"Never before in the history of the company have we had such a large squad,” says Wolfgang Hatz, Board Member for Research and Development at Porsche AG. “We are very proud of our strong international driver line-up.”
Porsche has contracted six drivers for the campaign with the Porsche 919 Hybrid in the Sports Car World Endurance Championship WEC, featuring Le Mans as the season highlight: Timo Bernhard (D), Romain Dumas (F), Brendon Hartley (NZ), Neel Jani (CH), Marc Lieb (D) and Mark Webber (AUS). “Three of the six pilots come from our own Porsche driver squad, two were even Porsche juniors. This is something we are particularly proud of,” says Wolfgang Hatz. Head of the LMP1 project, Fritz Enzinger, adds: “We had a substantial number of applicants from all classes for the two 919 Hybrids. We were looking for experience, sheer speed, technical understanding, and we wanted team players because this is more important in endurance racing than in any discipline.”
The first drivers to be selected were Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas. The two bring the experience of seven overall victories each from 24 hour races – Nürburgring, Daytona, Spa and overall victory together in Le Mans with Audi. In July 2013, the ex-Formula 1 test driver Neel Jani joined the team, with Mark Webber coming onboard at the end of the 2013 Formula 1 season. Brendon Hartley and Marc Lieb wrapped up the squad shortly before Christmas.
Hartley left his homeland of New Zealand early to advance his racing career in Europe. Following on from successes in the Formula Renault and Formula 3 series was the long-awaited Formula 1 contract – as a test driver but with precious little chance to race. Hence, parallel to his F1 commitments, Hartley turned to sports car racing. “I’m incredibly proud that Porsche has chosen me,” he says. “And I was deeply impressed at my first outing in Le Mans. But to compete in the LMP1 for an iconic company like Porsche is a whole other dimension.”
Marc Lieb was 20 years old when he won the Porsche Junior driver selection in 2000. In addition to a raft of class victories, he also scored five overall wins at 24 hour races, four times on the Nürburgring, once at Spa. “I have been fortunate enough to celebrate victories with Porsche all over the world,” said Lieb, “even in the GT class at Le Mans. And people there always asked when we would return to the LMP1 class. Since the project was given the go-ahead, I’ve only wanted one thing: to be involved. Le Mans and Porsche, I can’t even begin to describe how excited this makes me feel.”
“I’ve been with Porsche for 15 years and I feel an immense responsibility that comes with the return to LMP1,” states Timo Bernhard. “In developing the car you need all your skills as a driver. The first premise is not to drive fast, it’s more about feeling what the car is doing and sharing even the smallest details with the engineers.” Roman Dumas adds: “The 2013 class victory with Marc Lieb and Richard Lietz in the factory-run Porsche 911 RSR was really great, but now we’re heading into new territory. With all the complex technical innovations, our new squad faces an enormous challenge.”
“It was always my goal to one day fight for overall victory in the WEC and Le Mans,” says Neel Jani. “To do this you have to be part of a good works squad, and this is where I am right now. To compete for Porsche is a great honour and it comes with a lot of responsibility. We want to write a new chapter in the great history of Porsche motorsport, even if it takes time. The technology is completely new and we need to grow together as a team.”
Frédéric Makowiecki joins the ranks of Porsche Motorsport’s GT squad this season to pilot a 911 RSR. The Frenchman, who prefers to be called Fred Mako, is a regular competitor behind the wheel of Porsche race cars. He has collected more than nine years of experience in the cockpit of the 911. One of his greatest achievements was clinching the title of the Porsche Carrera Cup France in 2010. “Frédéric Makowiecki is one of the fastest and most experienced GT pilots,” says Porsche Head of Motorsport Hartmut Kristen. “He has a great deal of experience on virtually all international race tracks and he knows precisely how to drive a Porsche 911 fast.
At the wheel of the Porsche 911 RSR for the 2014 season, Porsche works drivers Joerg Bergmeister (D), Michael Christensen (DK), Wolf Henzler (D), Marco Holzer (D), Richard Lietz (A), Patrick Long (USA), Patrick Pilet (F) and Nick Tandy (GB) contest the Sports Car World Endurance Championship WEC or the new Tudor United SportsCar Championship in the USA and Canada. Rounding out the Porsche factory squad for 2014 are Porsche Juniors Klaus Bachler (A) in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup as well as Connor de Phillippi (USA), Sven Müller (D) and Alex Riberas (E) in the Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland. New Zealander Earl Bamber, the winner of the Porsche Motorsport International Cup Scholarship, receives support for his Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup campaign.