In opposition to the other LMP1 Hybrid team, Porsche will run the low-downforce ‘24 Hours of Le Mans‘ specification aero kit on the two Porsche 919 Hybrids in the opening round of the 2017 World Endurance Championship. It has been a while since Toyota announced their high-downforce selection for Silverstone and Porsche refused to comment on which option they would take. The low-downforce kit will stay on the Porsches until after the 207 24 Hours of Le Mans.
It was assumed that Porsche could take this route in choosing aero kits for the beginning of the season and it shows intent that Porsche will be fully focused on the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year. Porsche LMP1 team Principle Andreas Seidl commented that the decision came with the desire to “focus on developing and testing our Le Mans aerodynamics until the third race [Le Mans] of the season is over.”
“This means low downforce for the benefit of low drag, and this unavoidably will be a disadvantage in Silverstone. After Le Mans in June, we will arm the 919 with more downforce for the remaining championship rounds.” Seidl went on to explain.
The low-downforce aero kit will clearly be a disadvantage in Silverstone, where the Formula One circuit, like the other Formula One circuits on the WEC calendar, is run best with a car at high downforce. The LMP1 drivers have not made it a secret that this will make their opening round potentially more difficult than it could have been and could hand Toyota an early championship lead. Reigning WEC champion Neel Jani commented that Porsche would be “aerodynamically compromised” as Silverstone demands high downforce for it multiple fast corners.
The new 2017 LMP1 rules and regulations reduced the number of aerodynamic configurations an LMP1 manufacturer is allowed to produce from three, as was the case in 2016, to two. No major changes are allowed to a body kit once it has been homologated ahead of its first race.
With Toyota already homologating their high downforce body kit ahead of Silverstone, it means the Japanese team will not be able to make any major changes to it when the season returns from Le Mans in July for the 6 Hours of Nurburgring. The latter half of the season includes more circuits that demand high downforce, hence Porsche’s decision to leave development of their high-downforce kit until after Le Mans.
The third Toyota entrant for Le Mans will be equipt with the low downforce Le Mans specification aero kit when it joins the field for the 6 Hours of Spa at the beginning of May.