Qualifying, FIA World Endurance Championship WEC

May 10, 2024

  • Matt Campbell plants the No. 5 Porsche 963 on P2
  • Customer team Proton Competition achieves it's best Hyperpole result to date
  • Manthey EMA sets fourth quickest LMGT3 time with the Porsche 911 GT3 R

The best Porsche 963 fielded by the Porsche Penske Motorsport works team will tackle the six-hour race in Spa-Francorchamps from the second grid spot. The cockpit of the 507 kW (689 PS) hybrid racing car is shared by Matt Campbell, Michael Christensen and Frédéric Makowiecki. The three spearhead an impressive fleet of four identical Porsche 963, which concluded the Hyperpole session on the Belgian Formula 1 track in the top six. In the LMGT3 category, Yasser Shahin clinched the fourth grid spot in the Porsche 911 GT3 R campaigned by the Manthey EMA customer team. The sister car had an accident at the start of the qualifying session. Aliaksandr Malykhin from the UK escaped the incident unharmed.

Stuttgart. At Spa-Francorchamps, the competitors again fought for the best starting positions in a two-phase system and separately in the LMGT3 and Hypercar classes: At the end of twelve-minute qualifying sessions, the ten fastest drivers advanced into the so-called Hyperpole sessions. The results from there determined who started from pole position.

In spring-like weather with an air temperature of 20 degrees Celsius and an asphalt temperature of almost 30 degrees, the session began with a scare for Porsche Penske Motorsport: While braking for the Les Combes curve at the end of the long Kemmel straight, the two works Porsche 963 racers touched slightly - but both managed to continue. Matt Campbell went on to set the third-fastest time in 2:02.675 minutes, while Kévin Estre qualified eighth and advanced into the Hyperpole. There, he came up against two more Weissach-made hybrid prototypes: UK driver Callum Ilott had planted the No. 12 car from Porsche's customer team Jota Sport in seventh place. At the wheel of Proton Competition's 963, Julien Andlauer achieved the ninth best time. In the second Jota, Phil Hanson wrapped up the qualifying in 18th place.

In the Hyperpole session, the Porsche 963 race cars again showed their true colours. While the No. 50 Ferrari secured pole position, Matt Campbell led the closely matched field of pursuers. The Australian was a mere eight-thousandths of a second ahead of the sole Cadillac. Joined by his works driver teammates Michael Christensen from Denmark and Frédéric Makowiecki from France, Campbell will start from the front row on Saturday. Kévin Estre qualified in sixth place and tackles the race from the third row with André Lotterer from Germany and the Belgian Laurens Vanthoor. The two customer vehicles will line up directly in front of and next to Porsche Penske Motorsport's second hybrid prototype. Julien Andlauer qualified Proton Competition's Porsche 963 in fourth place - the best Hyperpole result for the German team to date. The former Porsche Junior from France shares the cockpit with Neel Jani from Switzerland. Callum Ilott finished fifth for Jota Sport. The Englishman teams up with his fellow countryman Will Stevens.

"The most important thing for us today is that Aliaksandr Malykhin is doing okay after his accident with the Porsche 911 GT3 R," explains Urs Kuratle, Director Porsche Factory Motorsport LMDh. "Four Porsche 963 in the Hyperpole underline that we're heading in the right direction with our developments. Our number five Porsche 963 struggled at the start of the weekend and was a little behind in terms of performance. I'm particularly pleased that the crew progressed to the front grid row with the second-fastest Hyperpole lap time. Tomorrow's forecast is for stable, friendly weather. I think we can expect a really interesting race."

LMGT3 class: Manthey EMA's Porsche 911 GT3 R will start from P4
Porsche's customer team Manthey initially managed to continue its strong performances in qualifying for the LMGT3 class in Belgium. Yasser Shahin from Australia qualified the No. 91 Porsche 911 GT3 R as the third fastest in 2:21.259 minutes. British driver Aliaksandr Malykhin was just as confident, achieving the fifth fastest time with the sister car. However, during the Hyperpole for the top ten drivers, he lost control of his car in the Eau Rouge/Raidillon passage and hit the tyre wall at the track barrier. Malykhin underwent a routine checkup at the circuit's medical centre. When the session returned to green, Shahin set the fourth fastest time. He will tackle the race from the second row of the GT3 class together with Morris Schuring from the Netherlands and the Austrian Porsche works driver Richard Lietz.

Round three of this year's FIA WEC gets underway tomorrow, Saturday, at 1 p.m. local time (CEST). The race on the 7.004-kilometre Spa-Francorchamps Grand Prix circuit runs over six hours and is considered an important test before the highlight of the season, the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Drivers' post-qualifying quotes

Matt Campbell (Porsche 963 #5): "When I think about where we were initially in the practice sessions here in Spa, I reckon second place in the Hyperpole is a very good result - but we really had to fight to turn things around. Still, we succeeded thanks to great teamwork and cooperation with the sister car. Generally, a position in the front row is a fantastic starting position and, as past races have shown, was often the key to success."

Kévin Estre (Porsche 963 #6): "I'm not completely happy with sixth place - things could've gone better for us. The first qualifying was extremely close. We used a different tyre compound in the Hyperpole, which affected the car's balance and I couldn't quite pull it all together on the first lap when it mattered most. Pole position was out of reach for us today but we could've qualified a little further up the front. Now we have a long race ahead of us. In Qatar, we started from fifth place and won..."

TV / Stream
The German free-to-air TV channel Sport1 will broadcast the final phase of the race live on Saturday, 11 May from 17:00 hrs and will offer extensive summaries in the week following the event. Eurosport2 will also broadcast excerpts of the third race of the season. Live timing and a live stream of the entire race will be available via the FIA WEC app, which is subject to a charge.

Qualifying result
Hypercar class:

1. Fuoco/Molina/Nielsen (I/E/DK), Ferrari #50, 2:02.600 min.
2. Campbell/Christensen/Makowiecki (AUS/DK/F), Porsche 963 #5, 2:03.107 min.
3. Bamber/Lynn (NZ/UK), Cadillac #2, 2:03.115 min.
4. Andlauer/Jani (F/CH), Porsche 963 #99, 2:03.314 min.
5. Stevens/Ilott (UK/UK), Porsche 963 #12, 2:03.384 min.
6. Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor (F/D/B), Porsche 963 #6, 2:03.448 min.
18. Button/Hanson/Rasmussen (UK/UK/DK), Porsche 963 #38, 2:04.553 min.

LMGT3 class:
1. Bovy/Frey/Gatting (B/CH/DK), Lamborghini #85, 2:20.755 min.
2. Caygill/Pino/Sato (UK/RCH/J), McLaren #95, 2:21.092 min.
3. Rossi/Al Harthy/Martin (I/OMN/B), BMW #46, 2:21.138 min.
4. Shahin/Schuring/Lietz (AUS/NL/A), Porsche 911 GT3 R #91, 2:21.285 min.
9. Malykhin/Sturm/Bachler (UK/D/A), Porsche 911 GT3 R #92, 2:21.377 min.