FIA World Endurance Championship WEC, LMP1, Round 8, Shanghai (China), Preview
On November 6 the FIA World Endurance Championship is having its eighth and, at the same time, penultimate round of the 2016 season. One year ago in Shanghai Porsche celebrated an early win in the manufacturers’ world championship. Nothing less than the defence of this title is the target for this year’s six-hour race at the Chinese Formula One circuit. So far this season the Porsche Team has achieved five race wins with its two 919 Hybrids and leads the manufacturers’ world championship with 263 points ahead of Audi (204) and Toyota (174). With the current advantage being 59 points, the team could start partying if the gap was at least 44 points after six hours of racing.
Porsche very much regrets the loss of Audi as a great competitor from the 2017 WEC season on. Porsche will compete in the entire 2017 WEC season as planned. So far Porsche has derived a huge benefit in terms of knowledge and innovations for production cars from the LMP1 programme – this applies in particular to the 24-hour race at Le Mans.
To be too relaxed in this year`s fight for the championship would be wrong, warned Fritz Enzinger. The Vice President LMP1 points to last year’s experience: “At the final race in Bahrain in 2015, it was the drivers’ title that seemed fairly easy to get. We had a dominant car and needed no more than P4 for the trophy. But this title win was a nerve-wracking thriller, and we finished P5 because we had technical issues. Back then it only worked out because the sister car successfully fought for the race win. The lesson is: in a six-hour race everything can happen – be it in the first corner after the start or in the final minutes, like this year in Le Mans. The key challenge is always to complete the distance with no problems.”
Team Principal Andreas Seidl analysed: “The circuit layout in Shanghai tends to suit the 919’s characteristics better than that of the Fuji Speedway where we were most recently. But a huge amount of factors matter and in the two recent races we have seen that the competition is at least on the same level as us. In Austin, as well as in Fuji, we had problems with our number 2 car, because the front picked up a lot of tyre rubber from the track, and that disturbed the car’s balance until we changed the front bodywork. In Shanghai we want to fight for top positions again with our proven, very reliable 919 Hybrid and another error free team effort.”
In the drivers’ world championship, the trio of Romain Dumas (FR), Neel Jani (CH) and Marc Lieb (DE) top the standings with 140 points ahead of the best-placed Toyota (117) and Audi drivers (111.5). To secure an early title win, Dumas/Jani/Lieb would have to extend their current 23-point advantage in Shanghai to 26 points. The crew of the sister Porsche, Timo Bernhard (DE), Brendon Hartley (NZ) and Mark Webber (AU), has 93.5 points to its tally and ranks fourth.
The Weissach developed Porsche 919 Hybrid produces a system power of over 900 HP (662 kW). Its combustion engine is a ground breaking downsizing motor: the very compact two-litre V4 turbocharged petrol engine drives the rear axle with almost 500 HP (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 HP (294 kW).
Quotes before the race:
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid number 1
Timo Bernhard (35, Germany): “The Shanghai circuit isn’t an easy one to drive, but I quite like racing there. Just the first corner doesn’t really float my boat: this snail-like right-hander seems endless. It is getting tighter all the time and it is slow. After that, the lap features very different cornering speeds. There are some mid-speed corners and a few corner combinations especially for which you have to position the car precisely.”
Brendon Hartley (26, New Zealand): “After coming close but not taking victory at the most recent race in Fuji, it’s now extremely unlikely our number 1 car crew will get a chance to defend the drivers’ championship title. However, we can do our bit to secure the manufacturers’ championship title for Porsche and, therefore, we will fight for more victories. The Shanghai circuit should suit our 919 Hybrid.”
Mark Webber (40, Australia): “After the epic battle in Fuji with our rivals, I’m really looking forward to getting to Shanghai where I’m expecting more of the same. I believe that the Porsche 919 will suit Shanghai’s layout very well, and it’s a track that Timo, Brendon and I really enjoy driving at. Clearly the goal for the weekend is to stand on the middle step of the podium, but, as we’ve seen in the last four or five events, you have to have everything lined up perfectly for that six hour window. This is something we’re more than capable of doing.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid number 2
Romain Dumas (38, France): “In Shanghai we have to do everything we can to return to the good shape we used to have. Since the Le Mans 24-Hours we have been struggling, but for a reason we have yet to identify. For sure, finishing fourth or fifth does not represent our capabilities. We have to get back to our original strengths.”
Neel Jani (32, Switzerland): “So far we have always done well with the 919 in Shanghai, and I expect us to be up front there again. But it is going to be tough. The target is clear: for the drivers’ championship we have to finish the race ahead of our direct competition, namely the number 6 Toyota and the number 8 Audi. But both will be strong. The classic philosophy of endurance racing has long gone. The level in the WEC is extremely high, and it is sprint racing from the first until the last lap. After six hours of racing, only seconds decide on winning or losing. Our situation in the points is good, but we have to exploit our full potential in every single stint.”
Marc Lieb (36, Germany): “The last four races were not good. For the crucial period of the championship we want to pull ourselves out of this low and recall in Shanghai the performance that is expected from us, and that meets our own standards. Excitement is guaranteed.”