New line-up for Spa: Porsche Team with three 919 Hybrids for the first time
New Zealand. The Porsche Team is looking forward to having its first three-car line-up, as it has entered a third 919 Hybrid prototype for the second round of this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) on May, 2 in Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium). The third car will be raced by Formula One driver Nico Hülkenberg (Germany), Earl Bamber (New Zealand) and Nick Tandy (Great Britain). Driving car No 19, the crew will take advantage of the 6-hour race to prepare for the Le Mans 24 hours in June. Porsche’s two regular WEC driver line-ups will be in the cockpits of the other LMP1 hybrid prototypes: Timo Bernhard (Germany), Brendon Hartley (New Zealand) and Mark Webber (Australia) in car No 17 and Romain Dumas (France), Neel Jani (Switzerland) and Marc Lieb (Germany) in the No 18 Porsche 919 Hybrid.
Each of the three cars’ starting numbers has a certain meaning for Porsche: No 17 pays tribute to the Porsche 917 KH ("Kurzheck” translates into short-tail) that bagged the first of what are now a total of 16 overall victories for the brand in Le Mans in 1970. The No 18 is a symbol of the close technical relationship between the Porsche 919 Hybrid racing car and the Porsche 918 Spyder super sports car, which is also equipped with a hybrid drive. No 19 is a bridge to the 919 Hybrid that marked Porsche’s return to prototype racing last year. In Spa all three Porsche 919 Hybrids will compete with the usual white livery. The different colours that were shown at this year’s team presentation will be seen exclusively at Le Mans.
Racing a third hybrid prototype is a serious operational challenge for the young Weissach-based team. It underlines Porsche’s commitment to the future and the high-level of competition in the WEC. The revolutionary WEC regulations, introduced for the 2014 season, demand powerful and innovative hybrid systems, which was the decisive factor in Porsche’s return. The second generation of the Porsche 919 Hybrid has become even more efficient and stronger. Intense development work on the three-part powertrain has allowed Porsche to enter the highest energy recovery class of 8-megajoule for the very first time. No other race car turns over so much energy as the Porsche 919 Hybrid – that includes both Formula One cars and other car manufacturers’ Le Mans prototypes. The art of engineering to bring out hybrid systems with an extreme turnover of energy is of the highest relevance to electrified road cars such as Porsche’s range of plug-in-hybrid models.
Quotes before the race:
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1: “The speed of the second generation of the 919 Hybrid was convincing at the season’s opening race at Silverstone. This doesn’t go only for qualifying, but also on the long runs progress was visible and allowed us to keep in the lead with a one-two for one and a half hours. The third 919 Hybrid for Spa is an entirely newly built car for Earl, Nick and Nico. Handling three such complex cars and nine drivers will be challenging for the crew around Team Principal Andreas Seidl. All three 919s will compete in the same aero configuration, which is the same one we raced in Silverstone. Regarding the demands of the hybrid management in the 8-megajoule class, we are constantly learning. Generally speaking, Spa’s track layout should favour our car.”
For the crews of car numbers 17 and 18, who compete in the entire WEC season, championship points scoring is the target for Spa. The crew of car number 19 has a different task: After comprehensive testing, they now have to get used to all the racing procedures, will experience the excitement of their LMP1 race debut and get ready for Le Mans, the season’s highlight.
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid number 17
Timo Bernhard (34, Germany): “For two reasons Spa is going to be a special race for me. First of all it is not far from my hometown of Bruchmühlbach-Miesau, so we can expect many German fans. And secondly I will be racing with a special helmet in Spa in memory to Stefan Bellof, who died there 30 years ago. I am doing this because I have a lot of respect for him and I like to remind everyone about his exceptional abilities as a racing driver. Talking about the event, in Spa the track is always the star. The layout of this circuit, that has been embedded naturally into the landscape, hasn’t changed a lot. It has become much safer, but its character has remained untouched. It is a difficult track and requires precise set-up work. It is a place where good team work can make all the difference.”
Brendon Hartley (25, New Zealand): “I will never forget how amazed I was when I came to Europe and saw the Spa circuit for the first time. I think it is a track every driver gets excited about. Corners like Eau Rouge are unique and fantastic. Spa should favour our car a lot more than Silverstone, and I can’t wait to race there.“
Mark Webber (38, Australia): “Spa is one of my favourite tracks. It’s one of the classics on the calendar with a lot of character, and it’s a real thrill to drive there because it’s very fast and you can really let the 919 hybrid have its legs The weather always plays a factor around there, as you could have it raining at one end of the track and dry at the other, as it’s such a long lap. Eau Rouge is one of the most famous corners in the world and it’s much steeper than it appears on TV. Silverstone didn’t turn out the way we would have liked, but we have a lot of good potential and want to get a good result in Spa.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid number 19
Earl Bamber (24, New Zealand): “From last year I have very fond memories of Spa. It was great fun to win the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup race there from pole position. I love this circuit, as it is a spectacular place. I am so looking forward to taking the 919 through Eau Rouge and, anyway, I can’t wait to race that car. When the Silverstone race was on I was glued to the screen. It was one of the best races I have ever seen. It was like a six-hour Supercup race. I enjoyed working with Nico and Nick in testing and now I’m really looking forward to racing with our car crew for the first time.”
Nico Hülkenberg (27, Germany): “I am totally excited about what the coming weeks and the Spa weekend will bring. Of course I know the Grand Prix circuit pretty well and have raced there many times. But endurance racing is completely new to me and I’m really thrilled about seeing how everything will develop. I approach these challenges with an open mind, I want to have my experiences and, of course, I want to do a good job for Porsche and for myself. Being a high-speed track with long straights, Spa should suit our 919 Hybrid. To begin with it would be nice to have dry conditions, but in the Ardennes you never know and have to be prepared for everything.”
Nick Tandy (30, Great Britain): “I have raced many times in Spa. In single seaters, in the Porsche Supercup and when we won with Porsche in the GT Open back in 2012. Spa is one of the best circuits and it will be very exciting to have my first race in the 919 there. I feel as prepared for that as I can be. However, we don’t have huge expectations. Our job is to tick the boxes off and get ready for Le Mans.”
Facts and Figures of the Spa-Francorchamps Round of the WEC:
- The FIA WEC season’s second 6-hour-race will start on May, 2 at 2:30 pm Central European Summer Time (CEST).
- The challenging Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps lies in the mountainous Ardennes region in the south of Belgium. The lap length of 7.004 kilometres is above average and the track features several high-speed sectors. The hybrid drivers are especially stretched on the long uphill sections. The daunting compression of Eau Rouge and Raidillon fills racing drivers of all categories with awe. Because of the track’s length it might well rain on one part of the circuit while other parts are still dry – a particular feature very similar to Le Mans.
- In 2014 the winner did 171 laps.
- In 2014 Neel Jani and Marc Lieb clinched the first of now five pole positions for Porsche in the WEC. Their average lap time in the Porsche 919 Hybrid was 2:01.198 min. The sister car with Timo Bernhard/Brendon Hartley qualified fifth on the grid with an average of 2:03.672 min.
- In the race Dumas/Jani/Lieb came fourth, Bernhard/Hartley/Webber 23rd.
- After the first of eight WEC rounds Dumas/Jani/Lieb hold second position in the drivers’ table with a total of 18 points. Bernhard/Hartley/Webber gained a bonus point for pole position in Silverstone and rank 10th. Porsche is currently 3rd in the constructors’ championship with 19 points.
- A 1 hour highlights package of the round will screen free-to-air in New Zealand on TV3’s CRC Motorsport programme on Sunday the 10th of May.
- This is sponsored by the Official Porsche Centres.