Le Mans winner mounts title defence with new aerodynamics

FIA World Endurance Championship WEC, LMP1, Round 4, Nürburgring (DE), Preview

The Le Mans winner Porsche goes to the Nürburgring with a new aerodynamic package for its 919 Hybrid. On the track in the Eifel mountains, the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) holds its fourth of nine rounds from July 22 to 24. As it heads into the six-hour race the Porsche Team is leading the manufacturers’ championship ahead of Audi and Toyota. The Le Mans winning drivers, Romain Dumas (FR), Neel Jani (CH) and Marc Lieb (DE), are leading the drivers’ world championship. The crew of the sister Porsche 919 Hybrid, Timo Bernhard (DE), Brendon Hartley (NZ) and Mark Webber (AU), has three unlucky races behind it and is more than keen to repeat last year’s race win at the Nürburgring.

Porsche 919 HybridA field of 33 race cars will compete in the Eifel. Prototypes and sports cars are divided into four classes, with the 919 Hybrid belonging to the top class for Le Mans Prototypes (LMP1). The 919 was developed in Weissach and produces a system power of over 900 HP (662 kW). Its combustion engine is a futuristic downsizing motor: the very compact two-litre V4 turbocharged petrol engine drives the rear axle with almost 500 PS (368 kW). Two different energy recovery systems – brake energy from the front and exhaust energy – feed a lithium ion battery that, on command, passes on the energy to an E machine to power the front axle with an extra boost of over 400 PS (294 kW).

“We have had intense weeks since the breathtaking finish in Le Mans,” said Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1, “with lots of appointments and events for the drivers. For example, the Goodwood Festival of Speed and the new Porsche Panamera’s world debut. Right after winning Le Mans Romain Dumas flew straight to the United States and went on to win the famous Pikes Peak hill climb in Colorado. At the same time, we were working flat out in Weissach to further improve the Porsche 919 Hybrid. Our target for the remaining six rounds is clear: We want to defend our titles in both the manufacturers’ and the drivers’ world championships.”

Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1

Team Principal Andreas Seidl pointed out: “Even during the intense time before and during Le Mans, the Weissach based development team was relentlessly working and finalised this year’s third aerodynamic package for high downforce. After a convincing four-day test in Barcelona, we have decided to run it at the Nürburgring. The data from the test, as well as the feedback from Romain Dumas, Marc Lieb, Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber, was promising. The majority of the modifications are covered by the bodywork, while the new look of the car’s front is obvious. We are well aware of the strong competition and ready to attack.”

In the WEC three aero configurations per season may be homologated. Porsche started the season with the first spec, the second one was for low drag on the long straights of Le Mans. For now, with narrower circuits coming up, again a higher downforce level is required.

Quotes before the race:

Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid number 1
Timo Bernhard (35, Germany): “The Ring has a special place in my heart. I’ve had a lot of beautiful moments and success there in my career. The track is challenging and, as a driver, you have to adapt your driving style to the different corner speeds and direction changes. With the LMP1 car we have a lot more downforce than with any other cars I’ve driven there, which is challenging but good fun. The 2015 event was incredible, not only because we won our first race in the WEC, but also because of the great atmosphere with the full grandstands and many fans in the paddock. After the disappointment of the first three races, I hope we can show our full potential and get a good result on home soil.”

Brendon Hartley (26, New Zealand): “I’m very much looking forward to racing again at the Nürburgring. The season has not gone to plan for our number 1 car so far, but our goal is to spray Champagne on the weekend. Nürburgring marked what was our first win together in the WEC and it’s a track that we all enjoy. We have a new downforce package for this race, which we believe will be another performance boost for Porsche. I cannot wait!”

Porsche Team: Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard (l-r)
Porsche Team: Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard (l-r)

Mark Webber (39, Australia): “I enjoy driving on the track. It’s got a lot of history and character and, with its camber changes and undulations, it’s a challenging circuit. We were quite lucky with the conditions there last year, but the weather in the Eifel mountains can often be unpredictable and change quickly. When the WEC had its debut race there last year, it was a great atmosphere with lots of fans and, of course, we had our first Porsche victory, which was very special. It’s not been the best season for us so far in terms of results, however, we’ve been in very good form with good pace and Timo, Brendon and I have been driving well. It would be nice to get a good result at Porsche’s home race.”

Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid number 2
Romain Dumas (38, France): “To race with Porsche in Germany is always very special and I’m really looking forward to the Nürburgring event. Again we want to score as many points as possible. During the first two races and in Le Mans the competition was very close. For me it is important to stay calm. We’ve got a fast car and must focus on the job. Zero mistakes are key for a good result. My teammates and myself have celebrated great victories after 24 hours at the Nürburgring, so I hope it works out after six hours as well.”

Neel Jani (32, Switzerland): “I was enjoying the hype after Le Mans a lot, but now I really feel it’s time to go racing again. Our situation in the championship looks good, but, with six six-hour races to come, everything is wide open. It is not even halftime in the season yet. In 2015 the three of us were driving well at the Nürburgring and the 919 was incredibly fast. Targets are high for 2016, but the battle is a lot tighter. I hope for a great crowd again in the Eifel. Last year it was great fun to race in front of all those fans.”

Porsche Team: Marc Lieb, Romain Dumas, Neel Jani (l-r)
Porsche Team: Marc Lieb, Romain Dumas, Neel Jani (l-r)

Marc Lieb (36, Ludwigsburg): “I am very much looking forward to my home race. The Nürburgring is one of my favourite venues, because I personally feel so connected to this track. For me a season without racing at the Ring isn’t complete. The 2015 event was a super weekend, regardless of the fact we were a little unlucky with our car and got drive-through penalties for fuel consumption. We will approach this year’s race on July 24 by bringing all the euphoria from Le Mans with us, plus a new aero package for our 919.”