On April 17th in Silverstone, at the first round of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), Porsche begins its mission to defend the title. The season’s highlight, the Le Mans 24-Hours in June, is the third round of the WEC. The Porsche 919 Hybrid, with its innovative powertrain concept, consisting of a downsizing two-litre V4 turbocharged petrol engine and two different energy recovery systems, has been significantly developed for even more efficiency. Although the 2016 regulations stipulate an eight per cent lower fuel consumption, the 919 almost equalled its lap times from the previous year at the official WEC Prologue in Le Castellet. For the six-hour race on the demanding Silverstone Formula One circuit, the prototype has got aerodynamically optimized body work for high downforce in the fast corners.
“In Silverstone our title defence begins,” said Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1. “Whatever the actual race result is, the 919 Hybrid must prove it is competitive enough to win races. This has to be our target and, after intense testing, we are confident of achieving that.”
The 260 strong Porsche Team led by Enzinger and Team Principal Andreas Seidl tackles the third consecutive season with the same driver line-up. As the reigning World Champions, Timo Bernhard (DE), Brendon Hartley (NZ) and Mark Webber (AU) have the number 1 on their car. Teammates Romain Dumas (FR), Neel Jani (CH) and Marc Lieb (DE) share the number 2 sister car.
Team Principal Andreas Seidl: “We have kept the car’s concept and thanks to this stability were able to develop the 919 in detail. Weight reduction and performance improvement from various components have made the 919 even more efficient. Suspension and aero development have meant better handling. For the first time we have a high downforce aero package in place for Silverstone circuit’s fast corners. In the previous years we had no resources to do that, because we focussed so much on Le Mans. Since the 2015 WEC finale in November we have covered almost 23,000 kilometres of testing with the 919 in different specifications. It was partly endurance and partly performance testing. Also as a team we have improved over the winter. We are ready for the new season and excited to see were we stand compared to our competition.”
Facts and figures:
– The first six-hour race of the FIA WEC starts on April 17th at 12:00 hrs local time (13:00 CEST).
– One lap at the current Silverstone circuit is 5.9 kilometres long and has 18 corners. The first track on the former Royal Air Force base was opened in 1947, and the modern lay-out is the 11th version since then.
– Last year Hartley/Webber took pole position in 1:39.721 minutes, just ahead of Dumas/Jani (1:40.340 min). In the race Bernhard/Hartley/Webber retired due to a gearbox problem. Dumas/Jani/Lieb finished in second place after 201 laps with a gap of 4.61 seconds to the winning number 7 Audi.
– For the 5.9 km long lap in Silverstone the Porsche 919 Hybrid uses 5.37 megajoule from energy recovery systems and 60 megajoule from fuel – this translates into 1.511 kilograms or 2.03 litres of petrol.
Drivers car number 1
Timo Bernhard (35, Germany): “We have had good tyre testing, good endurance running and have improved constantly. To me Silverstone stands for heritage and driving fun. There couldn’t be a better track to kick off the season. In 2014 and 2015, our car missed out on a tiny bit of luck there, which hopefully will change now. Mark has won in every race category in Silverstone, so now it’s time he also gets a win there at the wheel of a prototype. Also Brendon has a great Silverstone tally. Let’s go now.”
Brendon Hartley (26, New Zealand): “We feel well prepared and will carry forward the confidence from the end of last year. Silverstone is a track that every driver in the pit lane loves. It has a bit of everything, but most importantly it has some really quick stuff made for the brave hearted. We tested our high downforce package at the prologue and I am sure we will have big smiles through Copse, Maggots and Beckets. Last year our car took pole and Mark led for the first hour before we had an issue. This year our goal has to be to stand on the top step, but we expect a tough fight.”
Mark Webber (39, Australia): “The number one looks gorgeous on our Porsche. It is the fruits of everything we have done last year, and we will have to work incredibly hard to keep it in our team. We’re super respectful of the opposition. Silverstone is a track on which you really can let fast cars like our prototypes go. I’m expecting a good crowd again for the season’s opening round, because the British fans like sports car racing a lot.”
Drivers car number 2
Romain Dumas (38, France): “I think we have a competitive package and I hope for a good start to the season, as this is very important for all of us. If we have a nice and clean race we should have a good result. We want to win, that’s our target.“
Neel Jani (32, Switzerland): “I’m so much looking forward to Silverstone. I don’t think we’re that much faster than the competition as lap times in Le Castellet suggested, but we’re positive and do have high expectations. The fast and flowing corners are what Silverstone is famous for. Normally it rains at some point and for this the conditions we had for our test in Spa at the end of March were a good exercise.”
Marc Lieb (35, Ludwigsburg): “We’ve had good tests, are familiar with the new car and I’m looking forward to the first weekend with our new race engineer. Last winter I didn’t race at either Daytona or Sebring. This was probably the longest winter break of my career and too much for my taste. It’s really time to go racing again!”