Porsche’s works drivers are very much looking forward to round two of the Le Mans Series which takes place on 7 May on the extremely demanding traditional circuit of Spa-Francorchamps. In 2009 and 2010, Marc Lieb (Germany) and Richard Lietz (Austria) won the sports car class in the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. The race on the circuit in the Ardennes also counts towards round two of the International Le Mans Cup and, with a total of 60 competitors, offers an attractive grid line up.
The 1,000 kilometre race of Spa-Francorchamps has been a permanent fixture on the calendar since the creation of the Le Mans Series in 2004. The sweeping views from the slopes along the track and the exciting show regularly attract large crowds. This year for the first time, the race takes place on Saturday.
The 7.004 kilometre Grand Prix circuit is one of the most interesting and challenging race tracks in the world. The first sports car race was held there in 1954. In all those years, the Ardennes rollercoaster has seen many triumphs and tragedies. Particularly notorious is the fast and daunting Eau Rouge corner.
Aside from Marc Lieb and Richard Lietz (Felbermayr-Proton), three other Porsche works drivers are contesting the Le Mans Series. Wolf Henzler (Germany) shares the cockpit of IMSA Performance Matmut’s 911 GT3 RSR with Patrick Pilet (France). Like last year, Marco Holzer (Germany) competes for ProSpeed Competition. His teammate is Marc Goossens (Belgium). These pairings contest the GTE-Pro category with the improved 2011-version of the 911 GT3 RSR. In the GTE-Am sports car class, in which only one professional driver per vehicle may compete, other 2010-spec 911 race cars roll to the start. Christian Ried (Germany), team owner of Felbermayr-Proton, and Horst Felbermayr Jr. (Austria) clinched a GTE-Am win at the season-opener and travel to Spa as the points’ leaders of this classification. Raymond Narac (France) and Nicolas Armindo make up another GTE-Am duo in a 911 GT3 RSR of IMSA Performance Matmut.
The three 2011-spec Porsche 911 GT3 RSR fielded by professional teams still have zero points after becoming blamelessly entangled and heavily damaged in a multiple pile-up at the first round in Le Castellet and knocked out of contention. The crash was triggered by a starting procedure that was flawed in several aspects: The safety car was still on the track after the formation lap with the lights already off, while the lights to signal the start of the race were switched to a clearly visible green. This led to an unfortunate chain-reaction: The back-markers in the field were still accelerating while those at the front were slamming on the brakes. The starter field was compressed together over the entire width of the track, leading to a pile-up. Following the protest lodged by Porsche customers against this start procedure and hence the race classification, the people in charge changed the sporting regulations and established a void result in order to give the teams involved at least a theoretical chance at the title.
Hartmut Kristen, Porsche Head of Motorsport: “I hope that the Porsche teams have overcome the disastrous start accident which happened through no fault of their own at the first race in Paul Ricard. The damages have left a huge hole in their budgets and it was tough going for all those involved to get the parts in time onsite to repair the cars. It has involved quite some overtime. But right now we need to look ahead and concentrate totally on Spa. Because even though the organisers have made allowances and this year everyone has one void result at the five LMS races, there are no points to give away. All of those who were not affected by the events in Paul Ricard still have this ‘free ticket’. Spa is a track that particularly suits some of our drivers. The changes done on the suspension and aerodynamics for the 2011 season should work well here.”
Marc Lieb: “Every year I really look forward to this race. Next to the Nürburgring-Nordschleife, Spa is my absolute favourite. I particularly like the flowing aspect of the track.”
Richard Lietz: “After the chaotic start and the retirement in Le Castellet we’re pleased that we now have a void result. Otherwise we’d be heading into the season with a huge handicap. It’s going to be tough to repeat our win from last year, because the competition in our class is incredibly strong.”
Wolf Henzler: “Already at the season-opener I was very happy with the friendly and professional atmosphere in my new IMSA Performance Matmut team, so I’m very much looking forward to the second race.”
Marco Holzer: “I love this race track. It’s very demanding and has wonderful, fast corners. You always have to reckon with extreme weather conditions in the Ardennes but it certainly brings more excitement to the game. For ProSpeed Competition this is a home race so it’ll be a very special weekend for us.”
Patrick Pilet: “Spa belongs to Europe’s most traditional circuits and is always a highlight. After the huge frustration in Le Castellet I can’t wait for the Spa round.”
The most successful GT race car of 2010 heads into the new season with some improvements. The output of the four-litre, six-cylinder boxer engine has increased to 455 hp (335 kW). Priority in the further developments was given predominantly to the newly-designed aerodynamics at the front and rear.
The circuit of Spa-Francorchamps is closely linked to historic and recent Porsche successes in endurance racing. Marc Lieb won the sports car class there in 2006 and 2007 in the 911 GT3 RSR, with Lieb and Richard Lietz claiming two further class victories in 2009 and 2010. The Porsche RS Spyder also yielded success in Belgium: In 2008 and 2009, the sports prototype won the LMP2 class.
The six hour race takes off on Saturday, 7 May, at 14.05 hrs. Qualifying for the GTE classes takes place from 15.50 to 16.10 hours. Eurosport 2 broadcasts part of the race live from 15.45 to 17.00 hrs. From 18.30 to 20.00 hrs, the free-to-air station Eurosport, televises the final phase and the finish.