Estre plants Porsche 963 on pole position at Le Mans

June 13, 2024

  • First Le Mans pole for Porsche since 2016
  • Frenchman sets Hyperpole top time in a last-ditch effort
  • Manthey PureRxcing's Porsche 911 GT3 R qualifies second in the GT class
  • 24 Hours of Le Mans gets the green light at 4 pm on Saturday (15 June)

The Porsche Penske Motorsport works team will tackle this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans from pole position. In the so-called Hyperpole – the final shootout for the best grid spots – Kévin Estre set the fastest time in the No. 6 Porsche 963. This hands Porsche it's 19th pole position in Le Mans. In the race, the Frenchman will share the cockpit of the hybrid prototype with Belgium's Laurens Vanthoor and three-time Le Mans winner André Lotterer from Germany. These three currently lead the drivers' standings in the FIA World Endurance Championship. In the LMGT3 class, UK driver Alex Malykhin qualified Manthey PureRxcing's Porsche 911 GT3 R on P2.

Stuttgart. The so-called Hyperpole shootout for the best eight grid positions for the 92nd edition of the endurance classic was packed with drama and tension. At first, the final qualifying session was delayed by 35 minutes due to repairs to the track barriers. When the track went green, a battle for pole position unfolded – only to be halted by a red flag 20 minutes later. The race director then restarted the session for 7:41 minutes. The extreme pressure brought out the best in Porsche works driver Kévin Estre. In a last-gasp bid, the 2018 Le Mans class winner turned the fastest lap time of the day in 3:24.634 minutes.

"Unbelievable – the 19th pole position for Porsche in Le Mans," grins Thomas Laudenbach, Vice President Porsche Motorsport. "That was incredibly close. When the track reopened after the red flag, we only had time for two flying laps. Everything came together perfectly: The tyres were in their optimum operating window, and Kévin made the most of it. Pole is a fantastic confirmation of the team's hard work. Now, we need to maintain a consistently fast pace over 24 hours of the race."

"First place is unreal, it's yet to really sink in for the whole team," says Urs Kuratle, summarising his emotions. The Director Factory Racing LMDh adds: "Huge congratulations to everyone. What the engineers, mechanics and drivers have achieved on the journey to this pole position is tremendous. It's wonderful to see the relief on their faces."

"What a day for Porsche Penske Motorsport," states Roger Penske, founder of the Penske Corporation. "Last year we came to Le Mans and weren't quite up to speed. This year the world looks a lot brighter – that's thanks to everyone in the team, the Porsche Motorsport staff and our strong partners. Kévin's incredible lap gives us all another huge boost as we head into the 24 Hours of Le Mans."

In the first hunt for top times on Wednesday, only one of the three Porsche 963 fielded by Porsche Penske Motorsport qualified for the Hyperpole shootout for the best grid positions. The 511 kW (695 PS) sister cars with the starting numbers 5 and 4 will head into the race on Saturday from positions 10 and 19. "After our disappointment on Wednesday with only one car advancing to the top 8, today's result was the perfect follow-up," says Jonathan Diuguid, Managing Director of Porsche Penske Motorsport. "That also makes us the first to achieve pole positions at the Daytona 500, Indy 500 and Le Mans all in the same year. It's one hell of an accomplishment! We're now determined to turn the pole position into victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans."

Despite qualifying for the shootout after securing eighth in yesterday's session, the No. 12 customer-run Porsche 963 was unable to take part in today's Hyperpole. "Our car was so badly damaged in an accident in the second free practice session on Wednesday evening that we had to change the chassis," explains Dieter Gass, Team Principal of Hertz Team Jota. "The extensive repairs meant there was no way we could participate in the Hyperpole session. We're now systematically preparing the car for the race." The Porsche 963 fielded by the British customer team is expected to be ready for the warm-up on Saturday at noon. The hybrid prototype will head into the race from the fourth grid row.

The Manthey PureRxcing customer squad also achieved a top result in the LMGT3 class. Alex Malykhin secured the second grid spot at the wheel of the No. 92 Porsche 911 GT3 R. The UK driver shares the cockpit with former Porsche Junior Klaus Bachler from Austria and Joel Sturm from Germany. Manthey EMA's second 911 will tackle the race from P16 in the GT class.

"Racing for Charity": Porsche donates towards helping ill children
The sports car manufacturer will donate 750 euros for each lap completed by the three works-run Porsche 963 racing cars in Le Mans. After the motorsport highlight of the year, the total amount will be donated to three non-profit organisations that, among other things, support and care for seriously ill children worldwide: Kinderherzen retten e.V., Interplast Germany e.V. and the Ferry Porsche Foundation.

TV coverage and live streaming of the race
The 92nd edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans gets underway this coming Saturday, 15 June at 4 pm. The official apps of the FIA WEC and the Le Mans organiser ACO offer a fee-paying live stream and live timing.

Drivers' comments on the Hyperpole
Kévin Estre (Porsche 963 #6): "It's an indescribable feeling to be on pole at Le Mans. The team put a mega car on the track for me. Things got really stressful at the end. There was only just enough time on the clock for two hot laps and the car was almost out of fuel. But it was a lot of fun to drive the Porsche 963 with the tyres in the ideal operating window. I simply stayed on the gas and pulled off the lap. I'm so proud – of the pole and the amazing work from the entire team over the past few months. Now, we get to start the biggest race in the world from the very front!"

Hyperpole results
Hypercar class:

1. Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor (F/D/B), Porsche 963 #6, 3:24.634 minutes
2. Lynn/Bamber/Palou (UK/NZ/E), Cadillac #2, 3:24.782 minutes
3. Bourdais/van der Zande/Dixon (F/NL/NZ), Cadillac #3, 3:24.816 minutes
8. Ilott/Stevens/Nato (UK/UK/F), Porsche 963 #12, DNS