911 hero: Kévin Estre

To­tal 911 grabs some time with the French works driver to dis­cuss his re­cent Le Mans class win and that lap round the ‘Ring in the 991.2 GT3 RS

Total 911 - - Contents - Writ­ten by Kyle For­tune Pho­tog­ra­phy cour­tesy Porsche Archive

To­tal 911 speaks with the French works driver on his record-break­ing lap and own­ing clas­sic Ne­unelfers

To­tal 911: Kévin, it’s been a spec­tac­u­lar year for you so far, hasn’t it?

Estre: It has! To be part of it all is in­cred­i­ble. As a French­man, to start at Le Mans in the car wear­ing the fa­mous [Pink Pig] liv­ery, along­side the oth­ers with the old-school look, it was very, very spe­cial. We had a lot of at­ten­tion. Every­one was look­ing at us, par­tic­u­larly with the LMP pro­gramme stop­ping; a lot of peo­ple were con­cen­trat­ing on GT a lot more and we were, I think, the favourite with our colours. It’s funny be­cause it re­minds peo­ple who were old enough to re­mem­ber the car in 1971. It’s pretty cool.

It’s a lovely story for the com­pany’s legacy and its rich rac­ing his­tory. For a driver it must be a real priv­i­lege to race for Porsche be­cause it has that his­tory.

Yes, it is. I started with sin­gle seaters, then started my GT ca­reer in the Car­rera Cup, so I en­tered the Porsche world early; I was 19 I think, and from that mo­ment on I started not to hope about F1 or what­ever – I thought this is the brand I have to stay with to get a con­tract. When you start to think about en­durance and GT rac­ing there’s only one brand that stands out, and it’s Porsche. They’ve been at Le Mans since 1951… they’ve never missed a year. Driv­ing in a Le Mans with Porsche in a fac­tory car is quite a pres­sure. On the 70th year, you know that you have a car that should be able to win. You know that you should drive fast and make no mis­takes…

What was your strat­egy, the team strat­egy? To be hon­est, it was flat out from the be­gin­ning.

From the very first cor­ner?

Yes, ac­tu­ally, es­pe­cially the way Le Mans is with the three safety cars. We’ve seen it in the past, and we’ve seen it this year. That’s one of the rea­sons why we won with such a big gap, be­cause af­ter four hours the safety car came out, and it came out right be­hind us, so we caught the safety car which was 1.5km or 3km ahead, and then we had a gap of one minute ten be­cause we were lead­ing, and that’s where we wanted to be. In the end we pushed for that, be­cause we knew we’d be in with a chance of hav­ing a safety car that would split the group. We wanted to be ahead, so that’s what we did. You have to take it as an en­durance race: you have to sur­vive and fin­ish, but you also have to push at the same time.

You were us­ing all of the kerb­ing…

Yeah, pretty much. When you look at the on­board we’re re­ally on it for 24 hours. Af­ter four hours dur­ing the night we started to take care a lit­tle bit on the kerbs – not us­ing as much as be­fore on the Ford Chi­cane as it’s the hard­est one, and the baguettes at the exit of Kart­ing be­cause also one of our sis­ter cars got a sus­pen­sion prob­lem at the rear right, so we were not sure from where

it was com­ing – but nor­mally you just push hard the whole time. The Roth­mans car, the #91 car, they had pres­sure and they pushed for the whole 24 hours and noth­ing broke. It shows that Porsche do a good job on the devel­op­ment and re­li­a­bil­ity of the car.

Your win demon­strates you’re fast around Le Mans, but you’re also now fa­mous for an­other lap. Tell us about that.

Ah, yes, the Nür­bur­gring; that was a re­ally cool ex­pe­ri­ence. It was the first proper laps I’ve done in a street car – a fast street car on the Nord­schleife. The street car is quite a lot dif­fer­ent from my race car. We did two days of test­ing the week be­fore, but it was rain­ing for half of the se­cond day. Then we were test­ing tyres, so I think I had about ten laps be­fore, which was enough to feel good, but still not a crazy amount of laps. Yeah, only ten. We had one hour of booked track time alone, and then we did two laps. Lars Kern did two and we were re­ally close. All our four laps were within three sec­onds, I think. The slow­est was a 6:59, the first lap from Lars, and my fastest was the 6:56.4, so it was all quite close. The car was very good to drive. It was fan­tas­tic, but it was proper adren­a­line do­ing two laps in a row with this car. I did one, I pulled up, changed tyres and went again. Do­ing so is as de­mand­ing as much as a stint on the Nord­schleife in a race, or even a dou­ble stint. It’s crazy. Men­tally it’s re­ally try­ing and tir­ing – phys­i­cally less so, but men­tally it’s re­ally tough.

