the podium? Probably not – but we did it. How great is that!

Porsche also shone in the new LMGT3 class, with the customer team Mathay PureRxing leading for the majority of the race. The Porsche 911 GT3 R fended off stiff competition from the likes of Ferrari and Aston Martin. Austrian driver Klaus Bachler was stunned by his own result. “It was my first race in a FIA world championship so winning off the bat is simply a dream” he explained. “Massive thanks to my team and fellow drivers. We put so much energy into this project and prepared everything meticulously. The first victory is in the bag. Seven more races to go.

The winners in Hypercar, LMGT3, and the all-Porsche podium. Credit: Porsche AG

This success is difficult to put into words” according to Thomas Laudenbach, Vice President Porsche Motorsport. Reflecting on the whole weekend, he said “everyone involved did an immaculate job. The team and the drivers gave a commanding performance. Congratulations as well to the entire team at home in Weissach. Nobody could have expected a triple success for Porsche.”

He also graciously sympathised with Peugeot. The French team had been running in an extraordinary second position for the majority of the race, only for it to be brought to a cruel halt on the penultimate lap due to a fuel issue. “My respect also goes to Peugeot” Laudenbach acknowledged. “It’s bitter to be thwarted so close to the finish line. They deserved to be on the podium with us.”

The next round of the FIA WEC takes place at Imola 19-21 April, where all eyes will surely be on whether Porsche can maintain this stunning form.

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