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WEC Fuji

Fuji marks Porsche's best chance of WEC podium return in 2023 - Makowiecki

This weekend’s Fuji 6 Hours represents Porsche’s best chance of recording a second podium finish of its comeback season in the World Endurance Championship's top class, according to Frederic Makowiecki.

#5 PORSCHE PENSKE MOTORSPORT Porsche 963 Hybrid Hypecar of Dane Cameron, Michael Christensen, Frédéric Makowiecki

Porsche has struggled to challenge Le Mans Hypercar manufacturers Toyota and Ferrari on its return to the top echelon of sportscar racing this year, managing only one podium with its 963 LMDh.

The result in April’s Portimao round came after both Toyota (sensor) and Ferrari (front-axle brake-by-wire) were delayed, while Porsche lost out on a podium at Spa to Ferrari on the final lap.

At the most recent round in Monza, Porsche was only the fourth-fastest manufacturer in the Hypercar class, as Peugeot made a big leap to take its maiden WEC podium behind the winning Toyota and second-placed Ferrari.

But Makowiecki, who shares the #5 Penske-run Porsche 963 with Dane Cameron and Michael Christensen, is hoping Porsche can return to the podium as the WEC moves to Asia for the final leg of the season.

Insight: How American racing’s greatest rivalry has gone global in the WEC

The Frenchman told Autosport that Porsche has "a better chance here than Bahrain" of finishing on the podium, as the 963 LMDh lacks the kind of consistency required to excel in the dry/night Bahrain 8 Hours title decider.

“In general the consistency is not where we are the strongest - and probably Bahrain is the hardest track for that," he said. “Let's see, but I would suspect Bahrain could be harder for us.”

Makowiecki explained that Porsche suffers from higher degradation and a general lack of grip, but feels the German marque needs to improve in every area to take the fight to the front.

“There is not one part where we are lacking more,” he said. “It's a more global approach where we need to improve a little bit everywhere and if we do this we will be stronger. 

#5 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963: Frederic Makowiecki

#5 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963: Frederic Makowiecki

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

“For sure, we miss a little bit of speed. At the beginning it was mainly high speed but now we compensated and we are significantly better in high speed. 

“Now in general we are lacking grip or we aren't able to generate the optimum grip. And the second thing where we need to be a lot stronger is on tyre deg and [our rivals] are a lot more consistent.”

While a podium might still be on the cards, Makowiecki’s team-mate Christensen believes that a victory in the final two races of the season is out of the question, highlighting the gap to the cars at the front of the field.

“I don’t expect us to win with the way it looks at the moment,” he told Autosport.

“Of course I wish and hope [to win] but I’ve been in the game long enough and I am realistic enough to know that we are not gonna find a second overnight. 

“We are going in the right direction, it took longer to understand the direction we need to go than we hoped, but to say we are gonna win a race this year is optimistic.”

The privateer Jota Porsche was the fastest non-Toyota in dry second practice on Friday, while the best of the works entries was 1.211s off the pace in fifth with Christensen at the wheel.

Porsche still ‘not where it wants to be’

Porsche has made significant strides with the 963 LMDh since the start of the programme, bagging two wins in IMSA SportsCar Championship, but the head of its factory LMDh programme says there is still work to be done on improving the package. 

#6 PORSCHE PENSKE MOTORSPORT Porsche 963 Hybrid Hypecar of Kévin Estre, André Lotterer, Laurens Vanthoor

#6 PORSCHE PENSKE MOTORSPORT Porsche 963 Hybrid Hypecar of Kévin Estre, André Lotterer, Laurens Vanthoor

Photo by: JEP

Urs Kuratle admits that the 963 is not as reliable or quick as it would have liked at this stage of the campaign.

“We improved a lot since the starting point,” Kuratle told Autosport.

“We came the long way and we are definitely not where we want to be with the car, the performance of the car and the reliability of the car. 

“We did good progress but also we still have some work to do with the driveability to combine. 

“Driveability of the car is our car's weakest point, combined with reliability, because we still struggle with some reliability points, even though the distance we can do with no technical problems is increasing. 

“Unfortunately, we showed this year in the 24 hours we are not ready but we keep on working hard on all those points."

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