First pole position for the Porsche 963 in the World Endurance Championship

1 Mar. 2024 • 19:30
© Porsche Media

Porsche Penske Motorsport has clinched its first pole position in the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC. In a suspenseful hunt for top times at the Lusail International Circuit in Qatar, works driver Matt Campbell from Australia claimed the first grid position in 1:39.347 minutes.


In the new, two-part qualification, the Frenchman Kévin Estre finished fifth in the works team’s second Porsche 963. The customer team Hertz Team Jota impressed with a strong qualifying effort. Callum Ilott from the UK planted the 505 kW (687 PS) hybrid prototype (#12) on the third grid spot. In the new LMGT3 class, the Porsche 911 GT3 R from Manthey PureRxcing secured second place.


Under almost cloudless skies and with track temperatures of around 30 degrees Celsius, the first qualifying session of the 2024 FIA WEC season treated spectators to some nail-biting moments. For the first time, two qualifying sessions were held in both classifications. In the first section, the vehicles from the Hypercar and LMGT3 categories went out on the track. In these two heats, the drivers had twelve minutes to turn a flying lap. The ten fastest vehicles from both categories then fought for the best starting positions in two so-called Hyperpole sessions.


Matt Campbell, winner of the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Bathurst, made it into the top 10 with an impressive lap time of 1:39.154 minutes – by far the fastest lap of the race weekend so far. At the wheel of the No. 5 entry, the Australian ended up with an advantage of more than four-tenths of a second over the second-placed car. Frenchman Kévin Estre achieved seventh in the No. 6 sister car and thus reached the Hyperpole. Both Porsche 963 race cars fielded by Hertz Team Jota also secured positions in the top 10.


In the final Hyperpole session, the drivers had ten minutes to tap the full potential of their fast Hypercar prototypes. Campbell shone here too, improving his times during his six laps and ultimately securing the first pole position for Porsche Penske Motorsport in the FIA WEC in 1:39.347 minutes. Estre turned the fifth fastest lap in the sister car. The British newcomer Callum Ilott put in an inspired drive with third place in the No. 12 car campaigned by Hertz Team Jota. The No. 38 vehicle driven by ex-Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button from Great Britain achieved ninth place. Proton Competition’s Porsche 963 will head into the first race of the 2024 season from 13th place.


“The first pole in the FIA WEC – what a perfect start to the new season,” says Thomas Laudenbach, Vice President Porsche Motorsport. “We’re especially pleased because we didn’t have an easy time last year. We’ve worked extremely hard and made significant progress. It’s great that something like this is rewarded with a top result. Our car is fast. There are four Porsche 963 in the top 10 of the Hypercar class. This is a brilliant result. Things went well in the LMGT3 class, too. Manthey is on the front row of the grid with a Porsche 911 GT3 R. We’re in a great position to tackle the ten-hour race tomorrow.”


“Congratulations to the entire Porsche Penske Motorsport team and all colleagues at Porsche. Matt and the team made the most of the potential,” explains Jonathan Diuguid. The Managing Director at Porsche Penske Motorsport added: “This is Penske’s 99th pole position in sports car racing – and the first for Porsche in the WEC since Bahrain 2017, so it’s a historic day for us all. This partnership works! Now let’s see what we can do in tomorrow’s race.”


LMGT3 class: Manthey PureRxcing’s Porsche 911 GT3 R on first grid row


Porsche’s Manthey customer team also made its mark in qualifying for the new LMGT3 class. In the first heat, Englishman Alex Malykhin turned the second fastest time in the No. 92 Porsche 911 GT3 R. His teammate Yasser Shahin from Australia failed to make it into the Hyperpole with 13th place. In the shootout for the best starting positions, Malykhin was outpaced by just one rival and thus lines up on the grid in P2.


The “Qatar 1812 km” season opener will kick off next Saturday at 11 a.m. local time (9 a.m. CET). The race over a planned 1,812 kilometres will run over a maximum of ten hours. Due to the length of the first race of the season, the normal World Championship points will be multiplied by a factor of 1.5.


Driver’s quotes after the qualifying


Matt Campbell (Porsche 963 #5): “The first pole position for the Porsche 963 in the FIA WEC hypercar class – a perfect start and extremely important for the first race of the season. It’s important to be ahead of everyone else and have as much of a free run as possible. Strategy will play a significant role in the ten-hour race in Qatar. I’m really thrilled about my first pole in the world championship!”


Kévin Estre (Porsche 963 #6): “It took long for the tyres to reach the optimum temperature. The first heat was okay, although I made a mistake on what could have been my fastest lap. The lap after that was a little slower but still good enough to get into the top 10. The Hyperpole session was about not making any mistakes and pulling everything together on one lap. Our car’s balance wasn't ideal and Matt was actually faster than me today. Porsche is on pole – and that’s great! We start from fifth place. That’s okay too.”


Callum Ilott (Porsche 963 #12): “Third place was great. However, I know I could’ve done more so I’m a little disappointed. Of course, we’re pleased with our grid position. Let’s see what we can do in the terrific Hypercar field. I’m super excited about the first race of the season.”


Jenson Button (Porsche 963 #38): “I’m disappointed. It was my first qualifying in a very long time. I made a mistake in turn ten. I took the curb too wide and lost a few tenths of a second. It would’ve been a bit better without this faux pas, but underwhelming nevertheless. Tomorrow is a much more important day. Let’s see where we stand after ten hours of racing.”


Julien Andlauer (Porsche 963 #99): “We started the race weekend behind the eight ball because we still had a few things to test after the prologue. We’d already made some progress before the qualification – but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. We’re still in a steep learning curve. I’m positive that our Porsche 963 will perform better in the ten-hour race than in qualifying.”


Yasser Shahin (Porsche 911 GT3 R #91): “That was a difficult first qualifying for us. We’re obviously disappointed that we missed out on reaching the top 10. We’ll be stronger in the race tomorrow! The race is over ten long hours and anything can happen.”


Alex Malykhin (Porsche 911 GT3 R #92): “We achieved great things in a tricky session. Our teamwork was sensational. My engineer told me exactly how and when I could get the most out of the Porsche 911 GT3 R. It seems I did a good job implementing the instructions. Our car is really fast. We aren’t very familiar with the tyres but we’ve already learned a lot. We have room to improve in this area.”


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