Le Mans Series, round 1 in Le Castellet, France
Porsche factory drivers Marc Lieb (Germany) and Richard Lietz (Austria) take off into the new season of the Le Mans Series on 11 April at Le Castellet in France as the reigning champions in the GT2 class. At the wheel of a Felbermayr-Proton 911 GT3 RSR they face strong opposition – even from their own camp. In the sister 911 GT3 RSR of the championship-winning team, Porsche works driver Patrick Long (USA) shares driving duties with former Porsche junior Martin Ragginger (Austria) and team principal Christian Ried (Germany). France’s Equipe IMSA Performance Matmut again put their trust in the proven crew of Porsche factory pilot Patrick Pilet and team owner Raymond Narac (both France). Joining the LMS for the first time is Belgium’s Porsche team, Prospeed Competition, the winners of the 2009 FIA GT Championship drivers’ title. With Porsche junior Marco Holzer (Germany) and FIA GT champion Richard Westbrook (Great Britain), the Prospeed outfit has also signed on two strong drivers for their 911 GT3 RSR.
Five races make up the season, which takes off with a highlight: Instead of the usual six hour races of around 1,000 kilometres, the season opens on the 5.791 kilometre Circuit Paul Ricard in southern France with an eight hour event.
‘Our aim is to defend the title of course, but it won’t be easy,’ says triple GT2 driver’s champion Marc Lieb. ‘I reckon our class is the toughest of the whole field. This makes the race even closer and more dramatic. We face new rivals this season and five or six of those cars are good for a win. And if you take a look at the driver pairings you’ll see just how difficult it’s going to be to win the title. With just five rounds to the championship you can’t afford a DNF if you want to secure the title.’ His teammate Richard Lietz adds: ‘We are well prepared in all respects. Porsche has improved many details in this winning 911 GT3 RSR. At the official tests in early March we tested a new shock and differential set-up as well as new, wider front tyres. Our entire team is strong. Marc and I have worked together brilliantly since the beginning of 2009 and we’re now completely on the same wavelength. And during the winter months our Felbermayr crew has worked hard to get the most out of the pit stops as they can.’
IMSA Performance Matmut has already experienced a positive start to the new year: Mid January, Patrick Pilet and Raymond Narac won the Dubai 24 hour race. ‘Such a result is tremendously motivating. And we are so much looking forward to Le Castellet – after all, it’s a home race, even if the team headquarters is in Normandy up in the north and the race track in down south in Provence,’ says Patrick Pilet. ‘I very much like this track. It’s refreshingly diverse with a couple of really fast corners and several slow ones. There are plenty of chances to overtake, particularly towards the end of the unusually long straight.’
Another driver eager to get racing is Porsche junior Marco Holzer. After spending two years in various Carrera Cup series, the FIA GT Championship and 24 hour races, the 21-year-old is now ready to tackle the Le Mans Series for the first time. Teaming up with Richard Westbrook, two-time champion of the Porsche Mobil1 Supercup and reigning FIA GT champion, Holzer now joins the top Belgian team Prospeed Competition. ‘I can hardly wait to get going,’ he says. ‘I even found the test days exciting. For our team they were very important to familiarise ourselves a little to the new series. Many things are new for me. Firstly, I have to get used to sharing the circuit with many significantly faster prototypes. You have to be constantly on full alert. And the competition in the GT2 class is incredibly tough. But I can’t wait to race against such big-league names like ex-Formula 1 pilots Jean Alesi and Giancarlo Fisichella.’
TV station Eurosport broadcasts the race live on Sunday, 11 April, from 11.15 to 12.00 hours and from 14.00 to 14.30 hours as well as the final phase delayed from 19.00 to 19.30 hours. On Tuesday after the race, 30 minutes of highlights will be televised from 23.45 hours. The race can be seen with an English commentary via Live Timing on the official website www.lemans-series.com.
The 2010 races
11.04. Le Castellet/France
12.09. Silverstone/Great Britain
- Porsche Motorsport