Christensen: The car pulled 56G

If we cast our minds back to 12 months ago, we did not mention Porsche Penske Motorsport, including Michael Christensen, as the favourites for the 24 Hours of le Mans.

But with the results that the German manufacturer has delivered so far in 2024, with car #6 currently leading the FIA World Endurance Championship, we probably have to count Porsche as the favourites to grab their 20th overall victory at the 24-hour race, despite the other times being super close to them.

We met up with Michael Christensen during the scrutineering in the town centre of Le Mans, prior to the cars having turned their first laps, to hear a bit more about the last months of preparations.

Have you been out testing since Spa?

“Yes, we were at Paul Ricard. It was originally planned as an endurance test, but we had some quite good tests before that, and races on the endurance side of things, so we chose to  – of course, it’s still a test of endurance, everytime that you are testing, but it was a bit more performance related at Paul Ricard.”

You had a big crash during the race at Spa, where the car wasn’t able to continue. Are you still able to use the same chassis?

“Yeah yeah, we did have a T-car (reserve car, which was used for the test, ed.) – but it was just a broken suspension that resulted in us not being able to drive the car back (to the pits, ed.). The car pulled 56G, and then there is a Medical system above 25G, and then the light goes on (and the car can’t and isn’t allowed to continue, and the driver has to go straight to the medical center, to get a check-up of potential injuries, ed.) But the car wasn’t able to drive anyway.”

It was quite unfortunate that it would hit…

“Yes, I’m super annoyed about it. I’ve been checking data and watching onboards and all that over and over – I do exactly, as I did one lap earlier. I might miss the apex by about 10 centimeters, which is something – and then I get onto the curb, as you do – but 10 centimeters further on – and the end result is just something totally different. I hadn’t been on that turn prior to that point at all during the whole weekend, so that might have resulted in a bit of surprise, that the wheels are no longer in contact with the asphalt. But yeah – I’m super annoyed about it, because I feel that I had everything under control, and just goes a slight bit wider, because there was room for it – but the curb made the car tun, and then was the end of it.”

Yes, because if you had tried to fight the car, it might have ended up the same way.

“Yes, or just shooting off to the right instead. There are several things contributing – I hadn’t been on that curb earlier in the weekend, because I hadn’t made a small mistake, ending up there in that matter, and then it’s the fastest corner on the circuit, where we are doing about 300, so when there is a mistake, things go very rapid, and it’s difficult to do much, because it is still a heavy car – it’s a car that weighs 1100kg – so if you have a slide with 300, it’s tough to get it straight again. I do actually get the car straightened up again – the issue is that I end up all the way to the left, and there is simply no asphalt left, because it goes so fast – so it’s so annoying, and it’s a bit like – it’s a tough one, because we had a quite good race, and the car was driving reasonably well. But yeah – I guess that’s racing… It’s my mistake, but I didn’t overdrive the car or anything – I made a tiny mistake, which had huge consequences.”

I looks pretty positive for Porsche this year, with two wins out of three races, and a podium in the third race.

“Yes, I think so. I had not expected races like this, after the finish of the last year. We have been asked many times, and there are a lot of the other teams accusing us of “well they have tire heaters, and why are they so good in the warm phase (when they have just put cold tires on the car, ed.) – why is Porsche so good all of a sudden?” All those kinds of things. “What have you done?” is always the question. Well, I believe that we have simply made everything a tiny bit better. We have not found one or another huge thing during the winter, which makes us faster. But we have found a lot of small things, really tiny things, that we have brought to test, and yes, that is better, that is better – and to learn and understand more about the car, and the tires – and which way to go with the setup – all those kind of things. And I do believe that all these things, together, the sum of it all, make us have better performance, and that is what it is about – to get all the details optimized. I believe that we are in a very good spot, and hadn’t really thought that it would be like this, to be honest, following last year.”

Porsche Penske Motorsport #5
Photo: JJ Media

It’s a very close field this year, but even the privateer Porsche’s are competing at the front, with a victory at Spa Francorchamps last time out, so it is some information that has been shared with all the cars.

“Yes, that is part of the game. Just because that we are a Penske team, and they are JOTA and Proton, we are not allowed to change anything on the car, that they don’t get – software updates or whatever it might be. They need to get it as well. So it’s good for us, but there are others getting it as well.”

Porsche proved their speed during the test day, with Porsche Penske Motorsport ending 1-2 in the second practice, while car #5 with Michael Christensen, Frederic Makowiecki and Matt Campbell were 7th and 4th respectively in the two sessions.

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