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The Porsche works team fights their way to third place after 24 hours. That was Le Mans 2021.

When every year the Motorsport elite assemble by the Sarthe, all fans know what time it is: it's time for the 24h of Le Mans. It is unique in the racing calendar and is seen by many as the ultimate motorsport event of the year. After the 2020 event took place behind closed doors, 50,000 spectators were allowed at the track this year. Of course, not to be compared with the folk festival that usually takes place – but Le Mans 2021 felt like normality again. And what about the sport? That was, as always, top priority for Porsche Motorsport.

First a moment of shock, then double pole in qualifying.

In addition to the two Porsche works cars, two customer teams also took part in the GTE Pro class with a 911 RSR: WeatherTech Racing and HubAuto Racing. The latter team, together with the two cars of the works team, reached the all-important Hyperpole-Qualifying on Thursday evening. The results of this WEC season in terms of qualifying were impeccable up until the weekend of Le Mans. Yet, it was Kévin Estre in the #92 Porsche 911 RSR, unbeatable up to that point, who provided the moment of shock of the evening. On his first fast lap, the Frenchman lost control of his race car, colliding with the track barrier. A red flag followed and the other cars were instructed to return to the pits. For the #92, this accident meant that they would not set any time and would have to conquer the field from behind in the GTE Pro class. After the track was reopened, it was Dries Vanthoor – yes, the little brother of Porsche works driver, Laurens Vanthoor – in HubAuto Racing's 911 RSR, who drove "the lap of his life" around the tarmac. Pole position for the young Belgian. In the GTE Am class, Porsche Junior Julien Andlauer proved himself a deserved favourite. The Porsche 911 RSR #88 from Dempsey-Proton Racing gave the competition no chance, securing pole position for the customer team.

A wet start and difficult early phase.

The race-free Friday was beneficial for the Porsche works team, supported by Manthey-Racing, because they were able to build a completely new chassis for the destroyed #92 under a lot of pressure and test it on the Le Mans' airfield. A real team success without which participation would have been severely jeopardised. Yet, when the team got  to the track early Saturday morning, the sky was dark and the tarmac wet. A race start under safety-car conditions followed. Nevertheless, the first race laps of the 89th edition of the 24h classic had it all. The damp track put one or the other competitor out of the race. The two works cars struck some bad luck during the special safety-car phases at the Sarthe. A brief look into the special features of Le Mans: in the event of incidents at Le Mans, three safety cars are sent out onto the track at the same time. The reason for this is the enormous track length of 13.626 kilometres. This means, however, that the starting field is divided into three groups. Those driving behind the same safety car as the front runners make up time. Those who have to get in line behind one of the other safety cars immediately have a deficit of at least 90 seconds through no fault of their own. And this is exactly what happened – no less than twice – to the two works cars. Added to this came the special characteristic of the 911 RSR in combination with the Le Mans track. In the twisty sections, the 911 set best time after best time. However, on the straights – which are known to be very long at Le Mans – it lacked a few km/h compared to the competition.

Accidents and technical problems for the customer teams.

Race misfortune was then compounded by accidents. For the two customer teams competing in GTE Pro class, the 24h of Le Mans ended prematurely. The #79 of WeatherTech Racing was beyond repair after an accident early on Sunday morning. And the #72 of HubAuto Racing, which had started from pole position, also had to throw in the towel early due to a technical defect. In the GTE Am class, many teams were similarly less than blessed with racing luck: Team Project 1 failed to finish with either 911 RSR, as nor did Proton Competition’s #99. The GR Racing team fell far behind due to a lengthy repair after an accident and finished the race in 14th place.

Team spirit pays off.

Loosely quoting the famous Le Mans winner, Jacky Ickx, "you don't win at Le Mans, Le Mans lets you win"– it just so happened that this year Le Mans wouldn't let a Porsche win. One hour before the end of the race, the #91 works car had to go into the pit for repairs and a brake replacement – so there was no internal fighting for third place in the GTE Pro class. The #92 was able to celebrate a podium finish after 24 hours of driving. In the GTE Am class, on the other hand, the #77 of Dempsey-Proton Racing came in as the best-placed Porsche in fifth place. The sister car, #88, which had started from pole position in this class, finished 13th. The customer teams Absolute Racing and Herberth Motorsport finished seventh and tenth on their Le Mans début.

364 days of preparation start now.

Of course, the team is still a little disappointed today that they weren't able to compete for class victory. But we know very well that Le Mans has its own ideas. What remains is the pride of having taken part once more and the certainty that next year they will once again do their very best to ensure that Le Mans might decide to let a Porsche win. And they wouldn't be Team Porsche if they didn't already start preparing for next year on the drive home. We would like to thank all our partners, customer teams, organisers and brand fans for their support. We are all #TeamPorsche.

GTE Pro results:

1. Calado/Pier Guidi/Ledogar (GB/I/F), AF Corse, Ferrari 488 GTE, #51, 345 laps
2. Garcia/Taylor/Catsburg (E/USA/NL), Corvette Racing, Corvette C8.R, #63, 345 laps
3. Estre/Jani/Christensen (F/CH/DK), Porsche GT Team, Porsche 911 RSR, #92, 344 laps
4. Lietz/Bruni/Makowiecki (A/I/F), Porsche GT Team, Porsche 911 RSR, #91, 343 laps
5. Serra/Molina/Bird (BR/E/GB), AF Corse, Ferrari 488 GTE, #52, 331 laps
6. Milner/Tandy/Sims (USA/GB/GB), Corvette Racing, Corvette C8.R, #64, 313 laps
7. Martin/Parente/D. Vanthoor (B/P/B), HubAuto Racing, Porsche 911 RSR, #72, 227 laps
8. MacNeil/Bamber/L. Vanthoor (USA/NZ/B), WeatherTech Racing, Porsche 911 RSR, #79, 139 laps

GTE Am results:

1. Perrodo/Nielsen/Rovera (F/DK/I), AF Corse, Ferrari 488 GTE, #83, 340 laps
2. Keating/Pereira/Fraga (USA/L/BR), TF Sport, Aston Martin Vantage, #33, 339 laps
3. Cressoni/Mastronardi/Illot (I/I/GB), Iron Lynx, Ferrari 488 GTE, #80, 338 laps
5. Ried/Campbell/Evans (D/AUS/NZ), Dempsey-Proton Racing, Porsche 911 RSR, #77, 335 laps
7. Haryanto/Picariello/Seefried (RI/B/D), Absolute Racing, Porsche 911 RSR, #18, 332 laps
10. Renauer/Ineichen/Bohn (D/CH/D), Herberth Motorsport, Porsche 911 RSR, #69, 330 laps
13. Andlauer/Bastien/Arnold (F/USA/D), Dempsey-Proton Racing, Porsche 911 RSR, #88, 327 laps
14. Wainwright/Barker/Gamble (GB/GB/GB), GR Racing, Porsche 911 RSR, #86, 322 laps
16. Olsen/Buchardt/Foley (N/N/USA), Team Project 1, Porsche 911 RSR, #46, 138 laps
21. Perfetti/Cairoli/Pera (N/I/I), Team Project 1, Porsche 911 RSR, #56, 84 laps
22. Inthraphuvasak/Latorre/Tincknell (T/F/GB), Proton Competition, Porsche 911 RSR, #99, 66 laps