A solid podium finish for the Porsche 919 Hybrid at its international racing debut in the Silverstone 6 Hour endurance race delighted Brendon Hartley; and the New Zealander is keen-ly anticipating developing the full potential of the all-new Le Mans prototype during the remaining seven races of the World Endurance Championship (WEC). “The best way for a team to learn about a new car is to go racing,” reflected Hartley.” It all went very well and the team did an amaz-ing job. It was an awesome feeling to stand on the podium and spray the champagne.”
Hartley shared the new Porsche with Australian driver Mark Webber and German driver Timo Bernhard. In difficult and constantly changing wet and dry weather conditions, the trio finished third after 165 laps on the 5.8 kilometre British Grand Prix track. The race was red flagged be-cause of heavy rain 24 minutes before the planned six hours were completed. Webber brought the car home behind the safety car. The sister car of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb retired after 1 hour 15 minutes because of a technical problem. The overall victory went to Toyota drivers Sébastien Buemi , Anthony Davidson, and Nicolas Lapierre.
During the practice sessions on Friday, Hartley focussed on long runs in the car while Webber set the fastest lap time in the final session. Webber and Bernhard shared the driving in the Saturday qualifying and the German driver started the race on Sunday from sixth place on the Silverstone grid. Bernard started on slick tyres but switched to intermediates as conditions deteriorated. Dur-ing the first two hours the German ran as high as second place and the car was lying third when Hartley took over for the middle stint. “The track was greasy for my two one-hour stints on slick tyres so I had to be cautious. The team made the right call on the tyre strategy and I was getting good information from the pits,” said Hartley.
“It was an amazing feeling to bring the car back after my very first stint as a Porsche factory driv-er and hand it over to Mark.” Hartley had maintained third place during his two hours at the wheel. Webber re-joined on slick tyres and then switched to full wets as heavy rain swept in across the Northamptonshire circuit. “I had a difficult middle stint with rain on the windscreen. It was difficult to tell where the track was wet and where the line was dry. I didn’t take much of a risk in terms of traffic, and I was careful with the tyres too. I am delighted with how this first part of my job went.”
Mark Webber echoed Hartley’s comments. “It’s been a brilliant day for us. I’m happy to have played a small role in the effort that’s gone in from the team and everyone back at the factory to get to this point. Timo and Brendon drove exceptionally as well. It was unfortunate for the other car, but it wasn’t their day. It was a tough race for all the drivers with tricky conditions, and drizzle on slick tyres is never easy. We managed to dodge a few bullets and survived some of the tricky phases. It was a great experience for me, I learnt so much today in the race. We were spot on with the pit stops in terms of the tyre strategy,” said Webber.
The eagerly awaited race debut of the innovative Porsche 919 Hybrid in the WEC was also deemed to be a success by the team management. Wolfgang Hatz, Board Member for Research and Development of Porsche AG said he was proud of the performance by the highly complex Le Mans prototype and the new team. Porsche has not competed as a factory team in the top level of the World Championship for 16 years. “This was a proper comeback to the highest class of endurance racing. Preparation, operation, discipline in the garage and at the wheel of the two Porsche 919 Hybrids have been very good. The race itself was fascinating and this shows me that the new WEC rules work well – despite or even because of the great technical freedom. Three manufacturers, three innovative hybrid systems and exciting competition on the highest level… for me this is motorsport that contributes to road car development,” said Hatz.