Porsche, the winner at Le Mans, currently leads the manufacturers’ standings. With around 80 per cent new bodywork for higher downforce, the class one Le Mans prototype (LMP1) looks significantly different compared to its low downforce aero spec for the endless straights at Le Mans.
The first of two 90-minute practice sessions on Friday took place in changing weather conditions, while the 5.137 km long track was dry for the second session. With a lap time of 1:37.921 minutes the Porsche 919 Hybrid of Timo Bernhard (DE), Brendon Hartley (NZ) and Mark Webber (AUS) was second in the second free practice, which was the faster of the two sessions. The sister car, shared by Romain Dumas (FR), Neel Jani (CH) and Marc Lieb (DE), came third with a lap of 1:37.932 minutes. Today’s overall fastest Audi was only six hundredths of a second away, which is promising for an exciting race.
Alexander Hitzinger, Technical Director: “We have had a positive first day. The target was to evaluate the effect of our new aero package on this track, because we hadn’t yet run the car here with this downforce level. Set-up work and tyre tests on long runs were on the job list too. We have gained valuable experience and were able to verify our simulations.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid number 17
Timo Bernhard (34, Germany): "In the first session I was out when the track was drying. When there is only one racing line, because no one wants to move on the wet patches, it is always difficult for us because of the slower GT cars. In the second session Brendon did most of the work, then Mark jumped in and I did only a few laps at the end. There was quite a bit of action with spinning cars in front of me and others in the gravel, but overall we are in good shape and will go for it.”
Brendon Hartley (25, New Zealand): “After I had only done a few laps in FP1 at the end of the session, I did a complete stint in FP2 to check the tyre life and it seems positive. Actually everything looks like a promising start to the weekend.”
Mark Webber (39, Australia): “After the reception at the Nürburgring had been a bit chilly and wet, the second session was great to concentrate on long runs. Both our cars performed very well. In terms of a Friday run plan, it worked very well for us, but race day, of course, is a different story.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid number 18
Romain Dumas (37, France): “We improved the car’s set-up for the second session quite a bit. It feels good and we will go ahead making it better.”
Neel Jani (31, Switzerland): “Because I didn’t attend the test here at the end of July, I had my first laps on the Nürburgring with the 919 today. But I had already found the new aero package impressive at the Barcelona test. For the first session today we had tricky track conditions, but in the afternoon my long runs worked well. We have a few things to improve on the set-up, but the direction is clear.”
Marc Lieb (35, Germany): “The car feels very good with the new aero package but, of course, we still have to do a lot of fine tuning to get the balance right. Therefore it was really good to have an entirely dry session in the afternoon.”
LMP1 qualifying will be held on Saturday from 14:30 to 14:50 hrs (CEST) with the race starting on Sunday at 13:00 hrs (CEST).