If you’ve been following along, it’s already been posited that the new for 2014 Porsche LMP1 team could be sponsored by Martini, and Adidas. As the days move along, I’m more inclined to believe that they’ll actually be receiving sponsorship from the Austrian fizzy drinks manufacturer, Red Bull. Luckily, our favorite LMP1 dreamer, Andy Werner Designs, has already mocked up a few renderings of his vision of the livery design. Follow along as I explain why I think Red Bull is the perfect Porsche LMP1 partner.
First, there are the drivers. As we all know, Mr. Mark Webber has been an integral part of the Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team for an astonishing seven years. While he has chosen to leave Formula 1 in favor of the LMP1 team, Red Bull have decided not to leave him hanging. Continuing their sponsorship of Webber, Red Bull have pledged their continued support. Additionally, Mark was not supposed to be anywhere near a Porsche until after the first of the year, but Red Bull agreed to let him out of his RBR contract earlier this month to begin testing with his new team. I’m inclined to believe that Red Bull would not have done this unless they had a distinct interest in seeing Webber, and by extension, the Porsche team succeed.
Brendon Hartley was a bit of a surprise announcement for the Porsche driving squad. He does have a lot of experience in high-downforce cars in Formula Renault, Formula 3, GP2, and some Formula 1 testing, as well as some prototype experience, spending all of 2013 in Daytona Prototypes with Starworks, and in an LMP2 car with Murphy Prototypes. His résumé is short yet impressive, but what matters here is that Hartley was a Red Bull Junior Driver for much of his career.
Swiss driver, Neel Jani, has long had ties with Red Bull as well. Jani was first taken under Red Bull’s wing in 2004 when he tested for the new Red Bull Racing Team earning a place in the Red Bull Junior Team. Following that, he raced with Red Bull backing GP2, Champ Car, and nabbed the test driver role at Scuderia Toro Rosso. Jani also drove in A1 GP and FIA GT1 with Red Bull support. In 2010 he joined the Rebellion Racing LMP1 squad, but maintained a good relationship with Red Bull Racing, continuing to test their F1 cars, including simulator work and straight-line aero testing. Jani also performed demonstrations in the Red Bull F1 show cars, including a drive along the Khardung La pass in India at an amazing altitude of 18,380 feet.
While more likely correlation than causation, other Porsche Werks drivers have had ties with Red Bull. LMP1 pilot Marc Lieb has driven a Red Bull sponsored Australian V8 Supercar in the Gold Coast 600. While not tied to the LMP1 program, Patrick Long was among the finalists of Red Bull’s Formula 1 driver search back in 2002.
How Is Porsche Beneficial To Red Bull?
Red Bull has long pursued the youthful and energetic groups associated with extreme sports and motorsport. They have completely taken over Formula 1, the World Rally Championship, and had a big showing at the Dakar rally. Red Bull plays a big part in the Baja 1000, drifting championships, and motorcycle competitions. While Red Bull has occasionally sponsored some sports car racing, including Brumos Racing’s Daytona Prototype effort, they haven’t really found the team they are looking for. Red Bull likes to back winners, to bet on sure things, but they seem to like to get in on the effort at an early stage to avoid appearing ‘fair weather’ in their sponsorship.
With drivers they can trust, a known quantity in sports car racing like Porsche is as close to a sure bet as you can get. Red Bull knows that Porsche is in this effort for the long term, and Porsche can be sure that Red Bull is interested in a long term agreement as well. Tackling Le Mans, and the rest of the WEC, garners Red Bull a lot of worldwide exposure. Le Mans is one of the largest racing spectacles in the world, and there is no reason Red Bull wouldn’t want to be a part of it.
How Is Red Bull Beneficial To Porsche?
Red Bull is an extremely well known brand around the world right now, and sticking their logo on the flanks of a Porsche LMP1 will only increase the fan-base of the racing effort. Fan support is important, even for a team like Porsche. Additionally, on the back of four straight Formula 1 world championship titles, Red Bull is synonymous with victory.
With new product launches like the Macan, it is clear that Porsche is also aiming for a marginally younger demographic, and Red Bull certainly appeals to a younger demographic. The whole reason for racing at Le Mans in the first place is to provide a marketing outlet to promote the road car brand. If Porsche wants to draw younger buyers to their dealerships, then Red Bull is an excellent partnership.
As an interesting side note, it seems that Andy Werner has placed Hartley, Leib, and Jani in one car, and Webber, Dumas, and Bernhard in the other. Obviously, I’m not Porsche’s team manager, but I would probably stack the deck a little differently. Keeping Dumas and Bernhard together is a very smart idea, as they have a long history working together, but I would probably put them with Neel Jani to pair them more by size, as Webber is much taller than either Timo or Romain. This would leave a “Tall Guys Car” with Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley, and Marc Lieb. Next year’s formula will be more about fuel saving than maximum attack, and I think having an open-wheel driver on each team will only help to further that cause.
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