It’s easy to lose hope in the potential for independent success at Le Mans, or really just top-level motorsport in general these days. It’s not a new phenomenon, of course. But the only time it feels like privateers ever have a shot at class victories is when the factory squads don’t show up.
For this reason it’s truly impressive that Hub Auto Racing, a customer GTE Pro team competing in this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, has claimed pole position in its class, thanks to a sensational lap from Belgian driver Dries Vanthoor.
The No. 72 Hub Auto car will be driven by Vanthoor, Maxime Martin and Alvaro Parente in this year’s running, which kicks off at 10 a.m. Eastern time on Saturday. Vanthoor turned in a 3:46.882 lap during Thursday’s Hyperpole session — a final, 30-minute shootout between the top six performers from the previous, longer qualifying session. He pipped the next fastest car in the class, an AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo driven by Daniel Serra, by less than two tenths of a second.
And lest you assume that Hub Auto is running the same 911 RSR-19 hardware that the works Porsche team is and therefore isn’t at a significant disadvantage, consider this quote from Philip di Fazio, technical director at the pole-sitting team, courtesy of Motorsport.com:
“Porsche have been quite supportive with a certain degree of information and they gave us a decent starting point so we weren’t totally in the dark. That’s been a big help.
“It has been a steep curve, and we don’t have obviously the abundance of stuff that the factory teams have, there’s only myself and one other data engineer, so it’s impossible for us to get through all the data and look at everything.
“We do it the best we can. It’s exhausting, I’m looking through data and analysing performance to the point of exhaustion.”
The 23-year-old Vanthoor, the younger brother of Porsche works driver Laurens Vanthoor in the No. 79 WeatherTech-liveried car, said he left nothing on the table. “Normally I would always say I could go a little bit faster,” he told Motorsport. “But no, I don’t think there was a lot more.”
In other news, Laurens is anticipating an awkward holiday with the family:
Here’s to a safe and competitive 24 Hours of Le Mans for everyone this weekend. And best of luck to the Hub Auto crew — go show those factory-backed teams what for!