Proton learning on the go with new Porsche

Every day is proving to be a school day for Porsche’s Hypercar customer teams in the FIA WEC. Both HERTZ Team JOTA and Proton Competition have had to navigate the challenge of receiving their car mid-season and learn the ins and outs of the 963 as they go, without the benefit of a winter testing programme to draw from.

This task has been especially tricky for German outfit Proton, which received its first of the four 963s it has on order after Le Mans, and has been competing in both the FIA WEC and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship since.

Sunday’s WEC race at Fuji will be the team’s third race as a Hypercar/GTP team, but the first for its second chassis. The first was used at the WEC race at Monza back in July, then for the IMSA race at Road America, meaning its staff were forced to undertake the not-so-simple task of switching the car from Hypercar to GTP spec.


It’s a process which according to team owner Christian Ried takes multiple days and primarily involves extensive work swapping the car’s electronics.

Thankfully, with two cars now in its possession, it can leave its first car in GTP-spec for the final two races of the IMSA season at Indianapolis and Petit Le Mans and use the second for the WEC finale at Bahrain.

Nevertheless, receiving its first car so deep into the season, with no chance to test, has made life particularly tough for its drivers. Gianmaria Bruni, who along with Harry Tincknell and Neel Jani is competing with Proton in both the WEC and IMSA, says the emphasis on learning the car and gathering data has prevented them from being able to push.

“It was a bit disappointing that we got the car so late. It’s cost us the season and forced us to go race-to-race without testing,” Bruni said to RACER. “I wasn’t able to test the car before Monza, Harry and Neel were the same, though Harry did time in the simulator because of his work with Multimatic.

Proton has been dividing its time between WEC and IMSA. Motorsport Images

“I drove at Monza, Road America and that’s it. We have missions as drivers every time we get in,” he continued. “At Monza, I tried lots of things with the electronics to set it up when I was in the car, for example, and Neel and Harry had other tasks.

“It’s not really racing for us, it’s been testing while racing. It’s hard because you want to push, but we need to just finish and gain experience, data and knowledge. It’s frustrating as a driver, I don’t want to be conservative.

“And it’s super hard to learn how to drive it. We have to study the Porsche manual, which is 50 pages and it feels like I am back at school. I am studying and having to learn it all. You need a long time in the car to learn all the buttons! Hopefully, by the end of the season, it will be easier.

“At the moment I am driving at 70 percent of what I want to because I want the knowledge. We just want to finish the races to help us to prepare next year.”

Next year’s program, though, is somewhat up in the air for Bruni. He will return to the team in 2024, but where he will compete hasn’t yet been decided.

In an ideal scenario, Bruni told RACER that he would like to continue competing in both IMSA and the WEC. However, due to clashes, full-season campaigns in both will not be possible.

“It’s up to Porsche or Proton to decide where I race,” he said. “I am happy with either, but my best wish for sure would be the FIA WEC and the IMSA long races.

“Whatever happens I am looking forward to next season, when we can start from zero and come back stronger.”

Story originally appeared on Racer