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Opinion

The brothers giving a different perspective to sportscar racing

OPINION: Sportscar racing has a knowledgeable and loyal following, but convincing new fans to engage with long distance races can be a challenge. So efforts to make it more accessible by leading drivers behind the Over the Limit podcast should be applauded

#92 Manthey EMA Porsche 911 GT3 R (992): Julien Andlauer, Laurens Vanthoor, Kevin Estre

Michail Antonio’s prediction on the Footballer’s Football Podcast he co-hosts with Newcastle striker Callum Wilson, that his West Ham side would finish above Liverpool in the Premier League table this season, was subject to some mockery online after a recent 3-1 defeat at Anfield. Antonio’s linkup play was key in setting up Jarrod Bowen’s only goal for the Hammers, but that didn’t stop sections of the social media brigade from making their point. Namely, that he was all talk and no action.

Athletes are entitled to their opinions, but the derision aimed at Antonio is merely one of the reasons that proportionally few active participants in their chosen discipline commit them to a podcast format. Another, clearly, is that it requires work to plan and mental bandwidth to engage in sufficiently captivating conversation to prove worthwhile while not giving too much away.

Motorsport fans fortunately have plenty of specialist podcasts to delve into (beyond Autosport’s own offering of course) that have direct input from active and former drivers on a regular basis.

NASCAR megastars Dale Earnhardt Jr and Denny Hamlin command huge followings on their shows, among them series bosses who stepped in to penalise Hamlin following an admission on his Actions Detrimental podcast that he had intentionally hit Ross Chastain at Phoenix earlier this year. From the world of IndyCar, Speed Street with Conor Daly, and Off Track with James Hinchcliffe and Alexander Rossi can also be relied on for regular topical insights from the cockpit.

But sportscar racing is somewhat underrepresented in this regard, with the excellent Dinner with Racers featuring GT3 and TCR racer Ryan Eversley focused on the US market. That it doesn’t is partly what makes the Over the Limit podcast a breath of fresh air.

Hosted by Porsche World Endurance Championship star Laurens Vanthoor and his BMW GT ace brother Dries, both Le Mans class winners, the pair talk shop in episodes that are also filmed from a studio decked out with memorabilia and steamed on YouTube. It often feels like you’re earwigging on an intimate post-race chat, particularly when they’ve both been in action in the same event and haven’t had a chance to catch up before hitting record.

“Sometimes it even feels like you’re just sitting in the table and we forget we have the mic with us,” acknowledges two-time Spa 24 Hours winner Laurens, cooling down after a bike ride around Monza as Autosport joins him in the Porsche Penske Motorsport hospitality unit. He explains that episodes reviewing races in which both brothers have competed are “the most listened to and the most reacted to”.

Laurens Vanthoor says he was inspired to start his podcast by Dale Earnhardt Jr's NASCAR-based show

Laurens Vanthoor says he was inspired to start his podcast by Dale Earnhardt Jr's NASCAR-based show

Photo by: David Rosenblum / NKP / Motorsport Images

“I guess people hear from us from a different perspective how the race went and we are able to talk about things which are maybe not mentioned in social media or the press,” he says.

The desire to reveal more about a world in which Aston Martin Formula 1 team principal Mike Krack recently remarked that “you can steer the media quite a lot, and you only give what is really important” was a key motivator for Vanthoor in committing to a podcast, having been particularly inspired by the Dale Jr Download which “I saw was pretty big”.

“I didn’t see any drivers really doing it in Europe,” says Laurens, the elder of the brothers by seven years. “I thought it was a different way to reach people, and especially finding a way also to speak about stuff.

“Because with all due respect, when we’re at a press conference, we most of the time get asked the same questions and you have the same answers. This thing, we can really just talk about what we decide we want to talk about.”

"Even my father called me after one and said ‘you should stop making fun of your brother’. We obviously respect each other but if we can have a dig at each other, it’s an open goal" Laurens Vanthoor

The Belgian is quick to stress that “we have still boundaries”, such is the nature of life as a factory driver at the pinnacle of sportscar racing, but it’s interesting to note how open both brothers are when they get onto a topic they feel strongly about. Whether that is incidents with lapped traffic, decisions made by race control or car performance - when setting the agenda, both are excellent talkers. Neither can be accused of being media-trained to the point of being boring.

