Preparation work for the Porsche LMP Team goes according to plan. In the first two free practice sessions ahead of the six-hour race in Spa-Francorchamps (BE), drivers Earl Bamber (NZ), Timo Bernhard (DE) and Brendon Hartley (NZ) came second. The sister Porsche 919 Hybrid that is shared by reigning world champion Neel Jani (CH), André Lotterer (DE) and Nick Tandy (GB), was third in both sessions. Despite occasional very light rain showers, both 90-minute sessions on the 7.004- kilometre long track in the Ardennes mountains were held in dry conditions.
Timo Bernhard recorded the fastest lap for a Porsche 919 Hybrid today in 1:56.874 minutes. For comparison, in 2016 Brendon Hartley achieved the best time on day one of 1:58.012 minutes. This means the current lap time is more than one second below last year’s level, although the 2017 regulations have implemented significant aerodynamic restrictions. Just as it was the case a year ago, Porsche competes in Spa using a low downforce aero kit that has been developed for Le Mans. The race in Spa acts as a kind of dress rehearsal for the 24-hour classic in June.
The qualifying for the Le Mans prototypes will be tomorrow (Friday), from 15:25-15:50 hrs (local time). The six-hour race gets underway on Saturday at 14:30 hrs (local time).
The Porsche LMP Team after the first day of practice
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: “Surprisingly both today’s free practice sessions stayed dry. This allowed us a very productive race preparation for Saturday when we don’t expect rain either. Both cars ran without any problems. With our low-downforce aero package we are very competitive here. Our long-runs were promising and the drivers are happy with the car’s balance.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid car number 1:
Neel Jani (33, Switzerland): “Against the forecast there was no rain in second free practice, therefore we were able to try a qualifying simulation and afterwards worked on the race set-up. We definitely made a step forward because we’ve found something that may help us. Let’s wait and see what analysing the data shows.”
André Lotterer (35, Germany): “We’ve had a positive first day. The weather stayed stable and this was a good base to test the car, get up to speed and try a few different set-up configurations. Now we have to study everything and hopefully the weather stays like this for qualifying because otherwise everyone will face surprises regarding the cars’ set-up.”
Nick Tandy (32, Great Britain): “We were doing long-runs today, comparing two different types of tyre to find out which is best for the race. The car feels good, it looks promising.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid car number 2
Earl Bamber (26, New Zealand): “The team have been working hard to improve the 919 from FP1 to FP2. The race pace is looking strong and this is our main focus again as we have to manage tyre wear. In 2017 we have, according to the regulations, less sets available and therefore they have to last for two fuel tank fills.”
Timo Bernhard (36, Germany): “The weather was a nice surprise – incredibly for this region! The afternoon session was interrupted with red flag stoppages but it was nevertheless productive and gave us a good overview for the coming days.”
Brendon Hartley (27, New Zealand): “It was a good first day in Spa. It looks very tight with Toyota again and we are still working to find those extra tenths.