At the second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship at Spa Francorchamps, Racing24-7.net had a good, long talk with Michael Christensen.
This year he’s got a new teammate in his car. After two seasons with Richard Lietz as co-driver, it is now Frenchman Kevin Estre who shares the Porsche 911 RSR number 92 with the Dane.
But how has the change been?
“I’m quite lucky with Kevin. We are more or less the same height, we both use the same seat insert, and we usually drive in the same way, so it has been really smooth. Richard has a bit of a different shape than me, but that wasn’t a big problem. Me and Riche were actually quite okay, but this is a step in the right direction, let’s say it like that. I’m sitting perfectly in the car, and Kevin sits perfectly too, so that is how it should be. We have Dirk Werner for Le Mans, and he has the same height as us, and the same body shape, so I hope that he isn’t far from us.”
The three drivers haven’t tested together yet, but that will change this coming weekend at the Le Mans test day.
“We haven’t had a test together yet; it will happen at Le Mans. We have the pre-test at Le Mans, and that is the first time that we will drive together. But that is fine. Dirk runs a parallel problem in USA, so he knows the car, just as well as we do. It’s all about getting the three of us other dialled into each other, on this test, so that is quite perfect. I think that all us drivers are experienced enough, flexible enough, have enough tools in our toolbox to be able to drive around the problems, if we feel that we don’t drive the same way as the others. Of course it would be nice if the car could be 100% to your own liking, but at the end i think that we are, at least for me, don’t have any problems driving a car a little differently. I believe it’s the same for the other two, so that is okay.
“At Le Mans it’s important to have a fast car for all the drivers. If you have lost a lap, there is usually a reason for it, and then it’s a long way back. But Le Mans is something completely different. There is rarely a Safety Car. I don’t feel that is a problem, but it’s always the question about how fast we will be able to run. That is always the question.”
The talks progressed into the new car, and the question of how much new there is on this years car. This year’s Porsche GTE car has changed from the traditional rear engine to a mid engine.
“The chassis is the same. A few things has been cut off and mixed around, of course, for everything to fit together. But the chassis is still a GT3 chassis, that has been modified. A RSR is a lot more race car compared to a Cup or the GT3 model. The RSR are a lot more fine tuned and hand wielded and all that sort of stuff.”
The older model had a very narrow setup window, where the car either was perfect or didn’t work at all. So is that something that has become a lot better on the new car, and is it easier to drive?
“Yeah, well, it’s a completely different car. A 911, in past years, was a bit special about the way to drive it, compared to other race cars. Our (new, editor) car is a bit closer to how others cars are driven. That makes it a bit easier to drive, it would say, because you don’t need to be a Porsche specialist, or 911 specialist or whatever you call it; it is a bit easier for the less experienced drivers. (The old car, editor) could almost only be driven in one way, and if that didn’t work out, then you were really in the deep, whereas this one, you can work a bit more around. It is a bit easier. I think it has something with each other to do. The window is a bit more open, and that makes it easier, so if one thing don’t work, you can try to work in another direction, and if you are lucky, that will work out. That is our experience so far.”
When people talk about the GTE categories, they’re unfortunately almost always talking about BOP, which we had a little talk about.
“It is a completely different system (this year, editor), which is based on a calculation, that is very complicated. But I would say it’s a step in the right direction. I really like the way it’s heading. The question now is, where is your starting point. Because if you start out badly, then it’s going to take a long time before you get the real speed. If the others drive smart, and they usually do. And that can be a slight flaw at this system. Because if you are unlucky to start out badly, it will be a long season. If you are a certain percentage behind for most of the race, you will get some. But you have to be quite a bit slower, before you get anything. And if you don’t get anything because you are too slow, there has to be at least 2 races before – so it takes longer than previously. Last year for us, was going into the blind. So I’m happy that we are going in this direction, but having said that, of course there are challenges in this system too.”
Porsche has basically the same BOP for the test day, as at the first two races. So it will be exciting to follow on Sunday – and hopefully they will be among the best teams, when the 8 hours of testing has been run.