For this season of World Endurance Championship, Porsche has had a big mix up with their LMP1 drivers. This saw last year’s champions Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas leaving the championship winning car, with André Lotterer and Nick Tandy filling their seats.
Tandy has been with Porsche throughout his sportscar racing career and has worked through Porsche’s ‘young driver’ system. He was aboard the #19 Porsche in 2015 when it took the overall victory for the Le Mans 24 Hours. It was an impressive achievement for the rookie crew of Tandy, Earl Bamber, and Nico Hülkenberg that saw Tandy and Bamber as keen favourites to progress into the works LMP1 teams.
In preparation for his first season as a works Porsche LMP1 driver, Tandy has been “keeping active as much as possible” during the winter break and been “working a lot on preparations for this year”. Porsche has had the car out for private testing in Spain for the benefit of the new drivers and to work on the changes in regulations that have been imposed this year.
When talking about the new car and his first impressions of Porsche’s new challenger, Tandy stated he was “absolutely” happy with his initial impressions of the car. “The regulations are changing a little bit this year to try and slow the cars down because they’ve become quite fast so we’ve lost a bit of performance through regulation.
“But when I first tried the car this year it’s clear that we’ve made steps in other places to claw back that loss of performance. It’s actually really positive.
“The first time you try the car you normally go through ten, twelve, fifteen days of development and gradually working on things before you become happy so it’s a good place to start from.”
Being one of the new members to the Porsche LMP1 line-up, Tandy has been happy with his new team-mates and bonding with them, stressing the importance of a good working relationship. ” you work together very very closely for the whole season, the whole year, the year of your working life as such, it’s important that you have a relationship with these people.
“I’ve always found that when you have a strong bond in our sport when you share your car with somebody else, when you get a good relationship I always feel there is extra motivation from my side to basically not let my mates down.”
Tandy has been having “lots of fun” with his team-mates in his preseason preparations. He indicates that Neel Jani and Lotterer had an advantage over him as they have been “training partners in the same training facility for a while.” which made Tandy feel much like the new boy of the group. However, the group bonding seems to be going well before the season gets underway, even if Tandy may need to brush up on his German skills to understand his team-mates sometimes, as he jokes: “When they’re not speaking in german it’s a lot better.”
The Porsche LMP1 teams have had a lot of success since they rejoined the sport back in 2014, and it is a success that they wish to keep achieving. Tandy appeared to be on the fence when asked if being a Porsche ‘young driver’ and now racing for the Porsche LMP1 team held any extra pressure for him in the upcoming season. “They’ve clearly been the car and the team to beat for the last two years so that naturally puts us, going into this season, as favourites.” Tandy explained pensively.
“However, if it comes down to the fact that it is very close and we’re in a big fight with our competition then obviously the pressure will massively ramp up because it’ll be on us to retain this title that they’ve [Porsche] have had a grip on for the last two years.
“You start off without so much pressure and hopefully, we’ll be in front and we’ll keep this position at the top of the sport but it could all change very quickly as we know.”
The WEC has been growing in popularity over the past few years, with many Formula One drivers claiming that they wish to move into WEC when they are finished in single seaters. Having been a Le Mans overall winner, Tandy appreciates the importance of the blue-ribboned race and places a lot of the popularity of the WEC on the success of Le Mans: “[Le Mans] is the basis of our sport generally.” The fact that the WEC is an FIA-sanctioned Championship adds to the appeal of the discipline for drivers and manufacturers and makes it: “something really worth doing and really worth fighting for.”
One thing is for certain; Tandy is ready and set to go for the new season and is very excited for racing to get underway. “I’m a fan of the sport as well. I want to see what the competitive order is like and what the competition, what Toyota looks like and things like this.
“It’s been a long time since Sepang in December, the last time I raced. Come April I’ll be definitely ready to go.”
Although fans have to wait until the end of this month to see the cars in action, Tandy states that the private testing is nowhere near the same excitement and anticipation as a race weekend.
“It’s private testing so sometimes get’s quite boring when you’re out in the car for three hours in the dark on your own, but at least it keeps the adrenaline going for wanting to be back in the car. But nothing is, of course, like racing and the competition that comes with a race weekend.”