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Crash forces Proton Porsche squad out of Sebring WEC opener

The Proton Competition Porsche is set to be withdrawn from this week’s Sebring 1000 Miles World Endurance Championship season-opener following its crash in free practice.

#88 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR - 19: Ryan Hardwick, Zacharie Robichon, Harry Tincknell

JEP / Motorsport Images

The #88 Porsche 911 RSR-19 entered in GTE Am sustained chassis damage when Ryan Hardwick clashed with the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac V-Series.R LMDh during FP2 on Wednesday afternoon and it cannot be repaired at the track.

Proton boss Christian Ried said: “It’s the chassis; we have a spare one in Europe, but not here.”

Ried explained that spare shells “were already limited last year” for the mid-engined 911 RSR, which will become ineligible for the WEC next year when GTE Am moves over to GT3-based rules.

Any remote hope of Proton continuing with the #88 entry at Sebring hinges on the German-based team being able to borrow a car and get it to Sebring in time for the race on Friday.

Insight: Why the WEC's eagerly-anticipated new era is unmissable

The damage occurred when Hardwick hit the wall on the run to the Turn 7 hairpin after he was clipped by Richard Westbrook as the Caddy driver moved over to take the racing line for the braking zone into the right-hander.

Westbrook was deemed to be at fault for the incident by the race stewards. The Ganassi Cadillac has been given a “stop and hold” penalty for causing a collision and will not be able to take to the track in FP3 on Thursday morning until 10 minutes of the session have elapsed.

Ried criticised Westbrook for his role in the incident.

“The prototypes have to make sure that when they move in front of us we are safe,” he said. “And this was absolutely not safe, and you see the result.

#88 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR - 19: Ryan Hardwick, Zacharie Robichon, Harry Tincknell

#88 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR - 19: Ryan Hardwick, Zacharie Robichon, Harry Tincknell

Photo by: Gary Watkins

“On the onboard, Ryan is on the left side and [going] straight – there is nothing he can do – he just gets pushed out.”

Ried added that he was “so sorry” for Hardwick, who is racing in the WEC for the first time after moving across from the IMSA SportsCar Championship in which he finished second in the GT Daytona class last year with the Wright Motorsports Porsche squad.

“For Ryan to start the season like this with a new project and new car, it’s not how it should be,” he said.

The withdrawal of the Porsche would reduce the GTE Am class field to 13 cars.

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