2014 FIA WEC: Silverstone Six Hours LMP1 race report
Porsche’s return to the top class of world sports car racing has concluded with the new-for-2014 Porsche 919 Hybrid LMP1 car securing a remarkable podium finish on its competitive debut at the Silverstone Six Hours.
The #20 919 Hybrid of Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley, and Mark Webber ran trouble-free throughout the constantly changing track conditions brought about by the Easter weekend weather.
The sister #14 919’s retirement just after the one-hour mark (caused by an as-yet unconfirmed drivetrain problem) was the only thing to take a shine off an impressive return to pinnacle of sports car racing for Weissach.
Friday’s practice sessions saw the two Porsche 919s rack up some useful mileage, providing the team with more important data with which to analyse the new racer’s areas for improvement.
After setting the fastest lap time in a few of the sessions, the two 919s qualified third and sixth for Sunday’s six-hour race. The #14 led the Weissach charge, with the #20 machine still only 0.5s away from the pole time of the lead Toyota.
The opening hour of the six-hour battle around the Silverstone Arena Grand Prix circuit saw the Porsche duo, with Neel Jani (#14) and Bernhard (#20) at the wheel, race conservatively as the two Audis pressured the lead #7 Toyota.
This strategy had paid off by the half-distance point as, although the #14 919 Hybrid had already been wheeled back into the garage, both Audi R18s had crashed out, leaving the Hartley third overall in the remaining Porsche.
By this time, the #8 had pulled into a commanding lead, choosing the correct intermediate tyres during the first rain shower. Porsche also switched to the best tyres at the right point, allowing the #20 car to race outright with the #7 Toyota for second place.
Eventually, the high-downforce Toyota was able to reassert its dominance but the Porsche, running with a Le Mans-specification aero package, had proved a point, even if it didn’t have the grip necessary to challenge the Japanese cars when the track was at its slipperiest.
By the time the chequered flag was brought out (26 minutes ahead of schedule due to worsening track conditions), Mark Webber found himself one lap behind the second-placed Toyota, with the winning #8 machine a further circuit ahead.
We could hardly have asked for more. To pick up a podium at the very first attempt is just great,” Bernhard enthused. “It was very important to finish the race and make the right calls. This way we have gathered loads of data.”
LMP1 team principal, Andreas Seidl agreed: “Third place for the #20 Porsche 919 Hybrid is a well deserved reward for the hard work done since the first roll out in June 2013. We didn’t make any mistakes in the most difficult conditions. This was a first class job.”