This Friday morning Timo Bernhard (D) lapped the 20.832 kilometre (12.94 miles) Nürburgring Nordschleife race circuit in 5 minutes and 19.55 seconds. This results in an average speed of 233.8 km/h (145.3 mph) on what is revered by race drivers, engineers and enthusiasts alike as the world’s most difficult track. Driving the Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo, Bernhard beat the previous lap record, set by Stefan Bellof, by 51.58 seconds.
For 35 years and 31 days Bellof’s 6:11.13 minutes record remained uncontested. The German driver from Gießen, who tragically died at Spa-Francorchamps in 1985, counted as the biggest racing talent of his time. Stefan Bellof drove his record on May 28 in 1983 at the wheel of a powerful 620 bhp Rothmans Porsche 956 C during practice for the 1000-kilometre WEC sports car race. Also his average speed was over 200 km/h.
Proud and relieved Timo Bernhard, five-time overall winner of the Nürburgring 24-hours, two-time outright winner of the Le Mans 24-hours and reigning World Endurance Champion with the Porsche 919 Hybrid, clambered out of the tight Le Mans prototype cockpit. “This is a great moment for me and for the entire team – the 919 programme’s icing on the cake. The Evo was perfectly prepared and I have done my best on this lap. Thanks to the aerodynamic downforce, at sections I never imagined you can stay on full throttle. I’m pretty familiar with the Nordschleife.
But today I got to learn it in a new way”, said the 37-year old from Bruchmühlbach-Miesau in the German region of Saarpfalz. He is a huge admirer of Stefan Bellof. In 2015, on the thirtieth anniversary of Bellof’s fatal accident, Timo raced at the Spa-Francorchamps 6-hour race of the FIA World Endurance Championship with a helmet carrying the famous black-red-gold design of the 1980s star. “For me Stefan Bellof is and remains a giant”, he emphasises. “Today my respect for his achievement with the technology available back then increased even more.”
Today’s success is the second track record on the Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo tally: On April 9 this year in Spa, the dramatic evolution of the three-times Le Mans winner lapped faster than a Formula One car with Neel Jani at the wheel. The 34-year old Porsche works driver from Switzerland – Le Mans outright winner and Endurance World Champion of 2016 – set a lap of 1:41,770 minutes on the 7.004 kilometre (4.35 mile) Grand Prix circuit in the Belgian Ardennes mountains. He topped the previous track record, set by Lewis Hamilton in 2017 qualifying, by 0.783 seconds. The British Mercedes driver took pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix in 1:42.553 minutes.
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