Analysis: Porsche LMP1 achievement among greatest ever

Porsche's two-year road to taking the WEC crown and reclaiming the Le Mans 24 Hours victory will stand as one of the sport's famous success stories, reckons Sam Smith.

"It would be a waste of life to do nothing with one's ability, for I feel that life is measured in achievement, not in years alone."

Said by Bruce McLaren, this is a favourite maxim among racing people the world over, perfectly encapsulating the driven psyche that connects their lives to this, the most demanding of sports. It has been used as a motivating "call to arms" for many years.

It also neatly fits the vast achievement of the Porsche squad in the FIA World Endurance Championship this season. Just four months on from claiming its first Le Mans 24 Hours win for 17 years, the Stuttgart marque sewed up the FIA World Endurance Manufacturers' crown at the 6 Hours of Shanghai last Sunday.

To complete the double of Le Mans 24 Hours and FIA WEC title in year two of its programme is a fine achievement in anyone's book. To do this by beating two world-class and proven winners, in the shape of Audi and Toyota, is an accomplishment from the very top drawer.

What stands out from the attainments of Porsche this year is the fact that the programme was a genuine start-up back in 2011. Yes, the capabilities and basics of an infrastructure were there when the announcement was made back on 11th June 2011. Yet the team was built from the ground-up, a mixture of experience and youth, with a strong BMW and Sauber personnel lineage running through it.

The famed Research and Development Centre in Weissach and the Porsche Motorsport centre in Flacht were vital in nurturing the programme. New offices and workshops were built within the existing infrastructure and the team quickly grew.

Timo Bernhard was the first to sample the test car in the summer of 2013 and the Porsche "lifer" recalls feeling that a new epoch in Porsche's history in endurance racing was just beginning.

"It is an honour to have won with such a great team," Bernhard told Motorsport.com. "I can remember the first roll-out I did in 2013 and we did 5km and that was it! Now, look what has been achieved, we are sitting here as World Champions.

"This is the most sexy car I have ever driven," continued Bernhard. "It is unbelievable the grip we get. I never expected when we started that these cars would be so quick to drive. A lot of my friends and relatives came to Nurburgring this year and they were completely blown away by the performance of the cars.

Bernhard, imbued in Porsche racing since he was a kid watching Group C races at Hockenheim and Nurburgring, has a noticeable attachment to the marque.

"Last week I went to an event at the Porsche museum where they showed Porsches from different eras which features people who have been involved in these different projects.

"There were guys like Hans Hermann and Norbert Singer there. It is wonderful and inspiring. This is why I love Porsche so much - because you get a sense of racing in the footsteps of some incredible people."

For Andreas Seidl, the organising talisman of the Porsche team, the results have been momentous and the timing even more satisfying.

"It is hard to find words for the achievement," Seidl said straight after the win at Shanghai last weekend. "What has been achieved in this timeframe should not be underestimated.

"I think that the focus we have had since we started actually competing at the track has been one story but the other is what all the guys back at the factory have achieved too.

"To be able to beat the best in the world in this category of racing gives everyone at Porsche a massive amount of satisfaction."

In hindsight, it is remarkable to think that Porsche could easily have gone to F1 five years ago. Porsche R&D boss Wolfgang Hatz had then admitted that there would have been no alternative other than F1 if someone at VW would have blocked the move which saw Porsche competing against stablemates Audi.

But the truth was that Porsche belonged at Le Mans and now in the flourishing FIA WEC. Porsche's heritage at Le Mans was too rich to ignore and, with Audi notching up its 12th Le Mans victory in 2013, the Ingolstadt marque was homing in inexorably to tempt the record books. Porsche had to be back at La Sarthe.

Porsche's road to FIA WEC and Le Mans glory

Forget reminiscing. It is time to write a new chapter. This was the snappy tagline to Porsche's philosophy when it came in to top-line sportscar racing for the first time since 1998. And it sure has delivered on the promise.

From the bitter memories of the stillborn 9R3 project in 1999, Porsche had to rediscover its mojo after a dozen years away from the top class of endurance competition.

Here are the key dates and moments which launched it to glory.

June 2011 – The formal announcement of Porsche return to Le Mans is made

December 2011 – Alex Hitzinger joins as Technical Director from Red Bull Racing, where he had been Head of Advanced Technologies

June 2012 – Porsche makes the decision to use lithium-ion battery energy storage rather than initial Flywheel system

November 2012 – The decision is taken to use advanced version of FRICS style suspension, which goes on to become key factor in Porsche 919 Hybrid success.

December 2012 – Andreas Seidl is recruited from BMW as Director of Race operations

June 2013 – The test car hits the track at Weissach. Timo Bernhard gets to drive but chronic vibration on V4 engine curtails further development testing until autumn.

June 2013Red Bull F1 driver Mark Webber formally announces his move to Porsche

July 2013 – Neel Jani begins work at Porsche and goes on to become standout driver for the marque in 2014.

April 2014 – The new Porsche challenger makes its debut at Silverstone. The #20 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Webber/Hartley/Bernhard finishes third.

June 2014 – A potential podium finish at Le Mans is denied by engine problem on #20 car

November 2014 – The Porsche 919 Hybrid takes its maiden WEC win at Interlagos via Jani/Lieb/Dumas.

Winter 2014/15 – The testing of the much-modified Porsche 919 Hybrid sees key improvements on weight-saving, improved vehicle dynamics for better tyre performance and an upgrade from 6MJ to 8MJ.

June 2015 – The #19 Porsche 919 Hybrid, driven by Hulkenberg, Tandy and Bamber, wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans

September 2015 – A win at the 6 Hours of Nurburgring kickstarts a streak of four consecutive FIA WEC victories for Webber, Hartley and Bernhard

November 2015 – Porsche seals the 2015 FIA World Endurance Manufacturers' crown at Shanghai

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About this article
Series WEC
Drivers Mark Webber , Timo Bernhard , Marc Lieb , Romain Dumas , Neel Jani , Brendon Hartley , Nico Hulkenberg , Earl Bamber , Nick Tandy
Teams Porsche Team
Article type Analysis