The coming weekend, April 14 to 16, sees the Porsche LMP Team start the first out of nine rounds of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship. The six-hour race at Britain’s famous Silverstone Circuit will be the first duel between the reworked Porsche 919 hybrid and the latest Toyota TS050 Hybrid. Porsche, world champions and Le Mans winners in 2015 and 2016 respectively, targets the defence of both titles. But in England the team expects a difficult start. In support of the aerodynamic strategy for the entire season, the Porsche 919 Hybrids will run at the circuit with significantly less downforce than the fast bends of the challenging Grand Prix track realistically demand.
The eagerly anticipated first race for the 27-car field gets underway on Sunday at 12:00 hrs. Track action on the 5.9 kilometre long Formula One circuit can be followed live from basically all over the world.
The Porsche 919 Hybrid has been widely reworked for the 2017 championship. 60 to 70 per cent of the Le Mans prototype’s components are new developments. This goes especially for the areas of aerodynamics, chassis and combustion engine. However, the power train in principle remains the same. The innovative hybrid race car develops a system power of around 900 HP (662 kW) that comes from a compact two-litre turbo charged V4-cylinder (nearly 500 PS/368 kW) and two different energy recovery systems – brake energy from the front axle combined with exhaust energy. The combustion engine drives the rear axle while the electro motor boosts the front axle with an output of more than 400 PS (294 kW). The electrical energy that comes from the front brakes and the exhaust system is temporarily stored in a liquid-cooled lithium ion battery.
The newly assembled line-up of the Porsche LMP1 works drivers feel well-rehearsed after winter testing and the WEC Prologue in Monza (IT). Reigning world champion Neel Jani (CH) has the number 1 on the car he shares with Nick Tandy (GB) and Porsche newcomer André Lotterer (DE). The number 2 sister car belongs to the two New Zealanders, Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley, together with Timo Bernhard (DE).
The Porsche LMP Team before the season’s opening race
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1: “The team has done an amazing job during the recent weeks and months. Now it’s time to finally go racing. The Prologue has proven that we can expect a very tough fight with Toyota. Silverstone is going to be a six-hour sprint race.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: “With regards to reliability, we have been fine at our 30-hour test in Paul Ricard as well as at the Prologue in Monza. We feel well prepared for the first six-hour race. However, with regards to lap-times, Silverstone is going to be difficult. In the name of cost saving, the 2017 regulations permit only two aero kits per season. We have managed our resources the way that we focus on developing and testing our Le Mans aerodynamics until the third race of the season is over. This means low downforce for the benefit of low drag and this unavoidably will be a disadvantage in Silverstone. After the Le Mans 24 Hours in June we will consequently arm the 919 with more downforce for the remaining championship rounds. Another new challenge that is addressed by the rules is the reduced amount of tyres. Two fuel tank fillings – in other words about 90 minutes racing – with the same set of slick tyres will be standard. This requires very sensible tyre management.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid car number 1:
Neel Jani (33, Switzerland): “Last year we only won the opening round in the aftermath of scrutineering, but it was the beginning of an incredible season. Historically, Silverstone isn’t our strongest circuit and I don’t see us being the favourites this year either – especially as we are aerodynamically compromised. But still we want as many points as possible.”
André Lotterer (35, Germany): “I competed in the British Formula 3 Championship in 2001 and lived in Milton Keynes which is not far away from Silverstone. I also did some Formula One testing there and more recently won in the WEC. It is a cool circuit. Especially the fast, first half of the lap with the Copse, Maggots, Chapel and Stowe corners which have a great flow. We will, however, lack some downforce and that will present an extra challenge. The British round is also very important for the WEC because there is such huge interest.”
Nick Tandy (32, Great Britain): “Silverstone is extra special for me. Number one, it is the start of the season, so everyone is excited. Number two, Silverstone is a track I love to drive on and number three, it is my home race. I live only 30 miles away. My father, who doesn’t travel much, will come for this race plus many friends as well. Hopefully we’ll have a good celebration on Easter Sunday and then an enjoyable day off on Monday.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid car number 2
Earl Bamber (26, New Zealand): “I think we can expect a very tight fight with Toyota this year. It was close in Monza but Silverstone is a very different circuit layout so we must get on track with our Le Mans aero kit and see where we are. I have raced only once in Silverstone. This was in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup and I finished on the podium. It was an amazing fight and so I have great memories of that circuit.“
Timo Bernhard (36, Germany): “Porsche and Toyota operate on the same top level. Small advantages for one or the other can vary from track to track with the respective aerodynamic strategies playing an important role. It will be very interesting to see how this turns out in Silverstone. The British fans are the best in the world – very enthusiastic and always unbelievably well informed. The last two years, unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to drive the car in the race. For 2017, I hope for a clean start to the season to build a strong foundation for the championship.”
Brendon Hartley (27, New Zealand): “I cannot wait to get the season started in Silverstone. Technically we had a great test in Monza and as a car crew, we feel ready for the fight. Earl has integrated well and also showed awesome performance in Monza. In Silverstone, we may see a different picture in terms of competition in the LMP1 category. We will see how strong Toyota are.”
Schedule (local time):
Friday, April 14 2017
11:45-13:15 free practice
16:45-18:15 free practice
Saturday, April 15 2017
09:40-10:40 free practice
13:30-13:50 qualifying LMP1 & LMP2
Sunday, April 16 2017