The 2016 Le Mans event has begun: The Porsche Team has used the official pre-test to set up the two Porsche 919 Hybrids for the 24-Hour marathon scheduled to begin on June 18th. Yesterday provided the only opportunity for Porsche to test on the 13.629 kilometer long Circuit de la Sarthe. The track includes 9.2 kilometers of what are normally public country roads. This part includes the famous Mulsanne straight on which the 900 HP strong Porsche Le Mans Prototypes reach speeds in excess of 200 mph.
Mark Webber achieve Porsche's fastest lap in the 919 Hybrid at 3:22.270 minutes. Webber shares the car with Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley. Being the reigning FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) champions, of which the Le Mans 24 Hours is the ultimate highlight, the trio’s car carries the number 1.
“It was so good to come back to Le Mans after talking about it for a year now. The speed was pretty high during the test, considering how green and dirty the track was. We had a good run plan and programme, and our car feels alright,” said Brendon Hartley.
With a lap time of 3:22.334 minutes Neel Jani was on the same level of speed in the number 2 sister car. The Swiss leads the drivers’ standings in the WEC together with teammates Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb.
“The first laps in Le Mans are never easy because of the track conditions. But, regardless of that, it is fantastic to be here again, and it is such a nice circuit. I always enjoy Le Mans, especially as I’m French and have lived here for a long time. We tried a lot of different set-ups and had no problems. Because of the regulation restrictions, we have less engine power than last year, but the car and the tyres improved and we are quicker through the corners now,” said Mark Lieb.
The track was slippery this year, but, unlike last year, it stayed dry. In total the two Porsche 919 Hybrids completed 173 laps (2,357.8 km) in seven and a half hours. The afternoon session was red flagged with 30 minutes to go at 17:30 hours for repairs to the heavily damaged guard rail following an accident.
Andreas Seidl, Porsche's LMP! Team Principal had this to say, “It was a successful start for us, which makes us confident for the race. Both cars ran smoothly and we completed our entire test programme in dry conditions. In the morning session the focus was on set-up work, in the afternoon we worked mainly on long runs for the tyres. It was also important to practice all the Le Mans specific procedures with race control, such as safety car deployment and slow zones. As a team, we feel well prepared for the race week.”
Interestingly, Porsche's official race report makes no mention of the fact that their LMP1 cars have reverted back to battery technology from 2015. However, it has been widely reported that this is the case following the hybrid system problems experienced during last month's round at Spa.
The day’s best time went to the number 8 Audi (3:21.375 minutes).