Kevin Estre, Press release, 3 December 2023,
FIA WEC, GT and Supercars Championship 2023 season review
2023 will remain a milestone year for Kevin Estre in the FIA WEC. While continuing as a works Porsche driver, the Frenchman swapped from the Grand Touring GTE Pro 911 RSR (991) to the 963 complying with the Hypercar regulations, the top-tier endurance category in the world championship. Although there were several obstacles to overcome the hard graft put in by the man from Lyon, his teammates and his Porsche Penske team made it possible to clinch two podiums on the way to 6th place in the World Championship rankings. Watch out for them in 2024! Kevin was also able to satisfy his passion for discovery by racing in the Repco Supercars Championship, the flagship discipline of Australian motorsport!
On an upward curve in the FIA WEC
The Hypercar category, which brought major manufacturers back to Endurance, attracted large crowds to the FIA WEC circuits. The Centenary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans that attracted a full capacity crowd was emblematic in this respect. The ingenuity of the Hypercar regulations is that they offer manufacturers the choice between two definitions: LMh (car created from a blank sheet of paper) and LMDh (LMP2 approved original chassis).
Kevin has remained loyal to the FIA WEC since 2016 when he became a works Porsche driver. His results in the LMGTE Pro category include a World Champion title and a victory at Le Mans. So what’s worth recalling from this season spent fighting for the general classification at the wheel of the #6 Porsche 963 he shared with Laurens Vanthoor and André Lotterer? “Overall, two brands, which entered LMhs were a cut above their rivals. By the end of the championship, I think we had the most competitive LMDh, which was not the case at the beginning. We made a step forward and we started to pose a serious threat to the Ferraris. We even beat them fair and square in the 6 Hours of Fuji where we fought for victory with the Toyotas!”
During this penultimate round of the championship, #6 led for 4 hours and Kévin kept the leading Toyota behind him for an hour and a half! He continues: “This is proof that we progressed in the closing stages of the championship. For us, Le Mans came a bit too early and the 24 Hours remain the disappointment of the year. It was the 963’s first season so we had to get to grips with the car, but today we are on the pace!”
Still up to scratch in GT3
Like every year, Kevin joined different private teams fielding Porsche 911 GT3 Rs in major grand touring events. While the 24 Hours of Daytona and the Nürburgring have left only a fleeting memory, Kevin clinched fourth spot in the 24 Hours of Spa at the wheel of the highest-placed Porsche entered by Manthey EMA, which he shared with Laurens Vanthoor and Julien Andlauer. The Petit Le Mans was another source of satisfaction with the runner-up position in GTD for Pfaff Motorsports just a hairsbreadth away from victory! At Macau Kevin’s overtaking move on Earl Bamber, one of the few during this year’s FIA GT World Cup, will remain engraved in people’s memory.
Discovery: from the Hypercar to the Supercar!
Kevin’s “bonus” of the season was a pair of trips to Australia to compete in two rounds of the Repco Supercars Championship. “An old dream as I’ve been interested in this championship for a long time. Through a combination of circumstances I found myself at Penrite Racing where I know the managers Steve and Benton Grove well because they race as amateurs with a Porsche. They needed a driver to back up Matt Payne in two enduro races, the Sandown 500 and the famous Bathurst 1000, otherwise known as “The Great Race”. As a Porsche driver, you enjoy a good reputation there, you feel very welcome and the respect is mutual. The championship is very tough; the drivers are excellent and the teams are of high quality. It’s a small world, a little apart – it reminds me of the Super GT in Japan – very different to what’s done in Europe. Ford and Chevrolet vie for national supremacy. We finished P6 at Sandown, ahead of the other Mustangs, and P11 at Bathurst.”
High quality results for a novice in a discipline where everything seems to work backwards. “With these cars, you have to brake with your right foot and I also had to get used again to declutching and heel and toe downshifting. This hadn’t happened to me since the days of the Porsche 997 Cup! The gearbox is sequential, but with a lever located on the left because you are seated on the right. And there’s significantly less aero compared to the cars I usually drive. It was a great experience and probably my biggest challenge in a long time.” In addition, Sandown and Bathurst run counterclockwise unlike the vast majority of European circuits.
In 2024, Kevin will return to the FIA WEC in a Porsche 963 run by the Porsche Penske works team within an unchanged line-up. “The team will be more experienced, and it now knows the car and the tyres better, but there will also be more competition.” The season will begin in IMSA with the Rolex 24 At Daytona in GTP (equivalent to Hypercar in FIA WEC: Editor’s note) with Nick Tandy, Laurens Vanthoor and Mathieu Jaminet. Depending on the opportunities, we should also see Kevin again in GT at the start of some of the great classics on the calendar!
Press release by Romane Didier / future racing commm
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