AutosPorsche at le men: A legacy of dominance in endurance racing

Porsche at le men: A legacy of dominance in endurance racing

24 h Le Mans 2024
24 h Le Mans 2024
Images source: © Autokult | Mariusz Zmysłowski
Szymon Jasina

18 June 2024 10:24

Porsche won 19 races at Le Mans, and in 2024, the German team secured pole position and was once again a contender for victory. Looking at individual classes, the total number of triumphs has exceeded 100, and by winning the GT3 class, Porsche added another to this list. Where do these successes come from, and why am I sure they will continue?

Thanks to the German approach, I could simply write and finish the topic. However, it's not that obvious. We've had more German teams at Le Mans and in many other racing and rally series, but not all can boast such successes. Let's take a broader look beyond just Porsche.

The brand from Zuffenhausen is the sportiest one in Germany. The new advertising slogan "Raceborn" is no coincidence. From the beginning, Porsche was a sports brand (though today, SUVs and limousines are critical in the offerings, and they have been different for decades) and practically always connected to motorsports. This alone shows that for the iconic 911 manufacturer, racing (and sometimes rallying) was vital in building the brand's image, but it was also a passion for its creators.

24h Le Mans 2024
24h Le Mans 2024© Autokult | Mariusz Zmysłowski

We must look at the entire approach to motorsport more broadly. From the very beginning of its existence, Porsche was connected with Volkswagen, and today it is the largest shareholder in the VAG group. Therefore, if we take into account the victories in the 24-hour Le Mans of all Volkswagen Group brands, we need to add 13 for Audi (the second most successful brand, ahead of Ferrari) and one for Bentley (I do not count the British victories from the first decade of racing here) to Porsche's 19 triumphs. That gives 33 victories. In comparison, BMW can boast one win and Mercedes two (including one in cooperation with Sauber).

Moreover, the history of VAG in motorsport is not limited to Le Mans and long-distance racing. Volkswagen's start at the World Rally Championship looked extremely impressive - they came, won for several years, and then left. The seasons from 2013 to 2016 they looked like an operation of the best-trained special forces. The German team, hiring Sébastien Ogier, won all the manufacturer and driver titles during their four-year presence in WRC.

24h Le Mans 2024
24h Le Mans 2024© Autokult | Szymon Jasina

A similar situation occurred in the Dakar Rally. I'm not only considering Carlos Sainz's recent victory in the Audi RS Q e-tron. From 2009-2011, Volkswagen won annually with their car promoting the Touareg. Looking further back, it's worth remembering Porsche's victories in 1984 (with the 911 model) and 1986 (with the 959).

How do they do it? The answer is as simple as it is complex. Porsche and Volkswagen do nothing "half-heartedly"; if they engage in a sport, it's only to win and preferably to dominate. This, however, requires many things. Of course, money is crucial. The history of motorsport (especially the more contemporary one) shows that saving and counting on luck do not make achieving success easier, to put it mildly. On the other hand, in recent decades, we've seen companies mindlessly pouring in vast sums of money, which also did not result in success. However, Porsche managed to return to Le Mans and win three consecutive times from 2015-2017.

24h Le Mans 2024
24h Le Mans 2024© Autokult | Mariusz Zmysłowski

It's all about excellent planning—money needs to be there and used wisely. The Volkswagen Group shows that it knows how to do this. Ferrari won the 24-hour races at Le Mans in 2023 and 2024. When it returned to endurance racing, it did so without half-measures. So, will Porsche achieve its 20th victory with the 963 Hypercar? I am convinced that the chance is great.

The first year of this construction was moderately successful, but the Germans quickly learned from their experiences. Of course, the knowledge of the legendary American Penske team, which is responsible for the factory Porsche team in endurance racing, helps with this, but the customer teams are also important. The effect? In the USA, Porsche won the 24-hour race at Daytona and the race at Laguna Seca. In the WEC championship, the Germans also started with a victory in Qatar, while in Belgium's Spa, the Porsche 963 of the customer team Jota triumphed.

24h Le Mans 2024
24h Le Mans 2024© Autokult | Szymon Jasina

At Le Mans, Kévin Estre secured the pole position. Although it looked like Ferrari and Toyota had the best pace in the race, the solid driving of experienced drivers in car number #6 and good strategy ensured that the team was always in contention for victory and ultimately finished in fourth place. Also, nine teams, including four running Porsche 963s, finished on the same lap as the winning Ferrari.

This brings up another point that Porsche is aware of. Maximising their chances is crucial. There can always be breakdowns and accidents that eliminate even the fastest cars. That's why we saw six Porsche 963s at the start of Le Mans (three factory teams, two Jota teams, and one Proton Competition entry).

24 h Le Mans 2024
24 h Le Mans 2024© Autokult | Mariusz Zmysłowski

In the overall classification, the Germans narrowly missed the podium. Still, the improvement in pace between the 2023 and 2024 seasons shows that next year, we should again see a fight between Ferrari, Toyota, and Porsche. And maybe even a strong Cadillac or other constructions are catching up to the leaders. Undoubtedly, we live in exciting times in the history of endurance racing, and it's good that legends like Ferrari and Porsche are involved. Porsche could celebrate a win in the new GT3 class at Le Mans. The victory of car #91 from the Manthey team was even sweeter because there were also nine different constructions among the GT class cars, and the fight between them was extremely close.

Now, the VAG Group faces perhaps the most significant challenge in its history as Audi enters Formula 1 with Sauber. A team that, as the only one in the 2024 season, has not yet scored a single point. The queen of motorsport has repeatedly shown that even the biggest and most experienced can face difficulties here.

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