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Porsche wins both categories at WEC opener, heartbreak for Peugeot

Text: Rick Kiewiet

Images: Rick Kiewiet, Peugeot, Porsche Motorsport, Toyota, AF Corse

Porsche managed to occupy all three podium steps at the inaugural round of the 2024 WEC season in Qatar. The #6 Penske 963 in the hands of Andre Lotterer, Kevin Estre and the oldest of the two Vanthoor brothers, Laurens, finished little over 30 seconds ahead of the #12 JOTA Porsche of Will Stevens, Norman Nato and Calum Ilott. The #5 sister car of Campbell, Christensen en Makowiecki, which started from Pole, completed the podium a second behind the #12. The first ever victory for an LMGT3 car also went to Porsche, as the #92 Manthey PureRxcing of Malykhin, Sturm and Bachler finished just over 5 seconds ahead of the #27 HRT Aston Martin of James, Mancinelli and Riberas.

Miguel Molina in the #50 AF Corse Ferrari had the best start and catapulted himself past the #12 JOTA 963, the #7 Toyota and the pole sitting #5 Penske to the lead. Star of the opening hour nevertheless became Nico Müller in the #93 Peugeot 9x8. Having started 6th, he climbed to the lead within half an hour, taking care of Molina with a bold move round the outside of corner 1.

From then on, the race became a lengthy battle between the #6 Penske and the #93 Peugeot. The #6 took over the lead in the 2nd hour after a minor error from Müller, who went wide in turn 1, giving Vanthoor the opportunity to take over the lead. A second charge from Peugeot just over the midway point brought them back within ten seconds of the Porsche, but the Lotterer and Estre kept the #93 at bay.

Disaster struck for Peugeot in the penultimate lap when a loss of power suddenly slowed the car down dramatically, dropping it from 2nd to 7th at the checkered flag. This would've been the cars' best result since its debut in Monza 2022 in this form, as the car will most likely feature a rear wing from the next race in Imola.

The #12 JOTA inherited p2 while Campbell, Christensen and Makowiecki climbed the third podium step in the #5 963, despite suffering race long tire issues.

The #2 Cadillac had a very strong race as well, despite only finishing 4th. This doesn't tell the complete story as the car was dropped to last place after the start due to an incident at the start resulting in a damaged nose and rear. These parts were damaged so significantly, they also had to be replaced during the first stop. Cadillac believed they would have a chance of winning with their strong race pace, and this might have very well become reality had their race not taken its dramatic turn in the first corner.

Ferrari, and Toyota even more so, are likely to leave Qatar slightly disappointed. With exception from the opening hour, both cars were never in contention for the race win. The Ferrari's were hit by all sorts of minor issues, penalties and contacts. The 'privately-run' #83 finished highest up the order in 5th, the #50 in 8th and the #51 as far down as 14th.

Toyota's race was even more alarming as the #7 and #8 simply seemed to lack pace. The cars that dominated WEC the last couple of years finished anonymously on p6 an p10 without any notable contacts or issues.

Of the debutants, Alpine's #35 finished highest up the order in p9. BMW's best placed car was the #15 in p12 while Lamborghini finished p15. Isotta Fraschini retired with suspension problems.

Bachler, Malykhin and Sturm made Porsche win both categories in Qatar, after a race long battle with the #27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin of Riberas, Mancinelli and James. The Aston finished just under 5 seconds behind the 911 after nearly 10 hours of racing. The second Aston Martin, the #777 D'station car, completed the podium just ahead of WRT's M4 of Maxime Martin, Ahmad Al Harthy and former MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi in his debut in the WEC.


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