Customer Porsche team's Le Mans pole a ‘kick in the arse’ to factory

Customer team HubAuto Racing taking GTE Pro pole for the Le Mans 24 Hours was “a kick in the arse” to the Porsche factory, its operations chief Alexander Stehlig said.

Customer Porsche team's Le Mans pole a ‘kick in the arse’ to factory

Taiwanese squad HubAuto took full advantage after Kevin Estre crashed his factory #92 Porsche 911 RSR-19 at Indianapolis in the Hyperpole session, as Dries Vanthoor claimed an unexpected pole position.

With Estre's car out of the session, and rebuilt around a new chassis on Friday, the sole-remaining works Porsche of Gianmaria Bruni was the slowest of the five cars to set a time, 0.814 seconds down on Vanthoor's best effort.

Speaking on Saturday morning ahead of the warm-up, Porsche’s Head of World Endurance Championship Operations Stehlig welcomed the HubAuto car's pace, while lamenting the disappointing showing of its #91 entry.

Stehlig said that it had been "still chasing set-up and balance until FP3", with Bruni telling Autosport "it was like a white paper going into Hyperpole because we changed completely the car".

Asked by Autosport if it reflected badly on the factory squad to be beaten by the HubAuto crew, which only shook down the car for the first time just before last Sunday's test day, Stehlig said: "It’s a good sign for Porsche because that’s the best advertisement what we did with that [HubAuto] pole, [showing] our customer cars have the same possibilities like we factory cars.

"We have a complete open exchange, they see our data, we see their data, they see our run sheets. The performance engineers speak together, so it’s a complete open book and they have the same possibilities and this is proven by Dries with his pole.

"For sure it’s a kick in the arse of a factory team if a customer can beat #91, I think Kevin probably would have been on the way to go to pole but he had the accident.

"But for sure it’s a kick in the arse of #91 and us as a [factory] team, but to be honest competition is vital and if a customer is faster than us, he deserves it."

#72 Hub Auto Racing Porsche 911 RSR - 19 LMGTE Pro, Dries Vanthoor, Alvaro Parente, Maxime Martin

#72 Hub Auto Racing Porsche 911 RSR - 19 LMGTE Pro, Dries Vanthoor, Alvaro Parente, Maxime Martin

Photo by: Porsche

Asked for his thoughts on being beaten by the privateer crew, Bruni said it was a similar story to the recent victory in the Styrian MotoGP race by Pramac rider Jorge Martin on an equivalent Ducati to the bikes fielded by the works team.

"It’s very good for Porsche that a customer team can be on top, it shows again that Porsche gives a good package to buy a car, go racing and you are in front," the Italian told Autosport.

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"It’s fantastic that a private team can come here, it’s like what happened in MotoGP.

"Ducati gave a best package also to Pramac and they are able to win the race with Martin and doing the pole position [in the Austrian GP].

"It means not because the works team didn’t prepare well, it’s also they gave good bikes to the other team. The customer team, they can do it."

#79 Weathertech Racing Porsche 911 RSR - 19 LMGTE Pro, Cooper MacNeil, Earl Bamber, Laurens Vanthoor

#79 Weathertech Racing Porsche 911 RSR - 19 LMGTE Pro, Cooper MacNeil, Earl Bamber, Laurens Vanthoor

Photo by: Marc Fleury

WeatherTech planning off-strategy approach

Factory Porsche driver Laurens Vanthoor says the WeatherTech Porsche he shares with two-time Le Mans winner Earl Bamber and Cooper MacNeil will follow "a different kind of strategy than others" to mitigate the latter's six-hour minimum drive-time requirement.

MacNeil is the only Silver-graded driver competing in the Pro class, effectively making the Proton-run machine a Pro-Am entry.

Vanthoor, who was part of the line-up that claimed Porsche's most recent GTE Pro class victory at Le Mans in 2018, told Autosport that the team "have to be realistic" that it will not be able to win by following the same approach as the all-Pro crews.

The Belgian topped night practice in both FP2 and FP4 sessions, and conceded it was "maybe part of our strategy to try and be quick there".

The Proton crew has support from long-time Porsche engineers Andrea Mercatelli and Jacques Hendrikse who would define the team's approach to using MacNeil's seat-time.

"For sure we’re going to go on a different kind of strategy than others because we’ll need to," Vanthoor said.

"If we just stick there and follow them, we’re not going to get there, so we need to try and be smart."

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