Porsche is fielding its most innovative prototypes at the 24 hours of Le Mans.
Stuttgart. After an absence of 16 years, Porsche will once again compete in the top category of what is certainly the world's toughest car race, which starts at 3:00 pm on June 14, 2014. Porsche is fielding its most innovative prototypes at the 24 hours of Le Mans. The two Porsche 919 Hybrid cars with start numbers 14 and 20 will be driven by two trios of drivers: Romain Dumas (France), Neel Jani (Switzerland), Marc Lieb (Germany) and Timo Bernhard (Germany), Brendon Hartley (New Zealand), Mark Webber (Australia).
These six world-class drivers have between them a total of 37 appearances at Le Mans. Despite being a record holder at Le Mans with 16 overall victories, this year the sports car manufacturer has no experience to benefit from. For the first year of the LMP1 project the target is to get one of the fast Porsche 919 Hybrids to the finish line at the marathon.
The new know-how generated in-house by the great efforts of all those involved is something that no one can take away from Porsche.
The pole position in Spa showed that the Porsche 919 Hybrid is fast, and, as newcomers, we earned respect for this achievement. I am very proud of this young team, which is as competent in its technology as it is in its drivers. I wish each individual the best of luck and success in this marathon."
Alexander Hitzinger, Technical Director LMP1: "The challenge of developing a car for Le Mans was always to build a fast yet durable car. The constraints of the new race regulations have made this task even more difficult, but fascinating as well. Even in areas that were routine for the competition, we had no experience whatsoever. Nonetheless, we chose the boldest solution for our drive concept, because it offered the best future potential. In the pre-testing period, the aerodynamics that were once again modified to achieve lower air drag for the Le Mans event proved themselves, as did advanced developments that enhanced durability. The Porsche 919 Hybrid is our first LMP1 race car design. It is fast – but not all of its potential has been realised yet; that is the reality."
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal LMP1: "The operating task for a Le Mans team is enormous. We had to build an organisation with new personnel from the ground up. They are all excellent people. But even a hundred top soloists must first learn to play together as an orchestra. Responsibilities, communication, procedures, manual tasks – everything must mesh together perfectly. We have only competed in two races so far: in Silverstone and in Spa-Francorchamps. Everything went remarkably well. Our training was intensive. The team will have carried out 1,573 pit stops up to race week at Le Mans. We have also tested at night. Nonetheless, we have not yet experienced the stresses of a 24-hour race as a team. Everyone is looking forward to this challenge."
Drivers, starting number 14:
Romain Dumas – 36, France. (13 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 the most famous and toughest race in the world, and it is even more special for me as a Frenchman. I have been driving here since 2001, and I also lived here. In 2010 I won the race; I would love to repeat that one day – together with Porsche. So many people have been anticipating this return to LMP1 by Porsche. It makes me very proud to be one of the six drivers here. I have wanted to be with Porsche ever since my father put me in a 962 as a child. My favourite part of the track is the Porsche bends. Not because of their name, but because they are so quick and difficult. When you race down the Hunaudières at 330 km/h at night – all by yourself in your own world - you live a dream. You see and smell what is happening around the track. But you have to remain focused. We want to get to the finish line."
Neel Jani – 30, Switzerland. (5 races since 2009): "Le Mans is living motorsport history. That is more true of Porsche than with any other brand. To be part of the return to the top class after 16 years is a dream come true for me. Most racing car drivers would agree. It is a great honour, but also a tremendous responsibility. My best result at Le Mans was in 2012 when I finished fourth with a privateer team. I knew I could only improve on that result in a good factory team. Now I have reached that point. But, regardless of which class or which car, this race stirs up an emotional feeling. I will never forget my first time racing at night; it was awesome. Yet, it is important to block out all of that and concentrate on doing your best – for yourself and your team-mates. We want to be competitive in our first year."
Marc Lieb – 33, Germany. (8 races: class victory GTE 2013, class victory GT2 2010, class victory GT 2005, 2nd place GT class 2003): "Porsche took me on board in 2000 when my bank account was empty and the prospects for my Formula racing career had almost run out. It means a lot to me to now be part of a return to the top class, especially since we have this incredible technology that our engineers have created for the 919 Hybrid. Starting in the LMP1 class changes your perspective entirely compared to racing in the GT categories. You look less in the rear-view mirror and more at the cars out front that you are going to lap. Radio contact with the pit crew is also much more intensive to achieve efficient energy usage. The racing is incredibly tough for everyone involved. Whenever I won class victories, the most enjoyable thing for me was to look down from the podium and gaze at the tired but happy faces of the mechanics."
Drivers, starting number 20:
Timo Bernhard – 33, Germany. (7 races: overall victory 2010, class victory GT 2002, 2nd place GTE class 2013, 2nd place GT2 2005): "In my first start for Porsche in 2002, Le Mans was stunning. And people always asked me: When will you return to the top league. I was involved with the building of the LMP1 team right from the start, and in 2013 I drove at the roll-out, then did testing and development work. The entire time I had the big goal in mind; I can hardly express how much I am ready for it now. The week leading up to the race will still be intensive, right up to the starting ceremony. I always found it satisfying to be the starting driver, and to finally close the door after all the pre-race show was over. And then at some point on this long circuit you find a very special rhythm. Especially at night when everything gets even faster, and when it might drizzle or rain ... It is indescribable; there is a certain magic to it."
Brendon Hartley – 24, New Zealand. (2 races since 2012): "For me, Le Mans is my whole passion. I have the feeling that racing here fulfils the entire reason I climbed into a kart for the first time at six years of age. To now start as a Porsche factory driver, for the greatest sports car icon is like a dream. And then there is this special project with technology that never existed before. Hybrid systems, all-wheel drive, intuitive operating systems – the Porsche 919 is fantastic. Sometimes I can hardly believe that I have been chosen to sit in this car. I especially like Le Mans at night; that is the best. The lights fly past you, and everything feels a lot faster. You nearly get tunnel vision – that is when the cockpit is the perfect place for me. I also have a sporting score to settle at Le Mans."
Mark Webber – 37, Australia. (participated 1998 and 1999 at Le Mans but not in the race; 9 Formula-1 victories): "To return to Le Mans is emotionally very special for me. Le Mans stands for endurance, trial of man and machine, an incredibly long day, often with changing conditions and, above all, there is the teamwork. Naturally, I want to leave here with happier memories than previously, which should not be too difficult. And, of course, I want to win this race sometime. We have a fast car with fantastic technology. I also like the seating position, tucked behind the windscreen, and I am looking forward to the night-time driving at Le Mans. The team is still very young, but the bonding in the team has been very quick. If we were to come up with a good result in our first year that would be a massive statement for Porsche as a brand.