Porsche LMP1 driver Brendon Hartley believes that the momentum gained from his team’s one-two finish at Le Mans will spur a charge for the FIA World Endurance Championship title.
The New Zealander finished second at the 24-hour event with his #17 Porsche 919 Hybrid team-mates Timo Bernhard and Mark Webber, while the #19 car of Nico Hulkenberg, Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy took the overall spoils.
“It’s a fairytale story because we came back and took first and second on Porsche’s second year at the top level of sportscar racing, which is is huge,” said Hartley, speaking at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. “In terms of momentum, it means a lot and we’re going to apply that positivity in the rest of the championship.”
“Now the focus goes to the FIA WEC, which we’re definitely in the fight for. The double points at Le Mans from finishing second has definitely put us in a strong position for the rest of the year. We’re looking forward to the [6 Hours of] Nurburgring but unfortunately it’s not until the end of August so there’s still a long time to wait before we get to race again.”
The #17 squad came out of the Le Mans weekend fifth in the championship, 27 points behind the leading#7 Audi crew. However, with the Nurburgring round coming up, Hartley is confident that he and his team-mates’ prior knowledge of the three mile GP Strecke circuit can help reduce that deficit.
“I love racing there,” he said. “I have some good memories from the lower formulas in my European racing career. Timo especially is a big fan though – he’s won there five times, which is a huge achievement. In fact, we can almost call him Mr. Nurburgring!”
“Mark also has had some big success there in Formula One, so between the three of us we’re very excited about going there. Obviously we’ll have a lot of German Porsche fans there so we’re all excited because it’s a track that everyone loves.”
Despite being early in the second ‘phase’ of its LMP1 project, Porsche has managed to construct a car that is competitive on the world stage. At Silverstone and Spa the pace of the 919 Hybrid’s compact Turbo V4 engine was unmatched by the other manufacturers. While Audi still has the advantage in the corners, Hartley believes that the ongoing development of the 919’s power unit and aerodynamics will be rewarded with more success in the future.
“If we look at Silverstone, we thought that the track wasn’t suited to our car but we still had a pretty successful race there in terms of pace, plus we took pole position. In the development after Le Mans I think we’ll be focused more on tracks like the Nurburgring and the rest of the season, so I believe we’ll be on good form.”
“We have a few tests coming up, as well. It’s a big break before the next round but the development is ongoing. Nobody is relaxing after winning Le Mans because our competitors won’t be sleeping, they’ll be working hard as well.”
Hartley recently drove the winning Porsche 919 Hybrid at the world-famous Goodwood Festival of Speed hillclimb, which gave him an opportunity to take a break from his typically stringent schedule.
“A lot of people were excited to see the car in the flesh and it’s still got all the dirt, bugs and rubber from Le Mans, so it’s as it finished the race. Everyone was excited to see it and it was amazing to see how many people were coming up to me saying “congratulations” and “good to see you”. We have such loyal fans at Porsche so it’s special to come to those events and see the passion that we have from our fanbase.”
Porsche will carry out test sessions on the 919 Hybrid before the 6 Hours of the Nurburgring, which is the final FIA WEC race in Europe before the flyaway rounds begin. Despite being a new event, the Nurburgring round is already one of the most highly anticipated as it will be the first chance for all three German-based manufacturers (Porsche, Audi and Toyota) to go head to head on home soil.
The FIA World Endurance Championship will resume on August