On the first day of practice for the seventh out of nine rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) Mark Webber set the fastest lap of the day with the Porsche 919 Hybrid. The Australian lapped the 4.549 kilometre long Fuji International Speedway during a qualifying simulation on Friday afternoon in 1:24.074 minutes. In constantly dry conditions and with ambient temperatures around 20 degrees Celsius, he and his teammates Brendon Hartley (NZ) and Timo Bernhard (DE) covered 95 laps in total today. In the first session the reigning world champions were sixth (1:26.097 minutes).
The trio of Romain Dumas (FR), Neel Jani (CH) and Marc Lieb (DE) lost nearly an hour of track time for repairs during the first of two 90-minute practice sessions, and clocked up 64 laps. On the installation lap in the morning an oil leak occurred and the gearbox for the front axle’s electro motor needed to be changed. The championship leaders came fourth in both sessions (1:25.962/1:25.078 minutes).
Team Principal Andreas Seidl said: “Thanks to the mechanics for the extremely quick gearbox change in the morning. We were still able to almost complete our planned programme in the two free practice sessions. Aside from the baseline set-up, the focus was on long runs for tyre evaluation and testing aerodynamic configurations. We have managed to constantly improve both 919 Hybrids. As expected, all six LMP1 cars are very close together, so we look forward to another exciting race weekend. Now we’ll analyse our data and hope to make the next step tomorrow.”
LMP1 qualifying will be held on Saturday from 14:30-14:50 hrs local time. The six-hour race starts on Sunday at 11:00 hrs (04:00 hrs in central Europe).
Quotes after Free Practice:
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid number 1
Timo Bernhard (35, Germany): “For us everything went smoothly today. I didn’t do much mileage, but nevertheless I always enjoy driving here on the Speedway because as it is a nice and technical circuit.”
Brendon Hartley (26, New Zealand): “Mark did a great job in his qualifying simulation to top the time sheets. I did a full stint and more actually, so we put a lot of laps on one set of tyres. Our performance looked competitive and I think it was a positive day for us.”
Mark Webber (40, Australia): “Today there were beautiful dry conditions for all of us. The competition looks really tight with Toyota and Audi. In the afternoon I did a qualifying simulation and it went okay for me. It was a pretty competitive lap time, but on the long runs it also looks really tight. We expect more homework for tomorrow and a brilliant fight for qualifying.“
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid number 2
Romain Dumas (38, France): “I had my first run in the afternoon and the car was good right from the beginning. My first lap was already a one minute 26 seconds. Afterwards we kept the used tyres for a long run. It doesn’t look too bad for day one.“
Neel Jani (32, Switzerland): “Of course we are lacking the track time we missed in the morning. We could not entirely complete our programme as planned, but we will try to catch up. I think tomorrow we will be sorted.”
Marc Lieb (36, Ludwigsburg): “It wasn’t too easy today, because of the lost time in the first session. In the second session we tried something and it is leading in the right direction. Our car is strong in the last sector, and the cornering speeds are alright. On the very long straight we are not quite as fast as we would like to be, and we want to improve the car’s balance. A variety of radiuses require some sensible work.”