Porsche, in preparation for defending their 2015 LMP1 WEC championship title, has completed two full test of their 2016 spec 919 Hybrid LMP1 car. Across those two tests, they have spent a total of 8-days at the track working on systems development. This most recent test was conducted in conjunction with tire partner (And FLATSIXES.com sponsor) Michelin. In addition, Tthe team was working on a program that encompassed aerodynamic comparisons and slight developmental changes to the powertrain and new hybrid system. The primary goal, however, was to acclimate to the three new slick compounds offered by Michelin for dry-weather running. Coming to grips (pun not necessarily intended) with how the new tires wear over the course of a stint, and learning the drop-off curve, could mean the difference between another title and also-ran status.
Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, and Marc Lieb drove more than 2000 kilometers at a previous 3-day test earlier in the month (which saw Lieb crash heavily, requiring a completely new chassis to be built). The reigning WEC championship squad of Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley, and Mark Webber met in Abu Dhabi for this 5-day test, logging a mighty impressive 4100 kilometers.
The new 2016 spec WEC tires, supplied by Michelin, are available in three levels for the teams to choose from, based on weather and temperature condition, ranging from 'soft cold' through 'soft hot' and 'soft hot plus'. Being in the desert, Abu Dhabi is an excellent place to test these tires, as the nights are quite cold, and the days can be blistering. Furthermore, each of the three types of tires were available for Porsche to test in three-to-four distinctly different compounds, allowing them to determine which compounds they would prefer to use for the full season of endurance racing competition. Obviously Porsche and Michelin wouldn't reveal which of the compounds were chosen for use this year, but it's likely that outright speed is less a consideration than grip balance, predictability, and tire longevity.
Andreas Seidl, LMP1 Team Principal -
“We are very pleased with this test. It is a demanding and important task to make the right choices out of the variety of tyres, as we will spend the season on them. Consistent conditions are essential to get reliable results. In Abu Dhabi we didn’t only have dry conditions, but also constant temperatures. We can’t find such conditions in Europe at this time of the year. During such comparisons changes to the car are very limited because they would falsify the results. You have to strictly separate tyre testing from the car’s development. In the end, of course, both have to be brought together and work well as a package.”
While Audi prefers to use Sebring for their pre-season testing, and Toyota does most of their testing in Europe, Porsche's circuit of choice has been Abu Dhabi for a number of reasons. With both of these tests now complete, Porsche will move their tests back to Europe as the weather warms, presumably marking their next test for the Paul Ricard circuit in the coming weeks.