Public expectations are high ahead of the Le Mans 24-Hour on June 18 and 19. Le Mans is also the third round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). Ahead of the season’s highlight, the trio of Romain Dumas (FR), Neel Jani (CH) and Marc Lieb (DE) leads the drivers’ standings. The reigning world champions in the sister car, Timo Bernhard (DE), Brendon Hartley (NZ) and Mark Webber (AU), have been unlucky in the first two rounds (accident in Silverstone, puncture in Spa-Francorchamps) and can’t wait to catch up. At the classic on La Sarthe, the teams and drivers are rewarded with double points compared to the other eight six-hour races in the championship.
For Porsche it is the third entry in Le Mans after returning to top level motorsport. In 2015, at only the second try, Porsche managed a one-two result. The 919, with its ground-breaking downsizing two-litre V4 turbocharged petrol engine and its two energy recovery systems (brake and exhaust energy), has been significantly developed. It produces a system power of 662 kW and hits the Le Mans roads with an aerodynamic configuration for low drag. On the long straights the 919 frequently reaches top speeds above 320 km/h.
The Porsche drivers in the LMP1 class
The six works drivers have between them participated in the Le Mans race a total of 49 times. Bernhard/Hartley/Webber finished second last year and now drive the futuristic prototype with the number 1. Dumas/Jani/Lieb came fifth in 2015 and share the number 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid. Last year’s winning car was in the hands of Earl Bamber (NZ), Nico Hülkenberg (DE) and Nick Tandy (GB).
As the most successful manufacturer in the history of the prestigious long distance classic, Porsche is again represented by a large contingent. In the strongly supported GT classes, a total of seven 911 RSR tackle the world’s toughest automobile race: The Porsche Motorsport factory squad fields two 911 RSR with the overall Le Mans winners Earl Bamber (New Zealand) and Nick Tandy (Great Britain) and with five nine-eleven contenders campaigned by customer teams. With the two 919 Hybrid in the LMP1 class, Porsche is represented at Le Mans by total of nine vehicles and 16 works drivers.
The Porsche 911 RSR
As the fastest ever nine-eleven, the Porsche 911 RSR crowned its maiden 2013 season with a double victory at Le Mans. The racer is based on the seventh generation of the iconic 911 sports car at Porsche Motorsport in Weissach and in addition to Le Mans it also won the American long distance classics at Daytona, Sebring and the Petit Le Mans. The winning racer, which is characterised by an uncompromising lightweight design, received modifications for 2016, particularly to the aerodynamics. The position of the rear wing was moved further to the back, with the rear diffuser now considerably larger. Moreover, the 911 RSR received a modified front spoiler lip as well as wide side sills.
The Porsche drivers in the GT classes
Six Porsche works drivers contest the GTE-Pro class at Le Mans for the Porsche Motorsport factory squad. Sharing the cockpit of the #91 Porsche 911 RSR are Nick Tandy and reigning IMSA GT champion Patrick Pilet (France) with Kévin Estre (France). The sister 911 RSR with the starting number 92 has an equally strong line-up. Earl Bamber shares driving duties with Jörg Bergmeister (Germany) and Frédéric Makowiecki (France). With 14 starts until now, Jörg Bergmeister has the most experience as a Porsche GT pilot at Le Mans. Taking up the race in the 911 RSR run by the Dempsey Proton Racing customer team is Richard Lietz (Austria), the WEC winner of the FIA World Endurance Trophy in 2015 as the best GT pilot, and his works driver colleague Michael Christensen (Denmark), with whom he contests the entire WEC season. Supporting them as the third driver is Philipp Eng (Austria), the 2015 winner of both the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup and the Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland. This will be Eng’s cameo appearance at Le Mans, where traditionally double points are awarded towards the WEC championship. In the GTE-Am class, four other customer teams and two Porsche works drivers race the Porsche 911 RSR: Abu Dhabi Proton Racing with Patrick Long (USA) and KCMG with Wolf Henzler (Germany), as well as Gulf Racing and Proton Competition.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is legendary. In the list of winners, the best racing drivers in the world have been immortalized. Even Hollywood has honoured the prestigious long distance race in the French province: The 1970 film “Le Mans” featuring Steve McQueen in the lead role is regarded as one of the best racing movies of all time. The race, run for the first time in 1923, is not only famous around the world for the 13.629-kilometre Circuit des 24 Heures with its combination of racetrack and normal national roads as well as its legendary corners like Mulsanne and Tertre Rouge. The almost five-kilometre-long Mulsanne straight also sets this racetrack apart.
Quotes before the race
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1: “Coming back to Le Mans for the pre-test was emotional for the entire team. Winning in Le Mans doesn’t compare to anything else, because it is so incredibly hard. The fact we made it in 2015, in only our second attempt, puts us in the role of an odds-on favourite. We have to make sure this doesn’t drive us crazy. By no means is 2016 going to become any easier, as the opposite is the case. Porsche set new technology benchmarks when returning to the top category with the most advanced prototype on the grid. The competition has reacted and that’s why we now all have a 24-hour race ahead of us which might become the closest in history.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: “The race team and the staff back in Weissach did a super job in development, as well as during testing and preparation. Le Mans especially is a steep learning curve. In 2014 the race came much too early for our freshly assembled team. Still we got further than anyone could have expected and then learnt how bitter a retirement shortly before the finish can taste. In 2015 we managed three cars, got them one-two-three on the grid, brought them all home and celebrated a one-two result. Le Mans 2016 is our 19th race as a team. This isn’t a lot. Technically and operationally we are better prepared than ever. But we know about the challenge to survive the race week, and especially the race itself, with no technical problems and no incidents on track. We have the utmost respect for that. We feel ready.”
Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser, Head of Porsche Motorsport: “Porsche and Le Mans have written many decades of motor racing history together. This tradition brings an obligation. As the most successful manufacturer in the history of this fascinating long distance classic, we are back again this year with a large contingent. We’re campaigning no less than seven 911 RSR against very strong opposition in the traditionally very competitive GT classes. The competition in the GTE-Pro class in particular has seldom been this high: Five well-known manufacturers and 14 vehicles manned with top pilots – you only get this at Le Mans.”
Marco Ujhasi, Overall Project Manager GT Works Motorsport: “Preparing for Le Mans has always been intense. We’ve used the time well to find the best possible setup for our 911 RSR for the special demands of this extraordinary race. The main focus for Le Mans is to drive for as long as possible at the highest level and to keep out of any tangles, so that you still have an undamaged car to really attack in the final sprint. We’ve laid the foundations for this and we hope that we can ultimately fight for victory.”
More quotes in the press releases.
Facts and figures
With 17 overall victories, Porsche is the record holder at Le Mans.
The first overall victory for Porsche dates back to June 14, 1970 (Hans Herrmann/Richard Attwood in a 917 KH Coupé). The 17th overall victory Porsche celebrated in 2015 (Earl Bamber/Nico Hülkenberg/Nick Tandy, 919 Hybrid).
After a 16-year long break, in 2014 Porsche returned to the top category in Le Mans.
In 2015 the Porsche 919 Hybrids qualified one-two-three. It was the 17th pole position for Porsche in Le Mans and the first one since 1997.
The fastest overall lap time, during what have so far been 83 events, was set by Jackie Oliver at the test day in 1971. Back then the track length was 13.469 km and he did a 3:13.6 minutes (average speed 250.457 km/h) in his Porsche 917. In the same year he achieved the fastest race lap in 3:18.4 minutes (average speed 244.387 km/h).
The race distance covered by the winning Porsche 919 Hybrid in 2015 was 5,382.82 km (395 laps, average speed 224.2 km/h).
During the journey, the gearbox experienced 25,293 shifts (up and downshifting).
The highest top speed with a 919 in the 2015 race was done by Mark Webber – 340.2 km/h on Saturday at 4:40 pm.
It was also Webber who lost the most body weight of all six drivers. At the beginning of the race he tipped the scales at 81.2 kg (including overalls and helmet). After his final stint his weight was 78.2 kg.
In normal racing mode (without any safety car periods), the Porsche 919 Hybrid must refuel every 14 laps.
Drivers are normally only changed when new tyres are needed.
Three fuel tank fills with one set of Michelin tyres are the minimum. In 2015 the longest driving time with one set of tyres was a quadruple stint at night (54 laps per car and driver).
During the race, each driver must get behind the wheel for a minimum of six hours in total. No driver may drive for more than four hours within a six-hour period. No driver may drive for more than 14 of the 24 hours.
In the WEC standings, the Porsche team leads with 56 points ahead of Toyota (43) and Audi (41).
In the drivers’ world championship Dumas/Jani/Lieb are leading with 43 points each. Bernhard/Hartley/Webber rank 14th with 1.5 points each.
The technical inspection of the 60 racing cars, which are subdivided into four classes, begins on the Sunday before the race, June 12, at the Place de la République. It is a public event in the middle of the city. The scrutineers examine the cars, and the 180 drivers must present their paperwork. The Porsche LMP1 team is scheduled for this inspection on Sunday from 2:20 pm onwards. The last teams will complete this technical part of the administration by Monday evening.
Tuesday, June 14:
2:00-3:00 pm Porsche Team photograph on start/finish
5:00-6:30 pm Autograph session in the pit lane
Wednesday, June 15:
1:30-2:00 pm “Meet the Team” for media in the Team and Media Hospitality
4:00-8:00 pm Free practice
10:00 pm-midnight Qualifying
Thursday, June 16:
3:30-4:00 pm “Meet the Team” for media in the Team and Media Hospitality
7:00-9:00 pm Qualifying
10:00 pm-midnight Qualifying
Friday, June 17:
10:00 am - 8:00 pm Pit walk
1:00-1:30 pm Porsche press conference in the Porsche Experience Center
1:30-2:00 pm “Meet the Team” in the Porsche Experience Center
5:30-7:30 pm Driver parade in the downtown area
Saturday, June 18:
2:22 pm Beginning of race start ceremony
3:00 pm Start of race
Live communication from the pit on Twitter @Porsche_Team.
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TV channel Eurosport is live for 24 hours.
The official WEC App can be downloaded free of charge in its basic version and can be extended (not free of charge) by a live stream. Several live features such as on-board cameras, timing and GPS tracking are implemented in the Porsche Motorsport App (free of charge).
In the Web current information is available from www.fiawec.com an www.24h-lemans.com. Further interesting information about Porsche Motorsport waits at Porsche.com/FutureSportscar.