Kévin Estre (Porsche): Everyone’s working flat-out on improving the car
Porsche Penske Motorsport has its sights set on victory at the 2024 24 Hours of Le Mans (12-16 June). Kévin Estre promises fans that they will see a much improved Porsche 963 in 2024 as a result of the team’s current hard work behind the scenes.
What frame of mind were you in, heading into the 24 Hours of Le Mans Centenary?
Kévin Estre:I was extremely proud to be one of the 186 drivers at the 24 Hours of Le Mans Centenary, especially as a Porsche works driver competing in the top class. A dream that I had held ever since I first started out in endurance had finally come true. It was a very special edition as there were a lot of events on and off the track – and a fair amount of pressure too.
What did you take away from the Porsche 963’s début season?
KE: Significant progress because we had a lot of ground to make up from our start in Sebring. Much more than we’d anticipated. However, we reacted well and made our first podium in the 6 Hours of Portimão. We were there to pick up the pieces when our rivals made mistakes or encountered the problems which we had faced in Sebring. We were then disappointed with our lack of performance and reliability at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Almost all the Porsche drivers made errors, but that shows that we gave it our all and didn’t give up. We didn’t want to be just also-rans. Our will to win was stronger than that. We progressed well after Le Mans. We led Toyota and the rest of the field in Fuji for four hours. It was a very positive race for our programme as it showed that we were capable of fighting for a win. So, the season was very much a learning curve, even if that wasn’t our original intention as we had hoped to win. We knew, though, that it was going to be a tough challenge. Now we have a season under our belt, we’re going to build on that and do better in 2024.
"Next year, we expect to have improved reliability and greater performance"
Kévin Estre, Porsche Penske Motorsport
In which areas does the car need to progress in 2024?
KE: There isn’t one area in particular. It’s more a case of fine details covering several items. Our Porsche 963 needs to be more consistent on tyre and brake wear like the Toyota GR010 Hybrid. We have to reduce wheel lock on braking so we can be more aggressive. For a race like the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the car must be more reliable. I admit it’s easier said than done. It was our first 24-hour race in the FIA World Endurance Championship. We really attacked hard and took a lot of risks. It was tough on the car. Next year, we expect to benefit from improved reliability and greater performance so we can run at 98% instead of 101% for 24 hours, which rarely guarantees success as you end up making a mistake or the car breaks down because you’ve pushed it too hard.
What can you tell the fans who hope to see Porsche win the 24 Hours of Le Mans next year?
KE: We hope so too!. It has been our aim since we set out on this programme. Everyone at the R&D Centre in Weissach and at Penske in Mannheim is working flat-out on improving the car and putting out a super package at next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. We have to keep our hopes up even if this year was tougher than expected, as we achieved good performance here and there. You can count on us in 2024.
Alexis GOURE (ACO)
Driving for Porsche in the top class, we imagine that you are living the dream. How do you manage to keep your feet firmly on the ground?
KE: I try to remember how far I’ve come. The first time I drove at the Circuit des 24 Heures was in a Carrera Cup France race in 2010. That’s when I really got to know the paddock and the racetrack. When I’m on the grid in this fantastic Porsche 963 in a truly awesome field, I have to pinch myself sometimes, but it’s a feeling of great pride. However, nothing should be taken for granted. You always have to prove and push yourself, as there’s always another driver who is a bit quicker at a particular moment in the race or at a particular turn. We have some talented drivers at Porsche so it’s quite easy to keep your feet on the ground.
Why do drivers now have to approach the 24 Hours of Le Mans as if it were a sprint?
KE: Partly because the cars are much more robust than they were 20 years ago. The competition is much fiercer too. The gaps between the cars are minute nowadays. There is also a quite incredible level of professionalism that is almost on a par with Formula One. The manufacturers and teams invest colossal amounts of money. There are many marques that aspire to win this race and that have the potential to do so. It’s got to the point where we can ill afford to drop a few tenths. It’s very easy to lose a lap too due to an error in strategy. You always have to try and keep in touch with the leader. So the race today is won and lost for a few tenths of a second by making fewer mistakes at the wheel or by taking risks in traffic.
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