Last month, at the Prologue at Paul Ricard – the pre-season test that had the Audi R18 e-tron, the Toyota TS040 Hybrid and the new Porsche 919 Hybrid LMP1 cars on the track together for the first time – much was made by those of us in the media by the fact that the fastest lap turned in the test was by one of the Porsches.
Not much was made of it by Porsche, though. “It’s nice,” a Porsche engineer told Motorsport.com, “but it means nothing here. Everyone is in a different state of tune. The proof will come at Silverstone.”
Indeed it did. Under wet conditions that eventually became so dreadful that the six-hour World Endurance Championship had to be red-flagged early, Toyota dominated, Audi crashed, and one Porsche broke and the other finished third to the pair of musclebound Toyotas. In all, not a bad debut for the new Porsche; the number 14 car lost its left front wheel – which one of the Porsches did also during the Prologue, suggesting there is work to be done there, either mechanically or with the pit crew – and retired early on. But the number 20 sister Porsche of Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber ended up two laps behind the winning Toyota, one lap behind the second-place Toyota.
That said, had the two Audis not uncharacteristically crashed out, it appears the Porsches would have needed more speed to make the podium. The fastest lap of the race was 1 minute, 44.217 seconds, clocked by Andre Lotterer in the number 2 Audi, just a tick faster than the sister Audi, which had a best lap of 1:44.656.
The winning Toyota’s best lap was 1:44.646, and the second-place Toyota’s best was an even quicker 1:44.326.
The best lap by a Porsche was a 1:45.245 by the third-place car, with the sister car’s best lap a 1:45.452. Granted, the fastest and slowest times among the six cars are quite close, but with both Audis and both Toyotas in the 1:44s, and the Porsches in the 1:45s, even marginal differences add up quickly in an endurance race. Either the Porsches need to find a bit more speed, improve their wet-weather setup, or both.
And they’ll have to do it quickly, as round two is coming soon – May 3 and 4 with the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.