After his best season in the FIA World Endurance Championship to date, the Austrian, Richard Lietz will compete again this year in the GTE-PRO class. We caught up with the 32-year-old ahead of his first WEC season as defending champion.
For Richard Lietz, 2015 could not have been better. It was the first time in the history of the WEC that a Porsche has won the GTE-PRO title. “2015 was really a special year, we were able to be competitive at all the tracks and therefore have more than achieved our goals,” said the three-time Le Mans class winner in an interview with WEC-Magazin.
Due to the withdrawal of the Porsche GT works team run by Team Manthey, Lietz returns to his former team Proton Competition for 2016. Leitz said that it is great to be back at with a familiar team at Proton and alongside Michael Christensen. He added, “We are a private team with support from Weissach, our car is a modified 911 RSR (from last year) and unlike some competitors not completely new. Nevertheless, I hope we can challenge for the titles because of our reliability.”
Except for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen will be the only drivers representing Porsche in GTE-PRO this year.
Although Porsche are only running an updated (rather than new) car in this year’s GTE-PRO class, they are still using the two-time Le Mans Series champion, Lietz as a driver. He admitted, “We always have a certain pressure to succeed, we want to show what to make our race cars are capable. Yet I do not think we will have more pressure than last year.”
Despite Lietz and Porsche’s aim in 2016 being to retain the driver’s and team’s championships there is fresh competition in GTE-PRO. The competition has used the winter break to produce brand new cars for the 2016 season. There have been some heavy developments on the Aston Martin Vantage V8, as well as the new Ferrari 488 and Ford’s all new GT. On the new Ford, Lietz said, “It has been uncompromisingly designed as a racing car, and now they are building a production car on this basis. There may be a bit of WEC experince missing, but they have good drivers.”
At the season finale in Bahrain, the Austrian snatched the GTE-PRO crown for the first time. Despite the Porsche’s success against Ferrari last year, the reigning GTE-PRO champion is not under estimating the Italian effort for 2016. “Ferrari has the experience and knows the WEC very well, but as always with new cars, sometimes they are unreliable, which will be our chance. We must finish each race and be reliable.”
At Silverstone next month we will finally get an indication as to which of the teams has made the most progress over the winter. Richard Lietz and his teammate Michael Christensen, are doing everything they can to get their season off to a strong start.
Images – Walter Schruff (WEC-Magazin)