Proton Competition will enter the European Le Mans Series 2021 with the probably strongest line-up possible in a GTE Am car.
The German team are defending Champions in the ELMS, finishing equal on points with Kessel Racing. Thankfully, there was more than one Le Mans auto-invite for the category, so it was “only” the big trophy and the title is different.
The team will do everything to secure the title again in commanding style.
Porsche 911 RSR-19 #77 has team owner Christian Ried alongside one of his FIA World Endurance Championship teammates Jaxon Evans, plus Gianmaria Bruni. Evans is a Porsche Junior, and a bit of a Fake Silver, since he is an amazingly fast and young driver in the Porsche programme. He has the exact same role in FIA WEC. Bruni is one of the fastest GT drivers in the world – actually so fast that Porsche bought him out of his Ferrari deal before contractual ending in 2017. He has been a fixed part of their FIA WEC programme since 2018, and many other places, where a fast Pro driver was needed.
Car #93 will continue with the same three drivers as last year. Michael Fassbender will be racing his second season in the ELMS, and will once again be joined by Porsche works driver Richard Lietz, and his personal coach Felipe Laser. The plan is to get Fassbender more comfortable in the car, and get more confidence since he struggled at the time during his Rookie season. The original plan was for Fassbender to race at Le Mans this year, but that has been postponed at least one year, since car #93 haven’t applied for any entry to the race. The outfit needs to have some good races in 2021, avoiding too many driving mistakes, without any issues, and with the car just running from start to finish.
This year it’s even more important for not only Fassbender, but also Ried, to do fast, constant laptimes in the ELMS. The minimum driving time for Bronze rated drivers has been extended to 90 minutes, so they will have a bigger influence on the race results than previously, where they could do with a single stint, and then let the Silver, Gold or Platinum drivers race to the flag. One and a half hours is right in the middle of a stint, so either the Bronze driver will have to do an extra 30 minutes in the car, so they can do the race with 3 fuel stops only – or they will swap him out after the 90 minutes of running, and take an extra pitstop, since the GTE cars are able to do just over an hour under normal circumstances. The tactical play will be very interesting to follow.
With the drivers announced currently in GTE, we have to name #77 as an absolute top favourite on pure pace, since Christian Ried already is one of the fastest Bronze drivers out there – and with Jaxon Evans and Gianmaria Bruni alongside him, it probably just contacts and technical failures that can prevent this team from the three podium positions in the races throughout 2021.
The European Le Mans Series teams will start their official pre-season testing next Monday at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, with the opening round being run at the same track on 18 April 2021.