For the Porsche LMP Team the first day of the FIA World Endurance Championship’s penultimate round in Shanghai went according to plan: tyre comparison, set-up work and qualifying simulation were ticked off. So far the Porsche 919 Hybrids appeared stronger on longer runs than on a single fast lap. Porsche, as well as this year’s Le Mans winners, Earl Bamber (NZ), Timo Bernhard (DE) and Brendon Hartley (NZ), have a chance to take an early win of the world championship in Sunday’s six-hour race.
Because of a radio communication problem between race control and the marshals and medical staff around the track, the first 90-minute practice session was postponed by 90 minutes to start at 12:30 hrs. The Porsche trio of Neel Jani (CH), André Lotterer (DE) and Nick Tandy (GB) came second (1:47.414 minutes) ahead of Bamber/Bernhard/Hartley (1:47.637 minutes). The second practice session got underway as planned at 15:30 hrs, leaving the teams very little time for analyses and preparation work. In the second session Bamber/Bernhard/Hartley finished third (1:45.269 minutes) and Jani/Lotterer/Tandy were fourth (1:45.616 minutes). The day’s best lap times were set by Toyota.
Both sessions ran on a dry track with ambient temperatures between 17 to 19 degrees Celsius. It became cloudy with gusty winds during the afternoon.
The penultimate WEC round in Shanghai could see the world championship being decided. Independently from Toyota’s results, the scenarios are: If a 919 Hybrid wins the race, Porsche becomes the Manufacturers’ World Champion for a third consecutive time. If Bamber/Bernhard/Hartley finish the race no lower than in third position, they are the new Driver World Champions.
Next on the programme for the Le Mans prototypes is qualifying on Saturday from 14:30 to 14:50 hrs local time. The six-hour race on Sunday will start at 11:00 hrs local time.
The Porsche LMP Team after practice
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: “It was a very normal Friday for us. We completed our programme with both cars. Aside from testing different car set-ups and tyre compounds we did a qualifying simulation early in FP2. We gathered lots of data and in terms of pace we want to make a step forward tomorrow.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid car number 1:
Neel Jani (33, Switzerland): “At the end of FP2 at 5pm it was pretty dark, so this will be the same for the final stages of the race. I have been simulating a race-stint and did a tyre comparison. It was interesting but not easy. Clever racing is required here because there is lots of rubber off line you can pick up. Even if the traffic should be less of a problem because of the track length, it is still easy to significantly lose time. At the end of the long straights the LMP2 cars are actually quicker than us. To handle these situations in the race might be tricky.”
André Lotterer (35, Germany): “Time was pretty tight between the two sessions. Therefore our qualifying simulation felt a bit like a jump-start. But we have tried various tyres und will now continue race preparations.”
Nick Tandy (32, Great Britain): “It was good to have some dry running again after all the wet sessions of Fuji and it is always enjoyable to feel the 919 in high downforce and high grip conditions.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid car number 2
Earl Bamber (27, New Zealand): “Friday has been good. It was nice for me to do the first session and the car was good on the longer runs. Toyota was definitely faster in the qualifying simulation, so we’ve got a little bit of work to do, but I’m sure we can still challenge for pole.”
Timo Bernhard (36, Germany): “Today was quite an intense working day. The competition is pretty close. We still have some work to do, but we will manage that. Off line on the track there is a lot of rubber that you don’t want to pick up. So you have to manage traffic with care.”
Brendon Hartley (27, New Zealand): “It is nice to be back in the 919 and it is going pretty smooth so far. But it is only free practice and the competition looks strong.”