Porsche Wilson Security Carrera Cup Australia graduate Matt Campbell has taken victory in the world’s toughest long distance race, the Le Mans 24 Hours at the Circuit de la Sarthe in France.
The 2016 Carrera Cup Australia champion took victory in the GTE-Am class aboard the #77 Porsche 911 RSR of Dempsey-Proton Racing, led by high-profile team co-owner Patrick Dempsey.
Putting in an inspired drive, Porsche Young Professional Campbell (Australia), Christian Ried (Germany) and Porsche Junior Julien Andlauer (France) notched up the 107th class win for Porsche. At just 18 years of age, Julien Andlauer has become the youngest class winner at Le Mans. Like its factory-entered couterpart, the Dempsey-Proton Racing entry led the GTE-Am field for the majority of the 24 hour distance.
In the GTE-Pro category, the #92 Porsche 911 RSR concluded the 86th edition of the race in first place after 344 laps. The driver trio of Kévin Estre (France), Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) and Michael Christensen (Denmark) held the lead for almost the entire distance and controlled the race on the tradition-steeped 13.626-kilometre racetrack. The sister car (#91) shared by Richard Lietz (Austria), Frédéric Makowiecki (France) and Gianmaria Bruni (Italy) perfectly rounded off the double victory for Porsche in the GTE-Pro class.
The #86 911 RSR campaigned by Gulf Racing, which included Australian Carrera Cup driver Alex Davison, was relegated to the back of the field at the beginning of the race after becoming entangled in an accident caused by another competitor. Pulling out all stops, the team fought their way back up the order to finish on tenth.
Comments on the race
Matt Campbell – Australia (Porsche 911 RSR #77): “Obviously the race went fantastically. We held the lead from about 5:30pm yesterday (Saturday) afternoon, which is really hard to believe. The car was mega all race. It was absolutely perfect. No mistakes, no contact, nothing like that. Julien and Christian did a fantastic job the while race. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity.
“It’s only my debut here, my second year in Europe and my second year with Porsche, so I’m absolutely over the moon. It’s something crazy.
“Once you have that lead, you need to manage it, just trying to be as consistent as possible and keep the average lap time up as high as you can. It’s quite difficult for us to manage traffic, not to lose too much time ourselves and not fight too much, because you don’t want to get (tyre) pick-up or anything like that. Ferrari’s pace in the race was matching us all race. We got lucky there at the start of the race with a couple of Safety Cars. We were able to really manage that (lead) throughout the whole race, which was quite surprising because obviously in GTE-Am there is a lot of diversity in the driver line-ups. They were always there, the two Ferraris – I think it was #84 and #85 – for the whole race. There was never less than 30 seconds gap and up to a couple of minutes at times. It went perfectly. I can’t express what it feels like, that’s for sure.”
Patrick Dempsey, co-owner Dempsey-Proton Racing: “These young drivers, their first time here, with so many drivers, they just had a level of class in their driving. Matt was on the radio and he was just really calm and knew what he had to do. He just had this look in his eye and I was like ‘this guy is the real deal’. These are young stars emerging and we are a part of it …
“I’m lost for words. Everyone did a fantastic job, it was a victory for the whole team. The race was incredible, we made no mistakes and our work was rewarded with this great success. I can’t tell you how incredibly proud and happy I am for Porsche, too.”
1. Christensen/Estre/Vanthoor (DK/F/B), Porsche 911 RSR, 344 laps
2. Lietz/Bruni/Makowiecki (A/I/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 343 laps
3. Hand/Müller/Bourdais (USA/D/F), Ford GT, 343 laps
11. Pilet/Tandy/Bamber (F/GB/NZ), Porsche 911 RSR, 338 laps
1. Ried/Andlauer/Campbell (D/F/AUS), Porsche 911 RSR, 335 laps
2. Flohr/Castellacci/Fisichella (CH/I/I), Ferrari 488 GTE, 335 laps
3. Keating/Bleekemolen/Stolz (USA/NL/D), Ferrari 488 GTE, 334 laps
4. Long/Pappas/Pumpelly (USA/USA/USA), Porsche 911 RSR, 334 laps
6. Babini/Nielsen/Maris (I/DK/F), Porsche 911 RSR, 332 laps
7. Bergmeister/Lindsey/Perfetti (D/USA/N), Porsche 911 RSR, 332 laps
10. Wainwright/Barker/Davison (GB/GB/AUS), Porsche 911 RSR, 324 laps