Just days before the world debut of the competition-inspired next generation Porsche 911 GT3 RS at the Frankfurt Auto Show on September 15, the 911 has proved once more the integrity of its motorsport heritage with victory in the 2009 Le Mans Series Championship.
After a dramatic finale of the Le Mans Series at Silverstone, Northants, on September 13, works drivers Marc Lieb (Germany) and Richard Lietz (Austria) celebrated the first championship title win for Porsche this year. With a clear nine-point advantage, the two had taken up the race from pole position. But the fifth and last round of the season turned into a real thriller right to the flag. In the end, seventh position was enough for the top duo of the German Felbemayr Proton squad to secure the overall GT2 title. Works driver Patrick Pilet and Raymond Narac (both France, IMSA Performance Matmut team) rounded off the Porsche success by pocketing third place.
“Congratulations to the Felbermayr team on their super performance over the entire season,“ said Uwe Brettel, Head of Motorsport Sales at Porsche. “Under the leadership of team boss Christian Ried, and with their professionalism and passion, the team really deserve their first championship win in the Le Mans Series. We look forward to continuing our co-operation next year.“
“Emotionally, the race felt like a roller coaster,“ admitted the new GT2 champion Marc Lieb candidly, “but now we are all totally over the moon about the title. We had the best overall package this season with the 911 GT3 RSR and the Michelin tyres, which we underlined with three pole positions and three wins from five races.“ GT2 champion Lietz added: “Our success is largely due to our team’s absolutely perfect pit stops.“
Lietz was restrained at the start and initially found himself sitting in sixth: “I wasn’t prepared to take any risks – after all, we only needed one point to win the title.“ The drama began just after the first hour when the 911 GT3 RSR of the title favourites began to misfire. “We’d never had this before,“ said Lieb. After two long pit stops it was decided to leave the car to race as it was, as changing the ignition coil would have cost too much time. “We fell back to twelfth, weren’t able to match the pace of the leaders and lost the fuel consumption advantage that our engine normally has over our opponents,“ explained Marc Lieb. “We were totally on edge, even more so when the French Porsche team was nudged from the track and lost the lead to our greatest rivals in the championship.“ Lietz added.
“But everyone in the team said we’ll fight to the finish and do everything to make the most of our chances.“
At the beginning of the final race hour Lietz/Lieb had fought their way back into eighth place – to finally claim seventh. “For me personally, this title means a great deal,“ said a visibly relieved Richard Lietz. “Apart from that, I’m delighted that the efforts of our team have been rewarded and that we were able to show that the 911 is the best car in its class.“
For Marc Lieb, this marks his third GT2 title in the Le Mans Series after 2005 and 2006. The German launched his professional racing career ten years ago as a Porsche Junior and is regarded as one of the most outstanding drivers in the Porsche factory ‘works’ squad. The meticulous detail work of the perfectionist Lieb greatly contributed to the ongoing development of the 911 GT3 RSR. He has won every long distance classic in the world, including class wins at the French Le Mans 24 hour race in 2005 and Sebring, USA, in 2008 as well as overall victory in a GT Porsche at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. For the last three years in a row, the 29-year-old was one of the winning team to conquer the 24 hour race on the Nürburgring-Nordschleife in Germany – his favourite circuit. Parallel to this, he studied as an engineer, which he concluded this year. Lieb is married with a four-year-old son.
His team-mate Richard Lietz, 25 years old, has been a Porsche works driver since 2007, but has competed in the 911 for the last six years. The avowed rally fan contested his first season in the Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland in 2004 and immediately secured fourth. In the two following years he celebrated success in both the national and international brand trophy series. The vice-championship in the fiercely-contested Supercup series of 2006 was his ticket into the Porsche works squad. Lietz confirmed the trust placed in him – by securing the title of the international GT Championship and the GT2 class win at the 2007 Le Mans 24 hour race. He took off into the current season with a win at the Daytona 24 hour race.
The French IMSA Performance Matmut team concluded the season with mixed feelings. After starting from third, works pilot Patrick Pilet had taken the lead of the GT2 field in the first lap and began to systematically increase the gap lap for lap. He handed the cockpit after the first third of the race to his team-mate, gentleman racer Raymond Narac, who was able to maintain the lead – until the driver of a faster sports prototype misjudged the situation and touched the Porsche. Narac went off into the gravel and by the time he got out and rejoined the race he was sitting in fourth. The pair finally secured third.
“The first win for our team was again within reach. But like on the Algarve and the Nürburgring others denied us the fruit of our efforts,“ Pilet complained. “Still, we are happy with third as another podium result this year and of course we are pleased that our Porsche colleagues have won the championship.“
The second 911 GT3 RSR fielded by the Felbermayr team, manned by Christian Ried (Germany), Horst Felbermayr Jnr. (Austria) and Francisco Cruz Martins (Portugal), yielded one point with eighth position. The British Porsche team, James Watt Automotive, occupied ninth place in the GT2 class with drivers Markus Palttala (Finland), Paul Daniels and Martin Rich (both Great Britain).
Statistics: Final of the Le Mans Series in Silverstone
Result GT2 class
1. Bell/Bruni (GBR/ITA), Ferrari F430 GT, 172 laps
2. Coronel/Janis (NLD/CZE), Spyker C8 Laviolette GTR-2, 170
3. Pilet/Narac (FRA/FRA), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 170
4. Garcia/Mansell/Melo (ESP/GBR/BRA), Ferrari F430 GT, 170
5. Montanari/Kaffer (SMR/DEU), Ferrari F430 GT, 170
6. Montermini/Cadei/Rosa (ITA/ITA/ITA), Ferrari F430 GT, 168
7. Lieb/Lietz (DEU/AUT), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 165
8. Ried/Cruz Martins/Felbermayr Jr. (DEU/POR/AUT), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 165
9. Palttala/Daniels/Rich (GBR/GBR/GBR), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 164
10. Griffin/Bamford (GBR/GBR), Ferrari F430 GT, 164
GT2 Drivers’ classification
1. Marc Lieb, Richard Lietz, Porsche, 36 points
2. Robert Bell, Gianmaria Bruni, Ferrari, 35
3. Antonio Garcia, Leo Mansell, Ferrari, 24
4. Pierre Ehret, Ferrari, 21
5. Patrick Pilet, Raymond Narac, Porsche, 19
Jaime Melo, Ferrari, 19
GT2 Manufacturers’ classification
1. Ferrari, 72 points
2. Porsche, 52
3. Spyker, 14
4. Aston Martin, 1