Public expectations are high ahead of the 84th running of the Le Mans 24-Hours on June 18/19: Porsche enters the world’s hardest race with the 919 Hybrid as a record holder, title defender and leader in both the manufacturers’ and drivers’ world championships. Le Mans is also the third round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). Ahead of the season’s highlight, the trio of Romain Dumas (FR), Neel Jani (CH) and Marc Lieb (DE) leads the drivers’ standings. The reigning world champions in the sister car, Timo Bernhard (DE), Brendon Hartley (NZ) and Mark Webber (AU), have been unlucky in the first two rounds (accident in Silverstone, puncture in Spa-Francorchamps) and can’t wait to catch up. At the classic on La Sarthe, the teams and drivers are rewarded with double points compared to the other eight six-hour races in the championship.
For Porsche it is the third entry in Le Mans after returning to top level motorsport. In 2015, at only the second try, Porsche managed a one-two result. The 919, with its ground-breaking downsizing two-litre V4 turbocharged petrol engine and its two energy recovery systems (brake and exhaust energy), has been significantly developed. It produces a system power of 662 kW (900 HP) and hits the Le Mans roads with an aerodynamic configuration for low drag. On the long straights the 919 frequently reaches top speeds above 320 km/h.
The six works drivers have between them participated in the Le Mans race a total of 49 times. Bernhard/Hartley/Webber finished second last year and now drive the futuristic prototype with the number 1. Dumas/Jani/Lieb came fifth in 2015 and share the number 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid. Last year’s winning car was in the hands of Earl Bamber (NZ), Nico Hülkenberg (DE) and Nick Tandy (GB).
Quotes before the race:
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1: “Coming back to Le Mans for the pre-test was emotional for the entire team. Winning in Le Mans doesn’t compare to anything else, because it is so incredibly hard. The fact we made it in 2015, in only our second attempt, puts us in the role of an odds-on favourite. We have to make sure this doesn’t drive us crazy. By no means is 2016 going to become any easier, as the opposite is the case. Porsche set new technology benchmarks when returning to the top category with the most advanced prototype on the grid. The competition has reacted and that’s why we now all have a 24-hour race ahead of us which might become the closest in history.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: “The race team and the staff back in Weissach did a super job in development, as well as during testing and preparation. Le Mans especially is a steep learning curve. In 2014 the race came much too early for our freshly assembled team. Still we got further than anyone could have expected and then learnt how bitter a retirement shortly before the finish can taste. In 2015 we managed three cars, got them one-two-three on the grid, brought them all home and celebrated a one-two result. Le Mans 2016 is our 19th race as a team. This isn’t a lot. Technically and operationally we are better prepared than ever. But we know about the challenge to survive the race week, and especially the race itself, with no technical problems and no incidents on track. We have the utmost respect for that. We feel ready.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid car number 1:
Timo Bernhard (35, Germany):
(9 races: overall victory 2010, overall second 2015, class victory GT 2002)
“I’m really excited for the race! Le Mans is one of the biggest races in the world with a great history. The track is also really special – the mix of public country roads and the permanent racetrack is unique. For Le Mans you must try to stay calm, be perfectly prepared physically and mentally to start the race full of energy. After many hours in the car you still have to be able to make the right decisions when going at 250 km/h through the Porsche curves. I know that our Porsche 919 Hybrid is quick and we’ve got a strong team behind us.”
Brendon Hartley (26, New Zealand):
(4 races: overall second 2015)
“When I drove in Le Mans for the first time in 2012, I immediately fell in love with this race. The first night racing experience is something I will never forget. This tunnel vision and warp speed type feeling – I loved this sensation. Plus the circuit itself, with its unique features such as crowns in the roads and massive straight-line speeds. The Porsche curves, in my opinion, is one of the best high speed sections on any track in the world. There is so much passion for this endurance race. The special atmosphere starts with scrutineering one week before the race. At the Friday parade through the streets of Le Mans you really feel that you’re part of the history, in which Porsche plays a big role. Entering Le Mans with this brand is a dream.”
Mark Webber (39, Australia):
(4 participations: overall second in 2015, not racing in 1998 and 1999)
“The race is another incredible opportunity for us – for Timo, Brendon, myself and Porsche – to achieve something special. We have been very close in 2014, until the retirement, and came second in 2015. We have one step to go and would love to win together. First we have to make our way through the 24 hours. We are open to the fact that it is not a race that is easy to execute in terms of operation, as well as traffic, backmarkers and the weather. We have huge respect, but feel ready. We’re not overconfident, but we could not have done any more work to prepare for the race. We have as good a chance as anyone to fight for the win. During the week before the race it is very important to have a good routine, get some sleep when you can and watch the energy level of your own batteries.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid car number 2:
Romain Dumas (35, France):
(15 races: overall victory 2010, 3rd place overall 2007, 5th place overall 2015, class victory GTE 2013)
“For me Le Mans is the race of the year and, especially when you’re French, it’s the biggest sports event of the year. There are a quarter of a million spectators just at the racetrack and a lot of them have a special interest in the French drivers. It would be a dream come true to win this race with Porsche. I think we are well prepared to achieve this goal again with our 919. We’ve got a great car, team and crew and I feel very good.”
