Porsche at 24H of Le Mans and WEC: Marathon for men and machines

On June 13/14 the race, which is known as the world’s toughest endurance event, takes place for the 83rd time.

Stuttgart. Porsche faces its second start in the top category, LMP1, of the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans since its return in 2014. On June 13/14 the race, which is known as the world’s toughest endurance event, takes place for the 83rd time. On Wednesday and Thursday the qualifying sessions will run until midnight on the 13,629 kilometre long circuit, which mostly consists of what are normally public roads.

The three Porsche 919 Hybrids are the most innovative in the 56 car field and carry future technology for Porsche’s road going sports cars. The revolutionary technical regulations’ focus on efficiency for class 1 Le Mans prototypes (LMP1) attracted Porsche in 2014 to return to top level motorsport. The combination of a two-litre V4 turbo charged and petrol fuelled engine with two energy recovery systems (brake energy and exhaust energy) produces a power system of around 1000 HP. Because a high top speed of over 330 km/h is crucial on the ultrafast circuit in the West of France, the 919 has a special aerodynamic package for Le Mans. With this in place, the prototypes have less drag with reduced downforce at the crowning event of the FIA World Endurance Championship compared to the other seven six-hour races.

The drivers of the three different coloured Porsche 919 Hybrids have between them participated in the Le Mans race a total of 43 times. The red number 17 car is driven by Timo Bernhard (Germany), Brendon Hartley (New Zealand) and Mark Webber (Australia). The black number 18 car is shared by Romain Dumas (France), Neel Jani (Switzerland) and Marc Lieb (Germany). The third Porsche, which is white, belongs to the trio of Earl Bamber (New Zealand), Nico Hülkenberg (Germany) and Nick Tandy (Great Britain).

Quotes before the race

Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1: “The expectations for Porsche in Le Mans are high. We can be proud of that because it is down to our own merits after we have performed well in our first ten races by winning one, achieving eight further podiums and six pole positions. We have a great team and three cars that are able to win. This is a very worthy way for Porsche to approach the race. Now the race with all its unknown factors comes into play.”

Alexander Hitzinger, Technical Director LMP1: “The Porsche 919 Hybrid is the most innovative prototype in the entire field. We are proud that we are the only ones able to generate eight megajoule of electrical energy per lap from our two energy recovery systems. The development of the 919 in Weissach has produced a lot of know-how in a short period of time, which is relevant for future road going sports cars. This is especially the case regarding the power system. The Le Mans aero package has worked well at the pre-test. On this fast circuit low drag is crucial for a good lap time. For Le Mans you need a car that is extremely fast, while at the same time being robust. Every single part of the 919 has to be capable of delivering both of these. This is the approach that makes our race cars running research labs.”

Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: “After the positive pre-test we stayed in Le Mans for a few more days to run-in some components on the small Circuit Bugatti. This helps to lower the work load a bit for the week before the 24 hour race. The operational challenge around this race is massive. Testing in advance, building three completely new Porsche 919 Hybrids, attending the pre-test on site and then going through the long race week. It is important to manage human resources carefully to save enough energy for the race itself. In this context it is of high importance to get through practice and qualifying without any major issues.”

Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid number 17

Timo Bernhard (34, Germany – 8 races: overall victory 2010, class victory GT 2002, 2nd place GTE class 2013, 2nd place GT2 2005): “In Le Mans you never get any presents and this year the competition among the front runners is especially tight. It is senseless to target a certain result. We just all have to focus on doing a zero-mistake-job in practice, qualifying and, most importantly, in the race.”

Brendon Hartley (25, New Zealand – 3 races since 2012): “To drive a Porsche LMP1 car in Le Mans is so special that I can hardly put that feeling into words. We have been good here at our debut last year, but in the end were unlucky. With the 919 Hybrid’s evolution we have come back stronger, but at the same time the competition has become tougher.”

Mark Webber (38, Australia – participated 1998 and 1999 but not in the race, 1 race in 2014): “Le Mans is brutal and requires an amazing team effort. The biggest challenger you have to fight is the race itself. We have to survive these 24 hours, we have to be technically reliable and get everything right. It is extremely demanding. The track is incredibly quick and the pace of the 919 around there is phenomenal. There are some really iconic locations around the track like Dunlop, the Mulsanne straight and the Porsche Esses. There are different phases of the race and the changing light; sunset, twilight, racing in the dark before dawn, sunrise and a new day with still a long way to go. Le Mans is like nothing else.“

Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid number 18

Romain Dumas (37, France – 14 races: overall victory 2010, 3rd place overall 2007, class victory GTE 2013, 2nd place GT class 2001 and 2002, 3rd place GT class 2004): “Le Mans is big. This is how the world of motorsport sees it and for me, being French, it is the greatest event anyway. We have prepared ourselves very well. We have a good car and good speed. What we need now for this very long race is a bit of luck. Then, I’m sure, we can do well.”

Neel Jani (31, Switzerland – 6 races since 2009): “Le Mans is the season’s crowning race for all of us. The speed on the straights and in the fast corners is very high, and you must not forget that we are driving on normal roads. This is a different challenge compared to the smooth tarmac of a permanent race track. All the teams are much quicker than they were in 2014. We are looking forward to a great battle.”

Marc Lieb (34, Germany – 9 races: class victories GTE 2013, GT2 2010, GT 2005, 2nd place GT class 2003): “The competition between the manufacturers’ prototypes is very tight. I expect this year’s 24-hour race to become especially tough and exciting. We have worked a lot and the 919 is a really fast car. A crucial question is who will be able to stay on one set of tyres for how long. Regarding tyre management, we still have some room for improvement. But no matter how well you prepare, overall you have to respect the distance and the knowledge that in Le Mans you can always expect the unexpected.”

Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid number 19

Earl Bamber (24, New Zealand – Rookie): “Driving the 919 in Le Mans for the first time at the pre-test was an amazing experience and a good preparation, so I now can’t wait for race day. The first target for everyone is to finish this race and have a clean one. Then we have to have enough pace to achieve a good result. It is going to be a cool week and a long one as well.”

Nico Hülkenberg (27, Germany – Rookie): “I’ve got my first taste of the track during the pre-test and I found it really cool. You can get yourself driving in a great rhythm. I’m looking forward to the long stints in the race. I feel comfy in the Porsche 919 Hybrid in Le Mans, but I’ll learn a lot more during the race week. Therefore I don’t like to speculate about the outcome. My first wish is to do well over the distance, as this is the experience I want more than anything.“

Nick Tandy (30, Great Britain – 2 races with Porsche in GTE-Pro): “Le Mans is such an important race because of its history and what it means for sports car racing. It is the ultimate test of speed and endurance. Here it is essential to find the right balance between the two, because you can’t have one without the other. Of course, you can go slowly and the car will probably last forever without a problem. But you can’t afford to do this in Le Mans. The key is to find the right compromise.”

Porsche

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Le Mans
Event 24 Hours of Le Mans
Track Le Mans
Drivers Mark Webber , Timo Bernhard , Marc Lieb , Romain Dumas , Neel Jani , Brendon Hartley , Nico Hulkenberg , Earl Bamber , Nick Tandy
Teams Porsche Team
Article type Preview