With its two Le Mans prototypes, Porsche enjoyed a smooth first day of the sixth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). With ambient temperatures of up to 35 degree Celsius, the two Porsche 919 Hybrids covered 158 laps in total of the 5.513 kilometre long Circuit of The Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas.
In the first of two 90-minute free practice sessions the championship leaders Romain Dumas (FR), Neel Jani (CH) and Marc Lieb (DE) were second (1:48.500 minutes). The reigning world champions, Timo Bernhard (DE), Brendon Hartley (NZ) and Mark Webber (AU), finished fourth (1:49.248 minutes). The second practice session was held after dark. Bernhard/Hartley/Webber were third fastest (1:47.959 minutes), while the sister car of Dumas/Jani/Lieb came fourth (1:48.130 minutes).
Team Principal Andreas Seidl said: “This was a healthy first day for us. Despite the hot conditions, both 919s were running smoothly, so we were able to complete our programme as planned. Alongside various cooling options, the focus was on tyre testing. All drivers have done their mandatory five night laps. The competition looks very strong here. We will now carefully analyse our data to do the next step tomorrow.“
LMP1 qualifying will be held in daylight on Friday from 18:15-18:35 hrs local time. The six-hour race starts on Saturday at 17:00 hrs (midnight in central Europe), and the sun set will be before half time of the race at 19:32 hrs.
Quotes after Free Practice:
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid number 1
Timo Bernhard (35, Germany): “Especially in the first session, it was really hot out there and this will be about the same for the start of the race at 5pm on Saturday. It’s a balancing act to get the car’s setup right for the race, because the longest part takes place after sunset in cooler conditions.”
Brendon Hartley (26, New Zealand): “It is great to be back at COTA and in the City of Austin. Our car performed very well straight away, and we used the day to run through a long list of test items.”
Mark Webber (40, Australia): “It is nice to feel the car in a normal situation again with a lot more grip after the high altitude experience in Mexico. Driving anticlockwise is actually something that requires a little bit of familiarisation, because we sit on the left hand side of the 919 Hybrid and this makes it hard to see the apexes of turns 11 and 15, but I was tuned in quickly.“
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid number 2
Romain Dumas (38, France): “COTA is a nice and interesting track with a lot of grip. You have everything here – fast corners, slow corners, with camber and without camber. I think the 919 performs best in the fast corners between turns two and nine.“
Neel Jani (32, Switzerland): “We definitely have a good baseline with our car, now it is all about developing the details in the best possible way. If it stays as hot as it was today, the race is going to be a battle for men and machines.”
Marc Lieb (36, Ludwigsburg): “On the first day of practice, of course, the car is not a hundred per cent perfectly tuned for the track, but this isn’t an issue, as we’ll get that done. I really do enjoy fast corners like those in sector one. They are flowing in sixth gear at generally over 200 km/h – I could do with more of such sections.”