Neel Jani (32, Switzerland):
(7 races: qualifying record lap and 5th place overall 2015)
“We have had a great preparation and did a lot of testing in advance of the event. All the drivers have had a lot of seat time in the car and the Porsche 919 Hybrid is as well prepared as possible. I have personally prepared like I did in the previous years, attaching particular importance to endurance and the neck, because you have a lot more time at the wheel compared to the other WEC races. I have a good routine that worked well in the previous years. Le Mans is the biggest event of the year for the team and for me. Everyone’s tension is particularly high when the crown jewels of endurance racing are at stake once a year. Due to the 2016 regulations, we have less fuel and, therefore, power, but we have increased the cornering speeds. The engineers have done a great job.”
Marc Lieb (35, Germany):
(10 races: 5th place overall 2015, class victories GTE 2013, GT2 2010, GT 2005)
“For me Le Mans is the biggest race ever. I was born in Stuttgart and grew up in Zuffenhausen, practically next door to Porsche. When I was a five-year old I was a big fan of the Group C cars, which were racing in Le Mans and in the then world championship. I always found these race cars a lot more attractive than Formula One cars. It was a dream to compete once in Le Mans in the highest category for overall victory. The fact I can do this now for the third time means a lot to me. I cannot put into words how much I’m looking forward to the race. We had a good pre-test and are better prepared in every regard than ever before. This also goes for the driveability of the car and this perhaps can be the most important factor for a 24-hour race.”
Facts and figures:
• With 17 overall victories, Porsche is the record holder at Le Mans.
• The first overall victory for Porsche dates back to June 14, 1970 (Hans Herrmann/Richard Attwood in a 917 KH Coupé). The 17th overall victory Porsche celebrated in 2015 (Earl Bamber/Nico Hülkenberg/Nick Tandy, 919 Hybrid).
• After a 16-year long break, in 2014 Porsche returned to the top category in Le Mans.
• Since 2015 Neel Jani has held the qualifying lap record on the current track lay-out. Shortly after 10:00 pm on Wednesday he achieved a lap time of 3:16.887 minutes with his 919 Hybrid. Average speed was 249.2 km/h. The previous qualifying record for the 13.629 km track had lasted seven years (Peugeot, 3:18.513 mins, 2008).
• The fastest qualifying lap ever was driven by Hans-Joachim Stuck in 1985 in a Porsche 962 C in 3:14.800 minutes (average speed 251.815 km/h). Since 1990 chicanes have been installed to break up the long Mulsanne straight. On the current track a lap time of under 3:14.843 minutes would be necessary to break Stuck’s record.
• In 2015 the Porsche 919 Hybrids qualified one-two-three. It was the 17th pole position for Porsche in Le Mans and the first one since 1997.
• In 2015 Porsche achieved a one-two-three result in qualifying for the ninth time at Le Mans. Prior to this, the last time it had happened was in 1988.
• Second on the grid behind Jani was Bernhard in 2015. He also achieved his personal best time (3:17.767 mins) on Wednesday night. In the third 919, which went on to win the race, Nick Tandy (GB) improved on Thursday to 3:18.862 minutes for P3.
• The fastest overall lap time, during what have so far been 83 events, was set by Jackie Oliver at the test day in 1971. Back then the track length was 13.469 km and he did a 3:13.6 minutes (average speed 250.457 km/h) in his Porsche 917. In the same year he achieved the fastest race lap in 3:18.4 minutes (average speed 244.387 km/h).
• The longest race distance was covered by Timo Bernhard/Romain Dumas/Mike Rockenfeller in 2010 in their overall victory for Audi, a total of 5,410.713 km (397 laps, average speed 225.228 km/h).
• The race distance covered by the winning Porsche 919 Hybrid in 2015 was 5,382.82 km (395 laps, average speed 224.2 km/h).
• During the journey, the gearbox experienced 25,293 shifts (up and downshifting).
• The highest top speed with a 919 in the 2015 race was done by Mark Webber – 340.2 km/h on Saturday at 4:40 pm.
• It was also Webber who lost the most body weight of all six drivers. At the beginning of the race he tipped the scales at 81.2 kg (including overalls and helmet). After his final stint his weight was 78.2 kg.
• For the slowest part, Arnage, the drivers decelerate to around 70 km/h.
