There were highly emotional scenes in the Porsche Le Mans press conference this afternoon, as frustration with ACO’s Balance of Performance rules boiled over for Doctor Frank Walliser, Head of Porsche Motorsport.
The conference began in the usual Porsche way, noting that no other manufacturer has been as successful at Le Mans, where Porsche has claimed seventeen victories. Porsche historical archive boss, Dieter Landenberger, and multiple Le Mans winner, Hans-Joachim Stuck then took to the stage, to discuss Porsche’s early Le Mans racing and how research and development carried out on the racetrack has informed production vehicle technology.
Dr Frank Walliser on Porsche Le Mans BoP
As Dieter and Stuck left the stage, the compere welcomed motorsport bosses, Fritz Enzinger and Frank Walliser, to discuss the state of play with the current Porsche motorsport team. “What are your expectations for the race?” Dr Walliser was asked. “Balance of Performance was the key word in the last two days?”
“Balance of Performance,” he began. “Looking at the expectations, especially in the qualifying result, we had really a perfect car. Feedback from the drivers was tremendously good: the best car they ever received for Le Mans. Balance, tyres, aerodynamics: everything good. And then, if you find yourself in eighth position, 3.8 seconds behind the car with the F, it makes it really difficult.
“For sure you have to come then to a point where are you say it’s definitely not our team, the performance, there is something on BoP. We all know we need BoP: it’s important, it is relevant for the sport, it enables GT racing. But we do not need this kind of BoP; this is definitely not what is expected.
“We trust as we do always that the officials will take the right measures within the next hours to rebalance again, and that we can… there is a chance to have the best GT race ever – as we have five brands and fourteen cars – for the sake of the sport and for the fans.”
At this point, Frank became quite emotional and broke down a little: something not often seen in motorsport press conferences. It was a clear insight into how deep these emotions are felt, and the pressure Frank and his team are under to keep the RSR up to speed against the Ford GTs and Ferraris which many commentators have accused of sandbagging here in Le Mans and also at the recent 6 Hours of Spa.
Racing is not just Machinery
Having spent much of last night in tears, watching news broadcasts and so many tributes to the young mum and Yorkshire MP who was murdered outside her Yorkshire constituency office, I feel Frank’s emotion. These events may have very different significance, but both are all about people and how deeply we feel our strongest convinctions.
World Championship motorsport is not just about the machinery. This is an intensely human contest, in which the extreme highs and lows are amplified by the global stage on which they are fought. I know I’m not alone in having shed many tears over motorsport events – not least the modern-day losses of Joey Dunlop, Allan Simonsen and Jules Bianchi – and that is just as a spectator. Quite how much frustration the boss of a huge motorsport team must feel when the sport’s governing body is blatantly biased against one’s equipe is hard to imagine.
ACO has since looked again at the Balance of Performance and added some weight to the Fords (+5kg) and Ferraris (+25kgs). It has also pulled boost pressure from the turbocharged Ford GTs. The Astons and Corvettes have been gifted slightly bigger air restrictors to increase engine power. As for the Porsche Le Mans 911 RSRs, they now have an extra 8 litres of fuel capacity. It is the worst kind of joke: no wonder Frank is not laughing.