It’s a crazy track in a road car. How does the 991.2 GT3 RS com­pare to your racer?

Where it’s dif­fi­cult, es­pe­cially with this car, is that the aero is re­ally good; you start to re­ally feel aero on a street car. In the fast cor­ners we are not far from a GT3 car – at Sch­we­denkreuz, the first left af­ter Flug­platz, the min­i­mum speed on the GPS was 233km/h with the GT3 RS, and with the GT3 R it’s like 25km above, so in terms of per­cent­age it’s not crazy. Then in slow cor­ners there you feel that the slicks are miss­ing. The me­chan­i­cal grip, there you are fur­ther apart than a GT3 race car.

The point is that it’s dif­fi­cult to find the dif­fer­ence be­tween fast cor­ners and slow cor­ners where you have to adapt your­self for the ex­tra grip ex­pec­ta­tion. There, for me, it was dif­fi­cult, be­cause I’m not used to driv­ing street cars so much. When you com­bine the lap times from Lars, he was bet­ter than me for slow cor­ners and me bet­ter in the fast cor­ners.

So there’s a faster per­fect lap?

It would have been, I think, 1.5 sec­onds faster, be­cause in my lap I had some mis­takes – one or two. At Ade­nauer Forst I came in com­pletely side­ways and was close to the grass, and also the jump at Pflanz­garten; the jump then the dou­ble right I came in too quick and I al­most dropped a wheel in the gravel. I was com­mit­ted.

So yes, it was not per­fect, but then to have a per­fect lap on the Nord­schliefe is not pos­si­ble. You also have your strengths. The track is so dif­fi­cult that you have, every time, even in a race car, you have one cor­ner where you will stand out as a driver be­cause you feel good there, and on an­other one it will be your team­mate. So

it’s pretty much the same, but in the GT3 RS it’s just crazy. This lap time with this amount of horse­power is amaz­ing.

How did you have the elec­tronic sta­bil­ity and trac­tion sys­tems set?

To be hon­est to do it again I’d dis­con­nect ev­ery­thing, but on the lap I dis­con­nected ev­ery­thing apart from the trac­tion con­trol. There was some cut that I didn’t re­ally want, be­cause the wheel was not in con­tact with the asphalt be­cause of the el­e­va­tion change and bumps, and there was some cut where I thought it would have been bet­ter with­out.

When I tested it I drove with it on, then one lap off, but I was used to it on so when it was off I ex­ited the cor­ners and got some big slides, so I put it on. From the wheel­spin ex­it­ing the cor­ners the sys­tem is fine, but on the Nord­schliefe on the bumps and the kerbs there are some points when it cuts where I re­ally didn’t want it to. I just went for it. When you’re alone on this track, heated tyres and just fuel for one lap and you now that you have no traf­fic, no oil, no leaves or what­ever, no wa­ter, it also brings you on an­other level.

With your Le Mans suc­cess and that record­break­ing lap you’ll now in­spire many young rac­ers. Who was your in­spi­ra­tion when you were younger?

When I was a kid it was Ayr­ton Senna who all my fam­ily were big fans of. Al­though there was a Prost/senna thing every­one was Senna, but other­wise I don’t have idols. I re­spect a lot of driv­ers; for Porsche I think Ro­main Du­mas and Timo Bern­hard are re­ally good ex­am­ples com­ing from the Car­rera cup, with Timo from Ju­nior and win­ning Le Mans over­all with Audi, and with Porsche be­ing a fac­tory driver for so long… I think this is a very good ex­am­ple. I’m driv­ing with him this year in ADAC Mas­ters and I’m learn­ing a lot from what he’s do­ing and how he man­ages things.

Rac­ers don’t usu­ally get too ex­cited about road cars. What do you drive away from the track?

As a fac­tory driver we have a com­pany car; we are al­lowed to choose. I have a 911 Turbo S. It’s quite fast. I can have a GT3 or a GT3 RS, but I drive quite far. The S is per­fect. It’s 354kph top speed.

How do you know that?

Erm… I did it on the au­to­bahn. I live close to Ger­many so I drive on them a lot. Not yet, but I want to buy some, well, one to start, but I’m wait­ing. I want an old 3.0 and I like old Tar­gas, also the 964. I like a lot of cars, though an old 911 would be great.

Not a GT3 RS in the Le Mans Pink Pig liv­ery? Haha, there are some; I get sent lots of pic­tures. It’s lovely to be part of all that his­tory.

BE­LOW Estre and Pre­uninger cel­e­brate in the af­ter­math of the French­man’s blis­ter­ing lap at the Nür­bur­gring in the GT3 RS

ABOVE In con­ver­sa­tion with Mo­tor­sports supremo Frankst­ef­fen Wal­liser. Estre is part of a strong driver ros­ter at Porsche

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