Porsche RS Spyders, Van Merksteijn Motorsport leads Team ESSEX
The Le Mans premiere for the Porsche RS Spyder could not have gone better: At the world’s toughest long distance race, the sports prototype from Weissach celebrated a double victory in the LMP2 class. After a trouble free run without a single technical problem, Jos Verstappen, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Peter van Merksteijn (all Netherlands) crossed the finish line first. The trio from the Van Merksteijn Motorsport team held an eight lap advantage over the second-placed RS Spyder of John Nielsen, Casper Elgaard (both Denmark) and Porsche works driver Sascha Maassen (Germany). Taking up the marathon from first and second, the two teams controlled the race with their 476 hp RS Spyder right from the start.
I’m thrilled that the expectations of our customer teams, Van Merksteijn Motorsport and Essex, have been fulfilled. The RS Spyder has proven that it’s not just fast but also particularly reliable. The professional work of the teams was also an important key to success,’ said Hartmut Kristen, Head of Porsche Motorsport. ‘The performance of the GT3 RSR was also excellent but unfortunately they lost their chance through an unlucky accident with two of the cars early on in the race.
‘This success is something very special in my racing career,’ said an ecstatic ex-Formula 1 pilot Jos Verstappen. ‘Winning in Le Mans means you go down in racing history. For me it was also important as I’d never competed in a 24-hour race before. The car was unbelievably reliable and fantastic to drive. It was great fun right from the first to the last minute.’ His team mate, Peter van Merksteijn, who also owns the Dutch team, was totally over the moon. ‘This is crazy,’ said the 52-year-old. ‘Every team member has worked untiringly. Above all, Jos drove like a young god. My job was actually only to bring the RS Spyder back to the pits without injuries and not to lose too much time to Jos and Jeroen. This worked. Porsche’s support was excellent and the co-operation couldn’t have been better.’ Just one unscheduled repair disturbed their run. The underbody had come loose through cutting over the kerbs and had to be reattached.
For the Essex pilots, a touch of wistfulness was mixed with their joy over second place. In the first third of the race the Danish team had led for some time – and hopes had justifiably grown for a Le Mans win. Two slow punctures and an additional pit stop due to electronic problems robbed them of this chance. ‘It’s incredibly moving to secure second at our very first 24 hour race as a team,’ said John Nielsen, who acts as driver and team boss and who claimed overall victory at the long distance classic in 1990. Sascha Maassen also had positive feedback about his Essex team. ‘Right from the start I felt great in my guest team and I was surprised at the level of engagement and determination at which they worked,’ said the Porsche works driver, who competes for the factory-supported Penske Team in the American Le Mans Series. ‘It was a highlight to drive the RS Spyder here in Le Mans. Thanks to the unusually good balance and road holding of the car you always had total trust in the vehicle even in the ultra fast passages.
Race result LMP2
1. Verstappen/Van Merksteijn/Bleekemolen (NL), Porsche RS Spyder, 353 laps
2. Nielsen/Elgaard/Maassen (DK/DK/D), Porsche RS Spyder, 345 laps
3. Ragues/Lahaye/Cheng (F/F/CHN), Pescarolo Judd, 333 laps
4. Pla/Amaral/Smith (F/P/GB), Lola AER B05-40, 324 laps
5. Barazi/Vergers/Moseley (DK/NL/GB), Zytek 07S, 304 laps
6. Devlin/Rostan/Jeanette (GB/F/USA); Radical AER SR9, 297 laps