“It’s a very fine line between entertaining people and saying something which I’m not allowed to say,” Laurens explains.

Porsche and BMW certainly deserve credit for allowing Over the Limit to run as an independent entity, not shaped by a desire to create positive PR but rather to bring sportscar racing’s complex reality to bear as the brothers see it. At a time when it is going through a boom in manufacturer involvement, which shows no signs of slowing with Lamborghini, Alpine and BMW joining the WEC Hypercar class next year, efforts to lift the curtain and provide insight from its participants is something to celebrate.

Dries Vanthoor joins his brother Laurens on the show, which counts his boss Andreas Roos among its regular listeners

Dries Vanthoor joins his brother Laurens on the show, which counts his boss Andreas Roos among its regular listeners

Photo by: BMW AG

Appreciation has been shown inside the paddock too, Laurens explains, where the podcast has developed an avid listenership that among them can be counted BMW Motorsport boss Andreas Roos.

“I think since Dries knows that he’s a bit more polite!” Laurens chuckles. “I’m surprised myself how often I hear from another driver a comment about the podcast, they actually listen to it. It exceeded my expectations with how well it goes.”

Several sportscar heavy hitters have made guest appearances to date, among them Robin Frijns, Kevin Estre, Earl Bamber and Jordan Taylor. The episode featuring WRT boss Vincent Vosse is especially revealing of the brothers’ differing approaches, both having started out at the powerhouse squad after switching from single-seaters. Laurens reveals that Valentino Rossi is a target for the podcast following a summer hiatus, now that the motorcycle legend is a contemporary of Dries at BMW, but cites Jacky Ickx as his dream guest.

Ultimately it’s the chemistry between the hosts that truly makes the show. As you’d expect of two competitive brothers, who famously clashed in the 2022 Nurburgring 24 Hours that Dries went on to win for a second time in his final season for Audi before tactfully switching brands, light-hearted jabs at the other’s expense are a regular feature.

Jibes about Laurens’ passion for cycling are frequent, although neither the two-time IMSA champion nor the triple GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup winner is too proud to spare their own blushes; take Dries regaling the story of his mistaking a late-night firework display on the night before the Le Mans 24 Hours for his rented accommodation coming under attack, leaving him left red-faced when he ran in to warn slumbering team-mate Tom Gamble. It all makes for an engaging listen.

“Because we’re brothers, I think it makes it quite unique,” Laurens says of their entertaining bickering. “I started out very normal and he was bantering me the whole time. I said, ‘If you start this, I’ll start it back’. Even my father called me after one and said ‘you should stop making fun of your brother’. We obviously respect each other but if we can have a dig at each other, it’s an open goal.”

Estre (right) is among the top sportscar names that has joined Vanthoor brothers Laurens (left) and Dries on the podcast

Estre (right) is among the top sportscar names that has joined Vanthoor brothers Laurens (left) and Dries on the podcast

Photo by: Porsche Motorsport

Vanthoor clearly enjoys podcasting – stating he has no particular intention of “earning big money” from it – and says he plans “to do it like we do until we’re running out of subjects or guests”. There’s certainly no evidence to suggest that it’s been a distraction either.

The Porsche driver’s recent performance at Fuji’s WEC round, in taking on the Toyotas despite having to stretch his fuel after an issue at the start, means he can’t be subjected to the same criticisms levied at West Ham’s Antonio (who was conspicuous by his absence on his podcast after the Liverpool defeat).

“The main thing is to have fun and tell stories which people don’t really know,” Vanthoor sums up.

There’s certainly plenty you can learn from tuning in. It’s well worth doing so.

Laurens Vanthoor plans to keep the podcast going until they run out of subjects or guests

Laurens Vanthoor plans to keep the podcast going until they run out of subjects or guests

Photo by: Juergen Tap / Porsche

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