FIA World Endurance Championship - Imola - Race Report

April 21, 2024

  • Second and third for the Porsche Penske Motorsports work team's 963
  • Changeable track conditions in the last third of the six-hour race
  • Manthey PureRxcing takes second LMGT3 podium after season-opening win

Porsche Penske Motorsport wrapped up round two of the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC with both Porsche 963 racers again on the podium. At the Autodromo di Imola, Laurens Vanthoor, André Lotterer and Kévin Estre crossed the finish line in second place in difficult weather conditions towards the end of the six-hour race. Their teammates Frédéric Makowiecki, Michael Christensen and Matt Campbell claimed the third podium step after an inspired pursuit effort. The best customer Porsche 963 took the flag in eleventh position. In the LMGT3 category, Manthey PureRxcing followed up their class win at the season opener with another podium result.


Stuttgart. The six-hour race got underway at 1 pm local time in summery but cool conditions. On the very first lap, several hypercars collided while braking for the Tamburello corner, necessitating the deployment of the safety car. The two factory Porsche 963 cars proved to be the toughest rivals for the local favourite Ferrari early on in the race. Laurens Vanthoor from Belgian promptly catapulted the No. 6 hybrid prototype from fourth on the grid to second place. In the sister car, Frenchman Frédéric Makowiecki was holding his own in the top five. Midway through the second race of the season, both Porsche Penske Motorsport vehicles were among the frontrunners and successfully maintained contact with the leaders. At this point, Germany's André Lotterer sat at the helm of the No. 6 cockpit with Michael Christensen from Denmark in the No. 5 Porsche.

At around 5 pm, after four hours of racing, things changed. Soon after Kévin Estre from France and Matt Campbell took their seat in the two 963 at first light, the rain became heavier. Estre was the first to switch to wet tyres with the Australian following suit shortly after. The two leading Ferraris waited longer to change to wets and consequently lost valuable time on the slippery track. They fell far down the field to positions six and seven behind Campbell, who then focussed on closing the gap to the No. 20 BMW and the No. 8 Toyota. Meanwhile, Estre had moved into second place again, now behind the No. 7 Toyota.

With an hour left on the clock, the last pit stop became critically important. Although the track remained wet in parts, almost all hypercar teams switched back to slicks for dry conditions - resulting in more off-track excursions. During this critical phase, the two works Porsche enjoyed a relatively smooth run. Campbell delayed his refuelling stop longer and moved up to third place, which he defended until the finish. Estre, still in second, went in pursuit of the leading Toyota. Despite having to conserve fuel, the Frenchman caught up with Kamui Kobayashi's car with 16 minutes to go. Because a five-second penalty for overtaking behind the safety car was added to his driving time anyway, the final attack ultimately failed to materialise. After their victory at the season opener in Qatar, Estre, Vanthoor and Lotterer have further extended their lead in the drivers' standings with second place.

"Despite not winning the second round of the WEC season in Imola, it was close and a mega race!" declares Thomas Laudenbach, Vice President Porsche Motorsport. "We lacked a bit of pace in the dry. Then the rain came and we responded perfectly. Our drivers did a flawless job, while many others skidded off the track. In the end, we can be pleased with a sizeable haul of points. Thanks to everyone involved for the quick pit stops and the brilliant strategy. Congratulations also to our customer team Manthey PureRxcing: after their class win in Qatar, they brought home third place in the LMGT3 class."

"A double podium in very difficult conditions is fantastic. Congratulations to the whole team here, in Weissach and also in Mannheim," says Urs Kuratle. The Director Factory Motorsport LMDh adds: "We already knew yesterday that mixed weather conditions would await us in the race. Today we proved once again that we're always particularly strong in such conditions. In addition to the good result in the IMSA series, we can be delighted with the great weekend for Porsche Penske Motorsport. Our upward trajectory proves that we're working excellently together and that the pieces of the puzzle are coming together better and better."

The best customer Porsche 963 reached the finish line in eleventh place. Hertz Team Jota's No. 38 entry driven by the ex-Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button from Great Britain, his compatriot Phil Hanson and the Dane Oliver Rasmussen tackled the race from P11 on the grid. The sister car shared by Frenchman Norman Nato and the two Brits Callum Ilott and Will Stevens finished in 14th. Proton Racing retired its No. 99 hybrid racing car early one hour before the end of the race.


LMGT3 class: Porsche 911 GT3 R from Manthey
The Porsche 911 GT3 R fielded by the Manthey PureRxcing customer team experienced a perfect start to the race in Imola: Starting from pole position, Alex Malykhin retained his lead spot and easily defended it at the wheel of his up to. 416 kW (565 PS) racing car. When rain set in four hours later, the UK driver and his teammates Joel Sturm from Germany and Klaus Bachler from Austria held a clear lead. The team's decision to temporarily stay on rain tyres turned out to be unfortunate in retrospect. The time lost for the additional pit stop pushed the No. 92 winner of the season opener in Qatar back to third place.

Manthey EMA's sister car had to take a 30-minute break for repairs after a collision during the early phase. The Australian Yasser Shahin, Morris Schuring from the Netherlands and the Austrian Porsche works driver Richard Lietz reached the finish in 16th place.

The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium hosts round three of this year's World Endurance Championship on 11 May. Saturday's race on the so-called Ardennes rollercoaster runs over six hours and is considered an important test before the highlight of the season, the 24 Hours of Le Mans in mid-June.


Drivers' comments on the race

Kévin Estre (Porsche 963 #6): "Second and third place - what a great weekend for the team. We didn't expect this result coming into the race. We almost even won. The race itself was crazy: with wet tyres on a drying track, and the first lap back on slicks, that was awful. I had a bit more fuel than the Toyota and was therefore able to close the gap, but overtaking wasn't possible at that stage. The team worked hard to put a competitive car on the track for us and to maximise everything. In the dry, we lacked the pace compared to Ferrari and Toyota. But with the right strategy and a clever tyre choice, we did a better job than most of the others. In any case, we are in a much better position than last year!"

Matt Campbell (Porsche 963 #5): "Given the mixed weather conditions, my stint in this race was really difficult. At times I struggled to keep the car on the track. Finding the right moment to change tyres was just as difficult. But the start of the season continues with good podium results for the team."

Race result
Hypercar class:

1. Conway/Kobayashi/de Vries (UK/JPN/NL), Toyota GR010-Hybrid, 205 laps
2. Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor (F/D/B), Porsche 963 #6, 205 laps
3. Campbell/Christensen/Makowiecki (AUS/DK/F), Porsche 963 #5, 205 laps
11. Button/Hanson/Rasmussen (UK/UK/DK), Porsche 963 #38, 203 laps
14. Stevens/Ilott/Nato (UK/UK/F), Porsche 963 #12, 200 laps
DNC Andlauer/Jani/Tincknell (F/CH/UK), Porsche 963 #99, 167 laps