Porsche Team is ready to field its first three-car line-up this weekend at the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, the second round of this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship, and the final event before the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The #17 and #18 Porsche 919 Hybrids entered the 6 Hours of Silverstone earlier this month, and this weekend will be joined by the #19, driven by Nico Hülkenberg, Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy. Porsche are doing this in preparation for the Le Mans race, in which a strong result with all three cars is vital.
“The speed of the second generation of the 919 Hybrid was convincing at the season’s opening race at Silverstone,” says Fritz Enzinger, Vice President of Porsche’s LMP1 interests. “This doesn’t go only for qualifying, but also on the long runs progress was visible and allowed us to keep in the lead with a one-two for one and a half hours. The third 919 Hybrid for Spa is an entirely newly built car for Earl, Nick and Nico. Handling three such complex cars and nine drivers will be challenging for the crew around Team Principal Andreas Seidl. All three 919s will compete in the same aero configuration, which is the same one we raced in Silverstone. Regarding the demands of the hybrid management in the 8-megajoule class, we are constantly learning. Generally speaking, Spa’s track layout should favour our car.”
For the normal season entries of the #17 (Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber) and #18 (Roman Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb), the goal for Spa is to get as many championship points as possible for their title battle, but for the #19, which will only race at Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans, the aim is to get as much race experience and preparation for Le Mans as possible.
Each of the cars’ numbers have special meanings for Porsche. The #17 represents the famous Porsche 917K which gained the team their first Le Mans win in 1970. #18 shows the link between the 919 Hybrid LMP1 car and their new 918 Sypder supercar, which shares a similar hybrid system with the 919. Finally, #19 is short for the name of the car, the 919.
“For two reasons Spa is going to be a special race for me,” said Timo Bernhard, driver of the #17 Porsche and two-time Le Mans winner. “First of all it is not far from my hometown of Bruchmühlbach-Miesau, so we can expect many German fans. And secondly I will be racing with a special helmet in Spa in memory to Stefan Bellof, who died there 30 years ago. I am doing this because I have a lot of respect for him and I like to remind everyone about his exceptional abilities as a racing driver. Talking about the event, in Spa the track is always the star. The layout of this circuit, that has been embedded naturally into the landscape, hasn’t changed a lot. It has become much safer, but its character has remained untouched. It is a difficult track and requires precise set-up work. It is a place where good team work can make all the difference.”
“Spa is one of my absolutely favourite circuits,” commented Marc Lieb, driver of the #18 Porsche that finished the Silverstone round in 2nd place. “The high number of fast corners on this natural race track have a unique flow. In Spa I experienced the first highlight of my endurance career when I won the 24 hours with Romain Dumas. Having three 919 Hybrids to handle for the first time is challenging for the entire team. I think we are well prepared and can look forward to it.”
“I am totally excited about what the coming weeks and the Spa weekend will bring,” said current Formula 1 driver Nico Hülkenberg, who is part of the #19 line-up. “Of course I know the Grand Prix circuit pretty well and have raced there many times. But endurance racing is completely new to me and I’m really thrilled about seeing how everything will develop. I approach these challenges with an open mind, I want to have my experiences and, of course, I want to do a good job for Porsche and for myself. Being a high-speed track with long straights, Spa should suit our 919 Hybrid. To begin with it would be nice to have dry conditions, but in the Ardennes you never know and have to be prepared for everything.”
All three Porsche 919s will be in action at Spa-Francorchamps from Thursday, with the 6 Hour race taking place on the afternoon of Saturday, May 2.