Timo Bernhard: Another missed opportunity for the #1 Porsche

In his latest Motorsport.com column, Porsche driver Timo Bernhard reflects on another weekend of unfulfilled promise for the #1 Porsche squad in the WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.

Timo Bernhard: Another missed opportunity for the #1 Porsche
#1 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley
#1 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley
#1 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley
Start: #1 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley leads
#1 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley
#1 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley
LMP1 class polesitter Timo Bernhard, Porsche Team celebrates with Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1, Porsche Team
Start: #1 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley leads
#1 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley
#1 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley
#2 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, Marc Lieb
#1 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley

Spa may be famous for its changing weather and microclimate, but last weekend we had glorious sunshine and high temperatures. With the track heating up to around 50 degrees C, this added another element into the mix with the tyres. 

In preparation for Le Mans we ran a low-downforce aero package on the car. When we tested at Spa back in March we ran a different configuration and the weather was totally different which meant the data from then weren’t really representative any more and we had a lot of set-up work to do.

Our car ran smoothly in the free practice sessions on Thursday and we topped the timesheets with our #1 919 Hybrid thanks to a quick lap from Brendon during the morning FP1 session.

Brendon and I shared qualifying duties on Friday afternoon. He was out first and laid down a mega lap, and so I knew what I had to deliver. We put our car on pole, scored our first point of the season and put us in a great position for the race.

Puncture ruins Toyota battle

Brendon also took the start on Saturday and managed to build up a solid lead. I jumped into the car when he came in after 23 laps and came out second behind Sebastien Buemi, as Toyota didn’t opt for a tyre and driver change.

I had good pace and knew that sooner or later I can make it past him. We had a very good, close battle through La Source and Eau Rouge swapping positions. Eau Rouge of course is the most famous corner - it gives you goosebumps every lap, because it's such a magical place. 

Unfortunately, I must have picked up some debris somewhere in the last chicane where there had been incidents earlier and noticed in the last turn that I lost pressure in the front left tyre.

By that time it was too late to turn off into the pits, so I had to do a whole lap with a flat tyre, which started to come off and damaged parts of the bodywork.

Mark took over with new tyres and a new front nose, however a few laps later the front left tyre was damaged again. But not only that, the front gearbox was damaged too due to different wheel speed from driving with the punctures.

More time lost

Our mechanics were working hard to fix the car, and after more than 90 minutes Mark went out on track again with a gap of over 50 laps to the leaders. We knew we had to push on to complete 70 percent of the winner's race distance to get into the rankings.

In the end we just made it with the required number of laps. I did another stint before handing over to Brendon, who brought the car home in 26th overall and fourth in the hybrid class.

Overall we have seen that Audi, Toyota and ourselves are right on the limit with our highly complex hybrid prototypes. Not only our car had issues in the race, also our sister car had issues with their hybrid system but managed to finish second, which was a great result for the team.

Of course, it’s disappointing to have had two very challenging races and only score 1.5 points, but at least we can take some comfort knowing we definitely had the pace to win that race.

Now all our focus is on the season highlight at Le Mans, where double points are up for grabs, which can turn around the championship.

Timo

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