Held on the weekend of 3-4 June 2017, the test day for this year’s Le Mans was run under clear skies. It was an excellent opportunity for the teams to put their cars, drivers, personnel and systems through their paces ahead of the big day on 17-18 June. Below is a summary of how the 2017 Le Mans test day went for the Porsche teams.
Porsche 919 Hybrid – LMP1
Track action took place on the Sunday where the two Porsche 919 Hybrids covered a combined total of 156 laps. In the #1 Porsche, Neel Jani/André Lotterer/Nick Tandy were behind the wheel, while in the #2 Porsche, Earl Bamber/Timo Bernhard/Brendon Hartley were getting their eye in. Marc Lieb, the 2016 Le Mans winner, also drove on Sunday as the ACO have made it mandatory for reserve drivers to participate at the test day as well.
The best lap time of a Porsche 919 Hybrid last Sunday was 3:21.512 minutes, seven-tenths of a second better than the 919’s best test lap time in 2016. This was achieved despite restrictions enforced by new regulations concerning the aerodynamics in particular. The Porsche LMP team did not simulate qualifying at the test, choosing instead to go through their test routine. They finished fourth and fifth quickest behind Toyota after eight hours of testing. It should be remembered that none of the teams testing last Sunday would wish to reveal their strengths, and so all times can be safely assumed to be very conservative.
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: “We’ve had a mixed test day. We were focussing on race set-up and refrained from simulating qualifying. Although we didn’t achieve the mileage we wanted, we still learnt important lessons for the race regarding tyre choice and tyre wear. In the coming days, we will analyse today’s data and draw our conclusions to improve our cars’ performance. We unfortunately lost a lot of test time with our #2 car. Due to an oil leak, we had to change the combustion engine over lunch. At 3:38pm, after only two-and-a-half hours repair time, the car was back on track. What caused the leak is still to be analysed but the team did a great job.”
Porsche 911 RSR – GTE Pro
Richard Lietz, Patrick Pilet and Frédéric Makowiecki share driving duties in the #91 Porsche 911 RSR. During the two four-hour test sessions, the trio covered a distance of 1185.723km and set the fastest lap in the GTE Pro class. The #92 sister car driven by Michael Christensen, Kévin Estre and Dirk Werner covered a distance of 981.288km and posted the second quickest time.
Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser, Vice President Motorsport and GT Cars: “The first tests at Le Mans with the new 911 RSR were very clearly about the tyre situation and the setup. After the first laps, our drivers provided us with a very encouraging feedback. The car feels good, the drivers feel comfortable, and the 911 RSR responds logically to all our setup changes.”
Marco Ujhasi, Director GT Factory Motorsports: “Today we put our new 911 RSR on the Le Mans track with a low downforce trim for the first time. Hence, we had to work through some issues with the setup and tyre choice, which we did successfully. The new driver crews worked well together so that we were able to wrap up the race preparation. In the race week, we will be able to concentrate on details and the team procedures.”
Porsche 911 RSR (2015) – GTE Am
At the pre-tests, the focus for the three Porsche customer teams fielding four 2015-spec 911 RSR in the GTE-Am class was also on the setup and tyres. The spotlight was on the #77 RSR run by Dempsey Proton Racing with Christian Ried, Matteo Cairoli and Marvin Dienst. Patrick Long, Abdulaziz Turki Al Faisal and Michael Hedlund will compete for the Proton Competition customer team in the #93 car. Nicholas Yelloly, Stéphane Lemeret and Klaus Bachler will be driving the second of the Proton 911 RSRs. The third customer squad is #86 Gulf Racing 911 RSR, driven by Michael Wainwright, Ben Barker and Nicholas Foster.
Trying to read anything into the lap times on the Le Mans test day is a fruitless exercise, because every team is hedging its bets, and no-one wants to let on what they are capable of at this early stage. It seems that Porsche have, of late, stuck strictly to their preplanned strategy in test or practice sessions, and have not allowed themselves to be been influenced by the emotions of posting quick times. The season is however marching on, and the suits want to see results, so hopefully Porsche can pull something special out of the bag at Le Mans – after all, this is their happiest hunting ground.
Written/edited by: Glen Smale
Images by: Virtual Motorpix/John Mountney