• 2016 will see 60 cars on the grid – as many as back in the 1950ies.
• In qualifying (Wednesday and Thursday until midnight), all 180 drivers must run at least five laps in the dark.
• While the WEC rules call for averaging the fastest laps of two drivers, the classic Le Mans method is to simply take the fastest lap driven with the car.
• The 2016 Le Mans night is three minutes shorter than last year and almost the shortest of the year: the sun sets on Saturday at 10:02 pm, and it rises again on Sunday at 5:59 am.
• In normal racing mode (without any safety car periods), the Porsche 919 Hybrid must refuel every 14 laps.
• In 2015 each 919 Hybrid was refuelled 30 times.
• Refuelling and wheel changing may only be made sequentially, not at the same time. Only four mechanics may work simultaneously when wheel changing, using one wheel gun only. That takes a lot longer than, for example, in Formula One.
• Drivers are normally only changed when new tyres are needed.
• Three fuel tank fills with one set of Michelin tyres are the minimum. In 2015 the longest driving time with one set of tyres was a quadruple stint at night (54 laps per car and driver).
• During the race, each driver must get behind the wheel for a minimum of six hours in total. No driver may drive for more than four hours within a six-hour period. No driver may drive for more than 14 of the 24 hours.
• Due to the length of the circuit, there are three safety cars at Le Mans.
• The equipment taken to the track includes a spare chassis, four combustion engines, four front gearboxes, four rear gearboxes, six front wings and six rear wings, 60 rims and over 100 radios and headsets.
• The amount of electrical energy that a driver can use for what is known as boosting is limited. The Porsche 919 Hybrid may consume exactly 2.22 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity on each 13.629 km long lap. If the car would be a power plant, the re-generated energy from the 24-Hours would run a standard German family house for three months.
• The Porsche 919 Hybrid has a power system that produces around 662 kW (900 HP). Almost 368 kW (500 HP) come from the two-litre V4 turbo petrol engine, while the e-machine, fed by the recovery systems, delivers more than 294 kW (400 HP).
• For 2016 the regulations stipulate a reduction in fuel consumption and fuel flow, which means for the 919 around 9.5 per cent less fuel per lap compared to Le Mans 2015.
• Due to the aerodynamic downforce, and, therefore, the increased load on the wheels, the contact patch of the Michelin tyres can even double. Normally they have a width of 310 mm.
• These different types of tyres can be used: three different compounds of slick tyres for dry conditions, a hybrid tyre (no profile either but softer cover) for mixed conditions and two types of wets for heavy or extreme rain.
• 9.2 km of the 13.6 km long circuit consist of what are normally public roads.
• All in all, there is even more than honour and glory to be won at Le Mans: twice as many points are awarded than in the other eight races for the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) that are each six hours long.
• In the WEC standings, the Porsche team leads with 56 points ahead of Toyota (43) and Audi (41).
• In the drivers’ world championship Dumas/Jani/Lieb are leading with 43 points each. Bernhard/Hartley/Webber rank 14th with 1.5 points each.
• The Porsche 919 Hybrid was designed and built at the Development Centre of Porsche AG in Weissach. 260 team members work there.
• In 2015 the organisers, the ACO (Automobile Club de l’Ouest), announced 263,500 spectators on site. 1,425 journalists (print, photo, TV, online) from 42 countries were accredited. The race was partly or entirely broadcasted in 190 countries. 2.5 million live connections for Web TV were registered.
Schedule for the Porsche Team (LMP1):
The technical inspection of the 60 racing cars, which are subdivided into four classes, begins on the Sunday before the race, June 12, at the Place de la République. It is a public event in the middle of the city. The scrutineers examine the cars, and the 180 drivers must present their paperwork. The Porsche LMP1 team is scheduled for this inspection on Sunday from 2:20 pm onwards. The last teams will complete this technical part of the administration by Monday evening.
Tuesday, June 14:
2:00-3:00 pm Porsche Team photograph on start/finish
5:00-6:30 pm Autograph session in the pit lane
Wednesday, June 15:
1:30-2:00 pm “Meet the Team” for media in the Team and Media Hospitality
4:00-8:00 pm Free practice
10:00 pm-midnight Qualifying
Thursday, June 16:
3:30-4:00 pm “Meet the Team” for media in the Team and Media Hospitality
7:00-9:00 pm Qualifying
10:00 pm-midnight Qualifying
Friday, June 17:
10:00 am – 8:00 pm Pit walk
1:00-1:30 pm Porsche press conference in the Porsche Experience Center
1:30-2:00 pm “Meet the Team” in the Porsche Experience Center
5:30-7:30 pm Driver parade in the downtown area
Saturday, June 18:
09:00-09:45 am Warm-up
2:22 pm Beginning of race start ceremony
3:00 pm Start of race