Felbermayr-Proton brings Porsche back to top

Speed, endurance and luck all played major roles in the always intense battle for the GT2 crown at this year's edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Although the name of Porsche often plays a role, this year the 911 GT3 RSR of Felbermayr-Proton pulled ...

Felbermayr-Proton brings Porsche back to top

Speed, endurance and luck all played major roles in the always intense battle for the GT2 crown at this year's edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Although the name of Porsche often plays a role, this year the 911 GT3 RSR of Felbermayr-Proton pulled off an upset by replacing the Risi Competizione Ferrari on the top step of the podium.

#77 Team Felbermayr-Proton Porsche 911 GT3 RSR: Marc Lieb, Richard Lietz, Wolf Henzler.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.

After Risi faltered with gearbox trouble, it appeared Corvette Racing's debut in the GT2 class would end the Ferrari reign. But engine failure and prototype traffic knocked askew the Corvette ambitions. That left the Felbermayr-Proton team's Porsche factory driver line-up of Marc Lieb, Wolf Henzler and Richard Lietz to pick up the pieces and the winner's trophy.

Not quite as quick, the Felbermayr entry was roughly a half-second off the pace of the Risi machine and the No. 64 Corvette. But other than changing brake pads, the No. 77 Porsche ran trouble-free, spending 38 minutes in the pits over the course of 24 hours.

"We couldn't realize the speed of the Ferrari and Corvette," said Henzler. "They pushed really hard from the beginning. We said 'OK. The only thing we can do is run our race and stay out of trouble."

As it was, the GT2 winners finished seven laps ahead of the GT1 winners. "It's nice to finish ahead of all the GT cars, but our goal was to beat the GT2 cars," said Lieb of the intense competition the production-based class has invoked.

The bad luck belonged to the No. 64 Corvette, which had its drivers raving about its handling all weekend. A close dice with the Risi car ended with the latter's gearbox problems. But in the 18th hour, Emmanuel Collard was squeezed into the low-traction tarmac off the line in the Porsche Curves during Anthony Davidson's comeback effort in the No. 1 Peugeot.

The subsequent damage to the rear end cost 32 minutes to fix and then the engine gave way -- the same ending as for the No. 63.

Braking problems took the "two-star" Ferrari of AF Corse SRL out of second place and into fourth. After the right front brakes gave way, Giancarlo Fisichella went down an escape road fast enough to damage the front end of the 430 GTC upon impact with a tire wall. Co-drivers Jean Alesi and the lesser known Tony Vilander helped recover sufficiently over the final five hours to come home fourth. The BMS Scuderia Italia SPA team took the third step on the podium.

The Corvettes' problems and the braking issues at AF Corse elevated the Hankook Team Farnbacher Ferrari GTC into second place. Using the same strategy of consistent lap times that brought the team a surprising second place in the Nurburgring 24-hour, Horst Farnbacher's approach worked out again for drivers Dominik Farnbacher, Leh Keen and Allan Simonsen. The only hiccups were in practice when a problem with the gearbox cluster prevented the team from making the most of the initial four-hour practice session on Wednesday. As it was, the Hancook-shod Ferrari was one of the few GT2 entries that failed to break the four-minute mark on the 8.47-mile Sarthe circuit.

#50 Larbre Competition Saleen S7R: Roland Berville, Julien Canal, Gabriele Gardel heads into the night.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.

"After the Nurburgring I knew we could do the same thing here," said Keen. "I was pretty confidant. It didn't surprise me in the morning that so many guys had dropped out because they were pushing so hard."

In its swan song, the Larbre Competition's first-place Saleen S7R claimed a victory in its final endurance race, albeit eight and six laps, respectively, behind the first two GT2 cars. The fastest lap of the car shared by Gabriele Gardel, Roland Berville and Julien Canal was three seconds quicker than the GT2 front runners, indicative of the consistentcy of the GT2 cars and their better fuel mileage.

The Corvette of Luc Alphand Adventures and the Young Driver AMR Aston Martin DBR9 took the other two GT1 grid positions.


See also: Audi takes 9th Le Mans win with 1-2-3

shares
comments
Sam Hancock race report
Previous article

Sam Hancock race report

Next article

BMW interview with Jeff Koons

BMW interview with Jeff Koons
Load comments
The remarkable fixes Toyota used to avert another Le Mans disaster Prime

The remarkable fixes Toyota used to avert another Le Mans disaster

The 1-2 finish achieved by Toyota at this year's Le Mans 24 Hours was a result that will have surprised few, given its status as pre-event favourite. But the result was anything but straightforward, as worsening fuel pressure concerns required the team's drivers and engineers to pursue "creative fixes" on the fly. Here is the full story of how it reached the end without a lengthy pit visit

Le Mans
Nov 3, 2021
Inside the Le Mans finish too barmy for Hollywood Prime

Inside the Le Mans finish too barmy for Hollywood

Team WRT has been at the forefront of GT racing for years and made a successful move to prototypes for 2021, capped by an LMP2 win on its Le Mans debut. It could've been even better had the race been one lap shorter, when its cars ran 1-2, but the stranger-than-fiction reality has spurred the team to reach greater heights.

Le Mans
Oct 16, 2021
Why Toyota's Le Mans victory was not as simple as it looked Prime

Why Toyota's Le Mans victory was not as simple as it looked

Toyota scored its fourth Le Mans 24 Hours victory and a 1-2, with the #7 car of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez beating the #8. But although it looked straightforward from the outside, Toyota faced serious problem that had to be solved with some quick-thinking and ingenuity.

Le Mans
Aug 24, 2021
What we've learned from the Le Mans 24 Hours so far Prime

What we've learned from the Le Mans 24 Hours so far

The new dawn for the FIA World Endurance Championship has arrived at Le Mans, as Hypercars prepare to duel for victory in the world's oldest endurance race. Motorsport.com picks out the 10 things we have learned in the build up to the race.

Le Mans
Aug 21, 2021
Le Mans 2021: The team-by-team guide Prime

Le Mans 2021: The team-by-team guide

After a two-month delay due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Le Mans 24 Hours is set to get underway with the start of the Hypercar era at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Le Mans
Aug 21, 2021
The ex-F1 drivers making a name for themselves in LMP2 at Le Mans Prime

The ex-F1 drivers making a name for themselves in LMP2 at Le Mans

Kevin Magnussen will make his Le Mans 24 Hours debut this weekend alongside father Jan in LMP2. But the Danes won't be the only ex-F1 drivers to appear in the hotly contested category this year.

Le Mans
Aug 20, 2021
Can Toyota's #7 crew break its Le Mans curse? Prime

Can Toyota's #7 crew break its Le Mans curse?

One Toyota, normally with the number 7 on the side, always seems to attract the bad luck in the Le Mans 24 Hours. Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez are hoping for a change in fortune this time around, but face significantly more unknowns than in recent years

Le Mans
Aug 19, 2021
How to prepare an amateur for Le Mans sensory overload Prime

How to prepare an amateur for Le Mans sensory overload

The 23-car GTE Am field promises to be one of the most open in this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, with the added jeopardy of managing the enthusiasm of amateur drivers to boot, as Absolute Racing Porsche driver Marco Seefried explains

Le Mans
Aug 19, 2021