The tension ahead of the first battle between Porsche’s and Toyota’s Le Mans Prototypes is increasing. In the first free practice sessions of the FIA World Endurance Championship’s curtain raiser on the 5.9 kilometre circuit in Silverstone (GB), Toyota topped the time sheets. However, this doesn’t come as a surprise. While Porsche runs in low downforce in Silverstone to favour its overall 2017 aerodynamic strategy, the Japanese competitor is well equipped with a high downforce aero package in Silverstone.
In the first of the two 90-minute practice sessions in the morning, the two Porsche 919 Hybrids came second and fourth. In the afternoon session, that was the overall faster one, the 919s finished third and fourth respectively. In both sessions the Porsche with car number 2 of Earl Bamber (NZ), Timo Bernhard (DE) and Brendon Hartley (NZ) was the faster one. This crew’s best lap time was achieved by Bamber in 1:40.500 minutes. At the wheel of the number 1 sister car, shared by reigning world champion Neel Jani (CH), André Lotterer (DE) and Nick Tandy (GB), it was Lotterer who put in the fastest lap in 1:41.201 minutes. At ambient temperatures of around 13 degree Celsius and cloudy skies, the track was dry in both WEC sessions.
The qualifying for the Le Mans prototypes will be tomorrow (Saturday), from 13:30-13:50 hrs (local time). The six-hour race gets underway on Sunday at 12:00 hrs (local time). Here is the international TV broadcasting plan: https://tinyurl.com/k3ql94s
The Porsche LMP Team after the first day of practice
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: “We’ve had a very productive first day. Both 919 ran absolutely trouble free and the drivers were happy with the handling. Compared to Toyota we will certainly be slower here, as expected, because of the aerodynamic set-up we chose. However, today’s lap times are not really comparable because we focussed on race preparation and didn’t simulate qualifying.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid car number 1:
Neel Jani (33, Switzerland): “In the morning the biggest and nice surprise was the high grip level. In the afternoon, we were focussing on getting a good race car and trying to find even more grip. We know we will struggle compared to the Toyotas with less downforce here but nevertheless it is very good to learn more about the car for Spa and Le Mans.”
André Lotterer (35, Germany): “I did 35 laps in the second session. Tyre wear on the front axle is pretty heavy, we have to wait and see what this means for double stints in the race. Overall the car is fine and well balanced. We refrained from doing a qualifying simulation and preferred to focus on race preparation.”
Nick Tandy (32, Great Britain): “Ultimately we cannot tell on lap times where we are as we didn’t do a qualifying simulation but we got some useful information for long runs on the tyres.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid car number 2
Earl Bamber (26, New Zealand): “Generally the day has gone really good. It is the first time we ran our low downforce aero package on a high downforce track. The guys in Weissach have done a really great job and bringing us the best that they can give. So credit to those guys. Now it is a matter of optimizing details. We are in a close fight with Toyota. Let’s see what tomorrow’s qualifying brings but the race pace seems good.”
Timo Bernhard (36, Germany): “Generally it looks good. We have been concentrating on the car’s set up for the race. The 919 feels fine and we’re positive. Our friends from Toyota look very strong but you have to consider they did work for qualifying today and therefore the ultimate lap times are not comparable. We definitely had a good long run and this is promising for the race.”
Brendon Hartley (27, New Zealand): “I actually only drove in the first session. Toyota was faster today. But regardless we constantly worked through our programme and all went pretty well today.”