The DSC Editor caught up with Porsche Factory GT Driver Laurens Vanthoor some time ago, and there was plenty to talk about the transition from long-time Audi man to Porsche, from GT3 to GTE and the now imminent and long-awaited partnership with ex-Ferrari and now fellow Porsche factory driver Gianmaria Bruni.
Transition from Audi
“To be honest, I was speaking to Vincent Vosse very recently, I always catch up with him when we share a track, and I spoke to him about this. I am 100% sure that this was the right move for me but the transition part was a lot harder than I expected it to be.
“In the end that’s logical. I was at Audi for five year, I was with WRT for all of that time, they really were my racing family. We won big races together, I knew everybody very well.
“Moving from that to a new brand where what you won is the past doesn’t matter so much at all, it’s all about what you can do with them, you have to prove yourself with them. Then you go to the USA, the car is new, every single track is new for me, of course the team is new, and the rules, and the Championship are new too. You are really starting over. That was a bit tough in the beginning, and I think it showed a little at first.
“Now though I am feeling it, feeling better in the car, building a relationship with the team, in particular with my race engineer and the results are coming. “
Does it bring added pressure when you are mentioned as being a big part of Porsche’s plans for the future?
“Honestly no it doesn’t. You have to approach it from the point of view of what you can do, and what you can’t. I’m taking it step by step, building up the knowledge and the pace, trying to make no mistakes. I know what I can do, and they clearly have faith in that.
“I’m approaching this with a long-term view. I want to spend my racing future with Porsche, what race driver wouldn’t?
“Of course the day will come when I want to get my position like I did at Audi but at the moment I’m still very much on the learning curve.”
On the 911 RSR – and adapting to a GTE Porsche from a GT3 Audi
“The biggest difference is, that after driving a car with ABS for the past five years then coming to locking wheels for the first time in a while/ In the beginning, trying to get my confidence levels up on cold tyres for instance, was a challenge.
“In GT3 you just slam on the brakes and the car stops, sometimes a bit later in the dry, a bit earlier in the wet but that’s it!
“Now I am getting used to the car and I know and understand more about which way it works with the set-up it’s a really cool car!
“At Watkins Glen and Mosport testing recently it showed so well how different it is from the (GT3) GT3R. It’s a real race car you have to drive it with the correct technique, clean is quick. In the GT3 car you just have to hammer it down, the one who hammers it down the best is fastest, the GTE/ GTLM car isn’t like that at all.”
What are you looking forward too for the rest of 2017?
“For me the season really starts next time out at Watkins Glen. I’ve had the opportunity to bed myself in, to learn now I want to start to show what I have got. I feel I’m ready, that I know the car, that I have been working well with the team in testing.
“Bruni is coming up too of course as my fixed team-mate and all of that comes together to mean that the second half of the season is when I’d like to think that I can be racing for wins.
A little bit about Gimmi (Bruni) – He arrives with a reputation in GTE, he’s won big races and big titles too. Frank (Walleser) – head of Porsche Motorsport has made it clear that the pairing of Vanthoor and Bruni is a big part of his plan moving forward.
“I’m looking forward to having him on board. He is one of the best GT drivers in the world, no doubt about it at all. He has more experience than me of course so I’m sure I can learn some things from him. There’s no atmosphere but I’m sure that when you have someone with a big name coming in there might be some in the team that are not entirely positive. That’s only natural, we need to see how things work out.
“That’s not my outlook at all. I know he is quick and the only thing I wish for is that we work together in an honest way and that if I quicker than him, or he is quicker than me that we can work together to push the whole effort forward as a team. As long as that’s there then I am absolutely fine with anything else.
“In terms of the transition, I’m sure he’ll find it tough too, and I have just been through that and can help him I’m sure.
Porsche has a record of holding onto its talent for a while. Looking forward 10 years what would you like to achieve with them?
“Success is what is expected here, and rightly so.
“There’s no question that in the past one of my big dreams was to do LMP1 and obviously here at Porsche it is still a dream, though somehow at the moment it is less of an ultimate draw, for some reason LMP1 looks a little less exciting at the moment, a little less competition and how it is evolving in terms of the driving style.
“At a factory level the GT cars are the only ones where you can, and you have to, race from start to finish at 100%, you are racing, not perhaps a system on the car! So more and more I think the idea of spending my career in GTs is there.
“I love the cars and the racing is excellent.
“My big dream is to win all four of the big 24 Hour races. I have won at the Nürburgring and at Spa, I’d love to go on and win at Daytona and, of course, at Le Mans.
“My first big dream was to win all three overall but if I was to win in the GT car then I’d be very happy with that on my cv.
And the possibility now of an FIA World Championship?
“It’s everybody’s career goal. If someone asks what you have achieved in your life, to be able to say that you are a World Champion is a real statement. You don’t have to explain any further than that!