Success, defeat, moments – personal insights
The six works drivers of the Porsche LMP Team have a tally of 37 entries between them in what is arguably the biggest car race in the world. Five of them have even taken overall victory. But it’s not only moments of glory that come in to their minds when they are reflecting on this gruelling marathon prior to their next appearance on June 17/18.
In the quiet before the storm, the drivers offer personal views into their relationship with regards the endurance classic. The reigning world champion Neel Jani (CH) in 2017 shares the Porsche 919 Hybrid car number 1 with André Lotterer (DE) and Nick Tandy (GB). At the wheel of the sister car number 2 are Earl Bamber (NZ), Timo Bernhard (DE) and Brendon Hartley (NZ).
Earl Bamber: Zombie in the pit lane
“Le Mans 2015 was a whirlwind experience from the very start. It began when I was offered a test in the 919 just before Christmas in 2014 having just become a Porsche ‘factory’ driver. Having come from Porsche SuperCup and Carrera Cup, it was a massive and unexpected opportunity to drive an LMP Hybrid – I could never have imagined getting such an opportunity and it was very humbling that Porsche was putting its trust in me to make such a huge step. At my first simulator appointment in Weissach, our race engineer Kyle Wilson-Clarke asked what familiarity I had of driving a hybrid sports-prototype. I replied: ‘Mate I have no experience whatsoever, I’m used to driving a Porsche Cup car with two buttons on the steering wheel!’ But the test went well and connecting via Orlando on the way home, I got a ‘phone call from Porsche: ‘Get your diary out, we need to make an appointment – you’re driving at Le Mans in June.’ The pen dropped out of my hand.
“At Le Mans in 2015, our 919 had been pretty quick in practice and qualifying. Nico (Hülkenberg), Nick (Tandy) and myself all agreed that if we drove as fast as we were each comfortable with and avoided any collisions, we could get a podium finish. We were ticking the laps off, winding the clock down and not worrying too much about our position. But by the early hours on Sunday morning we were leading. In some respect, no one had really taken much notice of our car but that was when the pressure began. The reality of potentially winning the biggest race on the planet had not dawned on any of us. Once Nico took the chequered flag, everything just went crazy. I walked around the pit lane outside our ‘box like a zombie – I couldn’t comprehend what had just happened and didn’t know what to do or where to go. These were very special moments which came flooding back to me when I arrived in the Le Mans paddock last year. I had started out in karts in New Zealand coincidently back in 1998 – the year Porsche had last won at Le Mans before Nico, Nick and I did.”