Porsche Penske dominates with a 1-2-3 win in Qatar 1812km

Porsche Penske dominates with a 1-2-3 win in Qatar 1812km

Porsche Penske Motorsport claimed its maiden FIA World Endurance Championship victory for the Porsche 963 with a dominant performance in the season-opening Qatar 1812km race.

The #6 Porsche Penske Motorsport 963 secured a historic victory since 2017 and the first-ever for an LMDh car in FIA WEC competition today in the Qatar 1812km following late drama that saw the German brand finish 1-2-3.

The victory reinforces the 963’s flawless start to 2024, which started in January with a win in the IMSA-opening Rolex 24 Hours. The Porsche Penske outfit appears to have undergone a real transformation following the winter break, and they are confident heading to Imola.

Leading home the all-Porsche podium were Laurens Vanthoor, Andre Lotterer, and Kevin Estre after they put in a dominant performance and survived a late scare in the closing stages following contact with one of the LMGT3 Lexus RC F GT3s which knocked off the car’s left-side number panel.

Estre needed to replace the number plate, therefore he had to make an emergency stop.

The No. 12 Hertz Team JOTA Porsche came in second, while the No. 5 Penske Porsche came in third. This came after the No. 93 Peugeot 9X8 had an issue on the penultimate lap while running second, guaranteeing both cars finished on the podium.

The No. 6 Porsche driven by Estre was comfortably leading the race, one lap clear of the No. 93 Peugeot when the French driver got in contact with Takeshi Kimura’s No. 87 Akkodis ASP Lexus RC F GT3 at Turn 3 in the penultimate hour.

As a result, the car’s left side sustained damage to its bodywork and lost its illuminated car number plate. Eventually, on lap 328 of 335, Estre was brought into the pits so that a sticker with the number six could be replaced.

Estre had 40 seconds advantage over Jean-Eric Vergne’s No. 93 Peugeot, which was on track to secure the best finish for the French manufacturer with the 9X8 but the issue brought it down to seventh at the finish.

Nico Mueller gave Peugeot the lead in the first hour of the race, and the Swiss driver was able to reduce a 30-second gap to nine seconds at the six-hour mark after the French manufacturer decided to fit the car with medium tyres. However, this move backfired, and Vergne was forced to defend against Callum Ilott’s JOTA Porsche in the final stages of the race.

Ilott finished second in the No. 12 car he shares with Will Stevens and Norman Nato after Vergne abruptly slowed down. He was only one second ahead of the No. 5 Penske Porsche in third place, trailing the winning No. 6 car by 33.297 seconds.

Two different tyre vibration problems that happened while Michael Christensen was driving caused the car that he and Frederic Makowiecki and Matt Campbell shared to struggle early in the race.

The No. 2 Cadillac V-Series.R driven by Alex Lynn, Earl Bamber, and Sebastien Bourdais managed to avoid a pit stop during the race after a first-lap collision with the No. 94 Peugeot, enabling LMDh cars to take a clean sweep of the top four positions.

The No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari 499P driven by Yifei Ye, Robert Shwartzman, and Robert Kubica was the best of the LMH cars; it finished fifth, ahead of the leading Toyota GR010 Hybrid, which was driven by Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway, and Nyck de Vries.

Vergne, Mueller, and Mikkel Jensen finished seventh in the No. 93 Peugeot ahead of the No. 50 Ferrari driven by Nicklas Nielsen, Antonio Fuoco, and Miguel Molina—which was delayed by an early drive-through penalty before they encountered another issue later in the race.

The No. 35 Alpine A424 driven by Charles Milesi, Ferdinand Habsburg, and Paul-Loup Chatin, picked up points in its WEC debut after finishing ninth, ahead of the second Toyota GR010 Hybrid driven by Sebastien Buemi, Ryo Hirakawa, and Brendon Hartley.

The BMW No. 20 car driven by Sheldon van der Linde, Robin Frijns, and Rene Rast finished 11th in the debut WEC race for the M Hybrid V8.

Just how much the Isotta and Lamborghini were behind the pace was the only genuine concern at the Qatar 1812km. The SC63 crossed the finish line five laps behind the winning car, while the Isotta retired from the race several laps down in the second part after receiving a 200-second stop-go for a technical issue.

But, it finished ahead of the #94 Peugeot – which had to spend 30 minutes in the garage due to an issue with its battery, the #15 BMW – which encountered problems later in the race, and the #38 JOTA Porsche – which retired in its pit box after Oliver Rasmussen was unable to get the car to start in the final hour of racing.

Manthey PureRxcing secures inaugural LMGT3 win

Several of the teams were expecting the LMGT3 race in Qatar to be an exciting thriller, however, several points of discussion came up after the race.

Manthey PureRxcing won the LMGT3 race, becoming the first team flying the Lithuanian flag to do so in an FIA world championship with the No. 92 Porsche 911 GT3 R driven by Klaus Bachler, Joel Sturm, and Aliaksandr Malykhin.

The Manthey PureRxcing entry and the No. 27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Evo of Alex Riberas, Daniel Mancinelli, and Ian James battled it out for the first-ever class win in the new category. The latter finished just 4.8 seconds behind the leader.

With a little over two hours remaining, Porsche enjoyed a lead of up to 20 seconds thanks to a good starting stint from bronze-rated driver Malykhin. Later in the race, Riberas reduced the distance on Bachler.

D’station Racing made it two Aston Martin teams on the podium as Marco Sorensen, Erwan Bastard, and Clement Mateu edged the No. 46 WRT BMW M4 GT3 entry shared by Maxime Martin, Valentino Rossi, and Ahmad Al Harthy for the very last podium slot.

The highest-performing of the AF Corse Ferrari 296 GT3s driven by Davide Rigon, Thomas Flohr, and Francesco Castellacci, rounded out the top five.

TF Sport’s No. 81 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 GT3.R, which had taken the inaugural pole of the LMGT3 era, was a non-finisher following an early gear change failure that left the car that Tom van Rompuy started at the front of the field in the garage before an electrical issue stopped its race.

The No. 78 Akkodis ASP Lexus RC F GT3 was the only other car that failed to finish.

Although there was a ten-hour time limit for the Qatar 1812km, the race ran all 335 of the scheduled laps, concluding with just over four minutes left.

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