OUR JUNE MONTHLY ONLINE SOCIAL was timed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Porsche’s first overall win at Le Mans. This month’s social was exclusive to all Porsche Club Of America members across Canada and hosted by Marc Ouayoun, president and CEO of Porsche Canada, and Kathrin Menge, also with Porsche Canada. Pascal Zurlinden, Porsche AG’s director of GT Factory Motorsports was the guest speaker. There were 93 attendees from the east coast to British Columbia.
Marc Ouayoun introduced Pascal Zurlinden and summarized his many accomplishments. In 2008, Pascal moved to Audi Sport and spent several years working on the preparation and follow-up technical aspects of the DTM vehicles. He moved to the Porsche research and development centre in Weissach in 2014. He started his Porsche career as test and strategy engineer with the LMP1 project. In 2015, he was involved in Porsche’s win with the 919 hybrid at Le Mans (see Provinz, August 2015). In 2017, he became the chief engineer and was responsible for the “balance of performance” in the GT field, before assuming the role as director of GT Factory Motorsports in 2018.
Following an interesting discussion of Zurlinden’s career, we listened to Marc Ouayoun’s questions followed by Kathrin Menge reading questions from PCA members. Here is a summary of Pascal’s responses to assorted questions:
- While working on the Paris-Dakar before joining Porsche, he worked with the best team experience of his career. The 20 of them lived and worked together for the duration of the race, sometimes in difficult conditions.
- Was with Audi for six years and its Le Mans win in 2014 was especially satisfying.
- The 2014 to 2018 racing seasons were with the most complicated technology and with three manufacturers. The freedom in the rules made things interesting and the 919 was the most complicated racecar ever built.
- The best race was the 2018 Le Mans where the Porsche team had many problems but persevered. It was especially difficult for Zurlinden as his father was battling cancer. That put him in the position of knowing that some things can be solved (racecar issues) and some cannot.
- Although Porsche will withdraw from IMSA at the end of this season, Porsche will continue to support customer teams.
- Formula E is important although the cars are tightly regulated, drivetrains are free.
- Being with Porsche is like being part of a family.
- Growing up in France his childhood dream was to part of Le Mans.
- The three greatest Porsche racecars are the 917, the 1998 911 GT1 and the 919.
- Pascal Zurlinden’s three favourite race tracks are Le Mans, Sebring and Laguna Seca.
- The biggest technical challenge was developing the hybrid system in the 919.
- The most important transfers from racecars to road cars are aerodynamics and electrification.
- There will be female driver on Timo Bernard’s GT team.
- Pascal did meet and have dinner with Hans Mezger. He was very open with his knowledge and was still involved.
There were many more questions and answers but the above gives those who didn’t attend a glimpse of the discussion. It was a real privilege to have access to a current and high-level Porsche motorsport personality. Our thanks go to Marc Ouayoun, Kathrin Menge and Pascal Zurlinden for spending time with us. Thanks also to Christopher Hebert who worked with the Porsche team to facilitate the digital platform for the meeting. </>