Kévin Estre, the first French GT World Champion in history!

Kévin Estre - 2019
Kévin Estre - 2019

In June 2018, Kévin Estre won the LM GTE Pro category in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, certainly his biggest victory to date. A year later he achieved another major milestone in his sporting career by winning the GT FIA World Endurance Drivers’ Championship after an exceptional super season that lasted more than 13 months. The Frenchman and his Danish team-mate, Michael Christensen, completed the 85 hours and 45 minutes racing on the 2018-2019 calendar in their #92 Porsche 911 RSR. Thus, the two men rejoined their team on the roll call of honour as Porsche had already clinched the manufacturers’ championship title at the 2019 6 Hours of Spa.

Super Season, super world champion!

The transition to a sporting season spanning two years required the organisation of a unique Super Season running from May 2018 to June 2019 that included two 24 Hours of Le Mans. Thus the titles that have just been awarded have more merit and value.
“The season was long and that made it pretty tough, mentally speaking,” admitted the new world champion. “Usually, you can relax a little in the winter, but despite the long break between Shanghai and Sebring we were thinking about our lead in the classification and the remaining events. Our position in the championship also had an impact on our approach to the races: we obviously had the speed, but we had to adopt a more conservative approach than the others on the strategy and the risks we took on the track. In Shanghai, for example, we were in the lead after three hours racing and there were a lot of safety cars and red flags. Behind us many of our rivals stopped under the safety car deployments while we preferred to wait in case the event was stopped by the red flag. On the other hand, for the last race, Le Mans, we adopted a different mind-set as we arrived with a big lead. There was no question of taking more risks than the others on the overtaking moves and the strategy, but we didn’t want to just pussy-foot around either. We really tried to win.”





The keys to success

A quick look at the figures themselves. Kevin and Michael scored six podium finishes including two victories at Le Mans and at Fuji in 2018. “My only personal mistake was tagging an Aston Martin, which I wanted to pass at Sebring that cost us a drive through. Overall, Ferrari and Ford were in the mix, but on leaving Florida it was clear that the battle for the drivers’ title would be between the two Porsche driver line-ups. Even so the ambience in the team was always good. I think that we had a more complete season; we were more consistent and we made fewer mistakes than the #91. In addition, in the 24 Hours in 2018 and in 2019 we were quicker. Our only technical issues were a stop light at Sebring and the exhaust at Le Mans. Bravo to Porsche and the whole team!”
In the recent 24 Hours of Le Mans Estre was lucky enough to do the opening stint and to feel the incomparable emotion of crossing the finishing line synonymous with the world title. Another, rather less enviable “privilege,” was to be at the wheel when the exhaust broke. “We were in the lead in the category with twenty seconds in hand over the Ferrari of the future winners. I heard the noise and smelled something burning so I have to admit I was afraid the car would catch fire. The other Porsche could have won so there was no question of throwing in the towel.”

 

Kévin has been a Porsche Motorsport works driver since 2016 and he has certainly just had his most successful season so quite logically he’s now dreaming of other conquests. “I’ve waited for a very long time to win in endurance. I don’t feel I’m any better than before. I’m in an exceptional team and Lady Luck smiled on me and you need that in this discipline! Now, I’d like to win the 24 Hours of Spa or the Nürburgring, which has just slipped from our grasp for the second time in two events. And then winning the most hotly-disputed category in the 24 Hours of Le Mans is something I’m very proud of, so it must be even more special to fight for outright victory…”