This Friday morning Timo Bernhard lapped the 12.94-mile Nürburgring Nordschleife race circuit in 5 minutes and 19.55 seconds with an average speed of 145.3 mph on what is revered by race drivers, engineers and enthusiasts alike as the world’s most challenging track. Driving the Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo, Bernhard beat the previous lap record, set by Stefan Bellof, by 51.58 seconds.
For over 35 years, Bellof’s 6: 11.13-minute record has remained uncontested. The German driver from Gießen, who tragically died at Spa-Francorchamps in 1985, was considered by many to be the most talented driver of his generation. He drove his record lap on 28 May 1983 at the wheel of a powerful 620 bhp Rothmans Porsche 956 C during practice for the 1000-kilometre WEC sports car race.
A delighted Timo Bernhard had this to say minutes after getting out of the car, “This is a great moment for the entire team and me, this is the 919 program’s icing on the cake.
“The Evo was perfectly prepared, and I have done my best on this lap, thanks to the aerodynamic downforce, and at sections, I never imagined you could stay on full throttle, I did.
“I’m pretty familiar with the Nordschleife. But today I got to learn it in a new way”, said the 37-year old Porsche factory ace.
Bernhard, a massive fan of Bellof’s went on to say, “For me, Stefan Bellof is and remains a giant”, today my respect for his achievement with the technology available back then has increased even more.”
Today’s success is the second track record for the Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo. Earlier this year at Spa, Neel Jani set a lap of 1:41,770 minutes on the 4.35 mile Grand Prix circuit in the Ardennes mountains. He topped the previous track record, set during qualifying by Lewis Hamilton at the Belgian GP, by 0.783 seconds.
The Evo version of the Porsche 919 Hybrid is based on the car that took outright victory at the Le Mans 24-Hours and won the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Over the winter, restrictions determined by the regulations were removed.
The 919 hybrid powertrain now develops a system output of 1160 hp. The Evo weighs only 849 kilograms, and its modified (and now active) aerodynamics generate over 50 per cent more downforce compared to the WEC model. Top speed at the Nürburgring was 229.5 mph.
LMP Team Principal Andreas Seidl commented: “As a race team we constantly search for challenges that push a car, driver and team to operate on the limit. Conquering the “Green Hell” definitely provided such a challenge.
“Since last winter we were preparing for that task together with our tyre partner Michelin, painstakingly and with a great deal of respect for this track. Today we have shown the full potential of the 919 Evo. Congratulations to Timo for his sensational drive.
“Being a record winner at the Nürburgring, Timo was the logical choice for the job. Balancing attack and caution at all times was mandatory on this circuit. Safety is the highest priority.
“In this regard, I also like to thank the Nürburgring team. Porsche cultivates a long and deep relationship with the ‘Ring. Record attempts wouldn’t be possible without the highly professional track support.“
The WEC efficiency regulations limited the energy from fuel per lap by using a fuel flow meter. The V4 combustion engine’s output when competing was around 500 hp. Freed from these restrictions, equipped with an updated software but running the regular race fuel (E20, containing 20 per cent bioethanol), the Evo version delivers 720 hp.
Because the amount of electrical energy from the two recovery systems was limited as well, the systems stayed far below their potential. With full boost being available, the e-machine output increased by ten per cent from 400 to 440 hp.
The engineers also unchained the aerodynamics of the 919 Evo from the regulations. The new larger front diffuser now balances the all-new rear wing, both of which have actively controlled drag reduction systems (DRS).
The hydraulically operated systems trim the trailing edge of the front diffuser and opens the slot between the rear wing central plane and the flap respectively to reduce drag. Underneath the Evo, the turning vanes and floor have also been optimised.
Fixed height side skirts increase the aerodynamic performance again as efficiently as possible. In total, the aero modifications resulted in 53 per cent higher downforce and an increase in efficiency by 66 per cent (compared to the 2017 Spa WEC qualifying).
To expand the performance envelope further, the Evo gained a four-wheel brake-by-wire system to provide additional dynamic yaw control. Furthermore, the power steering has been adapted for the higher loads, and stronger suspension wishbones (front and rear) were fitted.
Compared to the car in standard race trim, the dry weight was reduced by 39 kilograms to 849 kilograms. To achieve this, air-conditioning, windscreen wiper, several sensors, electronic devices from race control, lights systems and the pneumatic jack system were all removed. Michelin also developed unique tyre compounds for the 919 Evo.
The next outing for the 919 Hybrid Evo will be at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in a few weeks time.