This weekend, the World Endurance Championship (WEC) moves to the Nürburgring in western Germany for round 4 of the series. In the LMP1 class, Porsche leads with 111 points, 24.5 points ahead of Toyota (86.5 points). [Ed – The ACO originally issued the incorrect championship points to Toyota after Le Mans, this has now been corrected]. In the GTE Pro class, Ford leads with 117 points followed by Ferrari on 108 and Aston Martin 95, with Porsche in fourth place with 72 points.
Taking a step back for a minute, you may recall from our earlier reports that the Porsche LMP1 team elected to run the first two races of the season with their low downforce aero package, as a test for Le Mans. Looking at the first half of the Le Mans 24 Hour race, the Toyotas were faster than the Porsches, so it is not clear what advantage this brought Porsche as they potentially lost out on better results in the first two races by going this route. In our opinion, the fact that Porsche won at Le Mans had more to do with attrition than any aerodynamic advantage.
Since winning the Le Mans 24 Hours, Porsche have been busy testing their new high downforce aero package at Barcelona in Spain, and this has proved very effective. However, the test was conducted by the #2 squad of Bernhard/Hartley/Bamber while the #1 squad were, curiously, not involved in this test. Neel Jani said, “I’m very curious about driving our new aero package. Testing duties in Barcelona were undertaken by the car number 2 drivers so our car number 1 crew have no experience with the new configuration yet.” However, these decisions are taken by people with a far more intimate knowledge of team, car and insider matters, so we had best leave these issues to them. The fact of the matter is that the Porsches will be far more competitive for the remainder of the season which will make for closer racing, and that is a good thing!
On the GTE Pro front, it is really puzzling how a totally new race car, potentially more efficient technologically and aerodynamically, can be languishing down in fourth place, 45 points behind the class leader after just three races. But the reasons behind this are complex, it isn’t as simple as all being down to an unfavourable BOP index, although this does play a part. For the race at the Nürburgring this weekend, the RSR is in very much the same trim as it was for the first race of the European season at Silverstone, except that it can now carry 3-litres more fuel. The RSR was given 15kg extra ballast to carry at the beginning of the year, and she still has this on board, and the engine still has to breathe through two 30.8mm restrictors, just as it did at Silverstone. These figures were correct as at 30 June this year, so it remains to be seen if this will change for the race itself.
A lap on the Nürburgring Grand Prix circuit has 16 corners, seven left handers and nine right handers, along its 5.148km length. In the race itself, it is interesting to note that at normal race speed, the Porsche 919 Hybrid needs to refuel after a maximum of 33 laps. Refuelling and changing tyres may only be done sequentially, not at the same time. Only four mechanics may work simultaneously when changing tyres and they may use only one wheel gun at a time. The drivers are normally only changed when new tyres are needed.
The different types of tyres that can be used include the following: three different compounds of slick tyres for dry conditions, a hybrid tyre for mixed conditions (no profile but softer cover) and wet weather tyres. Four sets of dry weather tyres are available per car for qualifying and the race, this is two sets less than in 2016.
The schedule (local time) for the weekend is as follows:
|Friday 14 July||FP1: 11h35-13h05|
|Saturday 15 July||FP3: 09h45-10h45|
|GTE Pro & Am: 14h55-15h15|
|LMP1 & LMP2: 15h25-15h45|
|Sunday 16 July||13:00-19:00|
Last year, the two 919 Hybrids shared the second row of the grid, but it was the #1 Porsche of Bernhard/Hartley/Webber that took the chequered flag after six hours. With Free Practice 1 (FP1) completed, the #2 Porsche of Bernhard/Hartley/Bamber heads the list. This will be an exciting race because changes to the running order are expected from both cars in the LMP1 and GTE Pro factory classes, so be sure to check back with Porsche Road & Race during the weekend.
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by: Virtual Motorpix/Glen Smale & John Mountney