For a long time Romain Dumas (France), Neel Jani (Switzerland) and Marc Lieb (Germany) were leading the race and just missed another podium finish.
Stuttgart . Following the podium finish at the season’s opener in Silverstone, the new Porsche 919 Hybrid came fourth at the second round of the World Endurance Championship (WEC). Drivers Romain Dumas (France), Neel Jani (Switzerland) and Marc Lieb (Germany) had started with the car no. 14 from pole position for the six hour race and was the leading car for a long time. But then incidents cost time. An electric problem required a reset by Dumas while he was driving and on the final laps Jani had an extra pit stop due to a puncture.
The race day for the sister car no. 20 of Timo Bernhard (Germany), Brendon Hartley (New Zealand) and Mark Webber (Australia) was even less lucky. They had started fifth, improved immediately to third but then were hampered by technical problems and dropped back to the end of the field.
Nevertheless, the newly formed Porsche Team managed to achieve the main target for the weekend which was finishing the race with both LMP1 cars. The speed of the Porsche 919 Hybrid was convincing in Spa. For long periods of the race it was the fastest car on track. The overall fastest lap of the weekend was by Marc Lieb (1:59.887 minutes, free practice two). Neel Jani’s fastest qualifying lap (2:00.334 minutes) was the overall second fastest lap of the weekend.
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1: “It was our main target to finish the race with both Porsche 919 Hybrids and this is what we have managed. But after we had achieved pole position and saw very good lap times in the race we certainly hoped for a better result. But due to the technical problems, especially on car no. 20, it wasn’t possible today.”
Alexander Hitzinger, Technical Director LMP1: “In car no. 14 we’ve had a false alarm which has switched off the hybrid system. Romain then had to do a time consuming reactivation procedure. We are very conservative when it comes to safety of our hybrid systems, so such a thing can happen and there is some homework to do. The Porsche no. 20 had problems with the rear dampers plus two failures of the front drive shaft. We knew this was a critical part and we are prepared to use stronger parts at the next test and in Le Mans. We have been fast in qualifying and in the race and brought both cars home – for us this was the most important target for the weekend.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal LMP1: “The weekend had many positive moments, for example our qualifying performance and lap times in the race. But at the same time it has shown what is still missing here and there. Nevertheless: In the race we were on the same level as the competition. Overall we have learnt a lot. The team has once again done a great job. This was another important next step towards Le Mans.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid #14
Romain Dumas: “I am happy to have done my very first race stint in the Porsche 919 Hybrid now. Unfortunately we had an electrical issue after I had jumped in and it is a shame it cost a lap. In the end Neel took over again because it was clear we could not do two and a half stints with one set of tyres but maybe one and a half to get away with a splash and dash in the end.“
Neel Jani: “I knew it would be important for me to defend P1 in the first corner after the start, I was really committed through La Source and then I had to take a bit of a risk in Eau Rouge as well. I gave everything in the first stint and that was how I managed to get a good lead. The second set of tyres somehow was less comfortable but I could stay in the lead. I think in Silverstone we were okay in qualifying but nowhere in the race. Here we were very good in qualifying and could lead the race for a long time. Looks like good progress.“
Marc Lieb: “I have had a rather quiet stint but nevertheless it wasn’t easy. I couldn’t really follow the pace of the car in front of me. However, an important lesson learnt today was how to manage a set of tyres to make it last for two stints.“
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid #20
Timo Bernhard: “Right at the start I got squeezed a bit in the pack but I could overtake an Audi and a Toyota on lap one to improve from fifth to third. Then suddenly the car felt strange and I pitted straight away. This was after nine laps. We fixed it and I did a 50 lap double stint with one set of tyres which wasn’t easy. Unfortunately later we had more problems with our car.”
Brendon Hartley: “The first few laps from Timo were really good but then we have had a couple of technical issues today. I think the team has managed the repairs very well as the car never spent too much time in the garage.”
Mark Webber: “Despite the problems we had with our car we never gave up fighting and got the most out of it. The car runs well now but we could not exploit its full potential. The team works really hard and we are learning very quickly. Our speed is encouraging. We now have to solve the teething problems which are normal for such a new project. We knew we would be better here than in Silverstone. There we weren’t competitive. But here we were.”