For the first time since 1986 Porsche could win a World Championship title. Mathematically it is possible for the two Porsche 919 Hybrids to secure the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship’s manufacturers’ title on November 1st in Shanghai. At the same time, it is still possible to lose the championship to the competition that has recently become stronger. It’s a tense time in the run up to the six-hour race on the Chinese Formula One circuit with its unique corners.
Going into the seventh of eight rounds the Porsche Team has 264 points to its tally in the manufacturers’ championship. Audi has 211, Toyota 119. The maximum points that can be scored in each six-hour race is 44 (25 and 18 for a one-two race result, plus one point for pole position).
In the drivers’ standings, Porsche drivers Timo Bernhard (DE), Brendon Hartley (NZ) and Mark Webber (AU) lead with 129 points. The fastest Audi trio has only one point less and the second Porsche crew of Romain Dumas (FR), Neel Jani (CH) and Marc Lieb (DE) lies third in the rankings (95.5 points).
Thirty one racing cars with 86 drivers from 19 different nationalities are divided into four classes in the WEC. The Porsche 919 Hybrid competes in the top LMP1 class (class one Le Mans Prototypes) and is a research laboratory for future sports car technology. It is powered by a downsizing two-litre V4-cylinder turbo charged petrol engine and an electric engine, which is fed by two different energy recovery systems (brake energy from the front axle and exhaust energy). This unique and ground-breaking powertrain produces a system performance of around 1,000 hp.
Since the 919’s debut back in 2014, it has won five races: Interlagos in 2014 and in 2015 four races in a row: first the 24 Hours of Le Mans, then the six-hour races at the Nürburgring, in Austin and in Fuji. Three times it has achieved a one-two result (Le Mans, Nürburgring and Fuji) and in all six 2015 rounds to date no car other than a 919 has made it onto pole position or, for that matter, the front row of the grid. The two regular car crews have three pole positions each.
Last year in Shanghai, Dumas/Jani/Lieb took pole position and achieved what was back then the third podium finish for the 919 Hybrid. Bernhard/Hartley/Webber started from P3 and finished sixth after a damaged tyre. Before that, in Shanghai the two 919s were running one-two in a race for the first time.
Quotes before the race: Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1: “It’s a very strong team performance to be able to fight for the world championship title in what is only our second season. We find ourselves in that situation a lot earlier than anyone expected. In Fuji we managed the pressure that comes with that very well, and the drivers also proved to be true team players. In Shanghai the situation will be even more tense. The circuit doesn’t really favour the Porsche 919 Hybrid’s strengths, and the competition from Audi has got stronger. Because there is so much at risk, most importantly we have to stay calm. Our chances will be best when we just keep our heads down and continue working.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: “The track layout in Shanghai means tyre wear is high, so, for that reason, the rules allow us to use eight sets of slick tyres for the race. This means we don’t have to do double stints. But even on a single stint it will not be easy to maintain the tyre’s performance for constantly attacking in traffic. Tyre management and overall reliability will be key factors for the race win and the title battle with Audi. We have learnt a lot about the set-up of our 919 with its new aerodynamic package for high downforce, and should be well prepared.”
Alexander Hitzinger, Technical Director LMP1: “By winning four races in a row on significantly different circuits, we have proven that the 919 Hybrid can be fast everywhere. In Shanghai we will choose a similar downforce level to the one we had in Fuji. Compared to Shanghai last year, this is a lot higher level and has a positive affect on the car’s balance and tyre wear. This should be a good improvement. However, we are very much aware of the development work our competition has done, and we know they are lurking in the wings.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid no. 17:
Timo Bernhard (34, Germany): “Up until now we have been the hunters, but now we are the hunted and want to stay in front. This certainly goes for the manufacturers’ championship, but it has also become the situation in the drivers’ standings. We have to stay focussed and keep working. The eye catching speciality of the Shanghai circuit is turn one. It seems to be an endless story getting tighter and tighter. Another crucial corner is the long right-hander before the back straight. You have to be on the throttle early there. Due to the abrasive tarmac, you have to look after your tyres well.”
Brendon Hartley (25, New Zealand): “The Shanghai track has some unique corners. If the last races are anything to go by, I’m sure it will also create some fantastic racing. We now lead the drivers’ championship by one point, but we go there with the same attitude we have had in the previous races. Audi had an update in Fuji, so we expect another tough battle. I cannot wait to race in the penultimate round of the championship!”
Mark Webber (39, Australia): “The Shanghai circuit is a challenging one. It has got a lot of different types of corners, and is especially hard on the left hand front tyre because of the many long and fast corners. The long straight will suit the 919 very well. In the past we would have been nervous about this kind of track, but we have improved the car a lot since 2014 and go there full of confidence.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid no. 18
Romain Dumas (37, France): “I think in Shanghai we will see a very big difference to our performance there last year, because we have a lot more downforce. Overall it is a nice track with everything – fast corners, slow corners and a long straight. It will be hard for the front axle, but I guess we should have a good base.”
Neel Jani (31, Switzerland): “Last year Shanghai and Fuji were a bit similar for us, and therefore I think we should also see a comparable performance this year on those two tracks. In Fuji we have been good – but did not dominate the way we had before that at the Nürburgring and in Austin. On top of that, Shanghai kills the tyres and Audi has improved. It’s going to be exciting.”
Marc Lieb (35, Germany): “Shanghai is a rather unusual circuit. This goes for the surface as well as for the corners. It has a remarkable amount of corners with a closing radius. This places a challenge on the set-up work, because the cars tend to understeer a lot.”