Standing together as one.
In the time ahead of the historic 100th race of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Porsche is a bustle of activity. Multiple teams have to be brought to the racetrack and need supplies, turning the area around the Le Mans circuit into a veritable city. Urs Kuratle, Director Factory Racing LMDh at Porsche, took some time out of his busy schedule to offer us a peek behind the scenes.
Question: When do the first of the team arrive before the race? What will they be doing?
Urs Kuratle: The first team member started in Le Mans on Monday, May 22nd. They started to build the buildings behind the garages, the hospitality and all the necessary installations. These guys will also be the last ones to leave. In the week after the race, everything must be gone again. So, for them it’s a four-week operation.
Question: The last time you were in Le Mans with three vehicles, it was with the LMP1 program and the Porsche 919 Hybrid. Back then, the Porsche Motorsport Team won the first and second spot on the podium. What is different this year from back then?
Urs Kuratle: True, but this was eight years ago, and many things have changed. One difference for sure is the car and the timing within the project. Back then, it was the second year with the Porsche 919 in the World Endurance Championship, and we had much more experience with the car and its operation.
Question: We’re a day out from the start of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which has a very unique connection to the Porsche brand. What does this race mean to you and the team?
Urs Kuratle: First of all, it’s a big honor to be part of the team for this iconic race in Le Mans. 75-year anniversary of Porsche. 100th year of Le Mans, and having the possibility to win the 20th overall victory for Porsche – there is nothing that could top this.
Question: How is the team handling the pressure of being involved in such a potentially historic moment?
Urs Kuratle: Obviously, on the one hand, you can feel the immense tension and stress which all team members experience, regardless of their positions. On the other hand, we like to be well-prepared, and we are looking forward to the pinnacle of this event – the race.
The team is concentrating on their job. We do some team events in the weeks ahead of the race and try to keep distractions at bay as much as possible.
Question: Will you be doing something to relax ahead of the race weekend and if so, what?
Urs Kuratle: We all get older and I for sure will try to utilize every hour of rest I can get before the race. But I have no special relaxation program.
Question: You’re also responsible for the customer teams. How are they getting on the day before the race?
Urs Kuratle: The Hertz Team JOTA is doing a great job. With our customer support team, we try to assist as much as possible. As JOTA is a highly professional squad, and as the 2022 winner of the LMP2 class, they know exactly how to prepare themselves here in Le Mans.
Question: Beside the driver parade on the Friday, what’s on the team schedule before such a legendary race?
Urs Kuratle: Le Mans always had a very specific time schedule. There is the scrutineering in town, lots of fan and media events. All this turns it into a two-week event – that is what makes Le Mans so special.
Question: And what’s on your schedule?
Urs Kuratle: There are many more entries in the time schedule than for a normal race. But again, this is Le Mans, maybe the busiest two weeks of the year.
Question: Between the Qualifying, the Hyperpole and more practice sessions: How is the team getting the three Porsche 963 ready for the race on Saturday?
Urs Kuratle: We have an exact plan when we replace individual parts during the preparation week. Obviously, there are a lot of “if’s and when’s” in this plan. So, unexpected weather changes or incidents on track will keep us constantly on our toes.
Question: Let’s talk about the last 24 hours up to the race: What are the engineers, mechanics, drivers, and other team members doing?
Urs Kuratle: Friday before the race there is no track action for our cars. It is not a day-off. Mechanics change the last parts and double-check every nut and bolt. The engineers will go through strategic topics with the drivers and check their systems. Meanwhile, the drivers and management go through a lot of media events. Everybody tries to get back to the hotel as soon as possible. Saturday morning is the warm-up and then the grid procedure starts.
Question: We would like to take a peek behind the scenes: Will you be offering the team some encouraging words before the race and if so, what will they be about? And what would you like to tell the fans?
Urs Kuratle: We sure have a get together with the team before the race and there will be speeches from many people. One message for everyone will be, “We win together, and we lose together”. This is one of the most important messages.
The rest remains a secret …
Thank you for your time. We are keeping our fingers crossed for the team!