Porsche reflected on this year’s painful 24 Hours of Le Mans in which they were unable to match Corvette’s and Ferrari’s performance and had to content themselves with a third and fourth-place finish.
As opposed to AF Corse and Corvette, Porsche managed to complete the 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans with two intact cars, after encountering minor struggles. However, even after a well-managed race in which they made almost no strategic error, the Stuttgart-based brand had to come to the painful conclusion that they were simply lacking pace compared to their Italian and American opponents.
“If you don’t have any punctures at Le Mans, if the team does a flawless job, if you implement a good strategy and then only finish on third and fourth, then you have to take a good look at things,” a disappointed Richard Lietz, driver of Porsche’s no.91 entry said.
“This result is not good enough. Anyone who watched the race knows that it was a painful 24 hours for us. Now we have to look at why.”
A straight-line speed deficit was pointed out multiple times by drivers and team managers that were expecting everything but such a complicated and painful race. Head of WEC operations Alexander Stehlig explained that the team will engage in discussions with the FIA and the ACO to understand why such an unexpected performance deficit was to be deplored.
“Despite our good and systematic preparation, we didn’t have the lap-time performance and the top speed we had hoped for compared to the competition,” Stehlig said.
“The race wasn’t only difficult, it was also disappointing for us. We had expected to fight for victory.
“We’ll now take some time to analyze everything once again with the FIA and ACO to see why we weren’t quite able to match the performance of our opposition in the race.
Although Porsche did not make any terminal mistake during the race, two very unlucky events were noted by Porsche’s head of factory motorsport Pascal Zurlinden. These two unlucky moments have both penalized Porsche’s most successful entry so far this season: the no.92 that claimed a podium finish in the Sarthoise race although the 2018 Le Mans-winning car was clearly aiming for the race win.
“I would say there was two crucial moments. One was the spin of Kevin [Estre – driver of the no.92 entry – on lap four] because at the end we saw probably our deficient in straight-line performance, he was struggling going through the Am cars,” Zurlinden said.
“But if he would have been with the guys at the front, he would have been driving freely and could have followed them,” he added, pointing out that staying close enough to the leading group of the GTE Pro category would have probably helped the team make up for its straight-line speed deficit thanks to slipstream.
Considering the length of the circuit de la Sarthe, multiple safety cars are deployed on track after a major accident. The safety cars keep an equal distance between each other to allow the Marshals to operate on track safely and start working as fast as possible.
Being at the limit between two safety car groups can therefore have major consequences as it can split a group of cars that were closely following each other and make some crews lose as much as one-third of a lap due to the space that has to be kept between safety car groups.
This exact unfortunate event happened to the Porsche no.92 crew when a safety car was deployed in the night, making them lose a tremendous amount of ground to the leading group of the category.
“And then I think at one point we had a safety car which also splitted him. He was in the first group, then the safety car came and he found himself with #91 of the second group which means he lost 1/3 of a lap and this is always difficult to get back,” Zurlinden added.
“You need to be a bit lucky with slow zones and with still other safety cars, like the last years. Sometimes it’s positive for yourself, sometimes it’s negative.”