Fred Makowiecki has been a Porsche works driver for several years now. This year, he narrowly missed winning LMGTE Pro in the #91 911 RSR. He agreed to go back over the race for us.
How was your 24 Hours of Le Mans this year?
It was a whirlwind. First, at Test Day we presented the two special liveries. Then, Gimmi [Gianmaria Bruni) clinched pole position in the qualifiers. In the race itself, we had to contend with the Ford and the #92 Porsche. It was a close-run thing. Ten of the seventeen LMGTE Pro cars on the grid were barely 20 seconds apart. We lost ground to our sister car during the safety car periods, which reshuffled the cards somewhat. The #92 [which went on to win] lost about 40 seconds in the safety car periods yet ended up with 3.5 minutes in hand. A lead of almost a lap is comfortable, especially at Le Mans. So we focused on holding down second place, ready to take the lead if the sister car ran into trouble. We fought down to the line. The whole squad did a great job. We were very proud of our second place.
Did having four Porsche 911 RSRs on the LMGTE Pro grid make a difference?
All four were treated the same. There was no favouritism between the World Endurance Championship cars, the #91 and #92, and the #93 and #94 from the USA. We had a pretty solid Porsche package, it has to be said. Fielding four cars means more chance of success. It takes the pressure off, because it means there’s always a way round an obstacle. All four were equivalent in terms of performance.
You mentioned liveries. How did you like the #91 when you first saw it?
It’s great to be part of history. That’s why Porsche is so famous for: its heritage. It was captivating to see how history could be repeated, and the liveries were a great way of paying tribute to the legend of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It was a resounding success, both the liveries and the design of the garages. The Porsche 956 and 962 that had those original liveries turned heads in the eighties. I must admit I’m a great fan of Derek Bell. I don’t think he gets the attention he deserves. He’s a real gentleman and he has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans several times. Hats off to him!
Have you made significant progress with the Porsche 911 RSR over the last year?
Yes. I understand the car a lot better. We had a so-so 2017 season. We didn’t get to the very essence of the car. I think we’ve found the sweet spot now, but the balance is always shaky. With the right track, the right settings and the right tyres the 911 RSR comes good over the whole weekend, not just in a session or two.
You won the 12 Hours of Sebring this season. How satisfying was that?
Considering the level of GTLM in the US in recent years, it’s something to be proud of. To me, there are four really great races. First, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which I dream of winning. Then the 24 Hours of Nürburgring that I won this year. Anything can happen in that race. The 12 Hours of Sebring is iconic and draws a huge crowd and is even more gruelling than the Daytona 24 Hours. And I really enjoyed the Suzuka 1,000 km in Super GT. So, I just need to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 24 Hours of Spa.
Are you ready for this weekend? You’re racing the 911 RSR at Petit Le Mans with Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy.
The American team that runs the Porsche 911 RSR has done a sturdy season, but they have fallen short of the podium and could even have aimed for a win. The best car lies fourth in the WeatherTech SportsCar championship and the title is out of reach now. So we’ll be looking to win, especially after the 12 Hours of Sebring. Two iconic races in a short time! Like at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, we will have a new livery for Petit Le Mans (see tweet below).
Will you be looking for victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans next year?
I’ve finished second once and third twice. I’m a competitor. Winning when there’s not much competition is no fun. I’ve been lucky to compete in a hotly-contested class like LMGTE Pro. I really want to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans but it requires so much effort, so much energy. I’ve been almost there several times, but I haven’t made it yet.