At the time of posting this story, the start to Porsche’s 3-car LMP1 attack on Le Mans is still more than 24-days away. However, given the complexity and logistics involved in fielding a 3-car LMP1 team in a 24-hour endurance race, preparations at the track have already begun.
1. Yesterday, an advance party of 12 began the set-up of the two-story hall behind the garage and the two-story container building for storage and the drivers’ rooms.
2. On May 27th, the convoy of fully loaded team trucks will leave from Weissach on an 800 kilometer journey to the famous track in Sarth. Once there, 8 team member prepare the garage for the three Porsche 919 Hybrids while additional team members set up the:
- Team and media hospitality in the paddock
- The guest hospitality in the new Porsche Experience Center
- The fan area in the Village
- The guest lounge at the Porsche curves
- The rooms above the garage
3. In addition, to all that, team members need to prepare a “camp” for the 750 Porsche employees expected to be in attendance. It’s a lot of work and it needs to be completed no later than the time of the official pre-tests on May 31st.
4. When the race starts, 13 days after the tests, 120 team members, 2,500 media representatives from 49 countries and 270,000 fans and spectators will be on site.
5. Did you know there are 23 people that form the crew for each 919?
Here’s the breakdown: race engineer, performance engineer, data engineer, hybrid engineer, engine engineer, systems performance engineer, 12V engineer, software engineer, engine application engineer, gearbox engineer, track aerodynamics engineer, number one mechanic, front axle mechanic, rear axle mechanic, engine mechanic, gearbox mechanic, composite mechanic, electrician, refueller, tyre man, storeman, one mechanic to look after the air hose and the fuel bowser and one spare person.
In total, sixty eight men and one woman (a gearbox engineer) are in place to deal with anything that man, machine or mother nature can throw at them.
6. Once The Race Starts, The 90-Page Long Sporting Regulations Define How A Pit Stop Must Be Carried Out
- There is a speed limit of 60 km/h in the pit lane.
- The 919 must park at least 50 cm from the wall or from the line marking the limits of the working area.
- No more than four team members are allowed to push the car into the garage if needed.
- The car may only restart when parallel to the track in the working area in front of the garage.
- Make sure there is no wheel spin in the pits, otherwise a stop and go penalty will be applied.
- During all pit stops the engine has to be switched off and during refueling (the 919’s tank capacity is 68.5 liters) the car has to remain with its wheels on the ground.
- Due to fuel regulations the Porsche 919 Hybrid has a range of 14 to 15 laps. Two mechanics are allowed to carry out refueling, another one has to stay ready with a fire extinguisher and the cut off valve attendant is at his post.
- At the same time refueling takes place two team members are allowed to clean the 919’s windscreen, headlights, mirrors and cameras, to pick up recorded data and to ground the car.
- While a driver change can happen during refueling, the time it takes is too long for it to be finished during a pit stop for fuel only. That’s why driver changes only happen when new tires are required.
- For the tire changes a maximum of two mechanics are allowed to work on the car at the same time, and only one wheel gun can be used at that time. A second wheel gun and two other mechanics are involved in a relay-like procedure. Using highly practiced choreography they speed out of and back into the garage to loosen the wheels, take them off, supply the new ones and secure them. A perfect wheel change for the Porsche Team is 19 seconds long. At Le Mans tire changes are scheduled, at the earliest after two stints. At night the teams try to double the interval between tire changes.
- There is an exception to the ruler regarding the number of people working on the 919. In the event the data recorder or fuel flow meter needs changing extra team members are allowed to do so.
- Regardless of what maintenance is completed during a pit stop, all crew team members must be back in the garage before the driver restarts.
7. Lastly, and perhaps most ironically given the size of the support crew available to them, should a Porsche pilot encounter a technical problem while on track he has only himself and the on-board took kit to rely on. Check out this picture of Derek Bell trying to fix his 917 on track during a race to get an idea of what.