2015 FIA WEC: Six Hours of Nürburgring preview
Today marks 75 days since Porsche historic 17th 24 Hours of Le Mans triumph, a victory that vaulted the Weissach to the top of the FIA World Endurance Manufacturers’ Championship.
Since victory at La Sarthe though, the FIA WEC has lay dormant, with Porsche’s motorsport efforts predominantly focussed on its GT programme out in the USA (which has borne plenty of fruit in recent races).
However, this weekend, the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship roars back into life with the return of another iconic race that has not been seen on a world championship schedule since 1991.
Through the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies, the 1000km of Nürburgring was one of the biggest sports car races outside of Le Mans. Held on the infamous Nordschleife until 1984, the 1000km event was one of the toughest tests of man and machine.
Porsche has won the event 11 times, although its last triumph came in 1984 when Stefan Bellof and Derek Bell took their Rothmans Porsche 956 to the top step of the podium.
Top class LMP1 prototypes last took to the Nürburgring in 2009 when the race formed part of the Le Mans Series, though for its first appearance in the new FIA WEC the race will run to a six-hour format rather than 1000km.
Porsche Team will revert back to just two 919 Hybrid LMP1 entries at the Nürburgring this weekend as the third no. 19 entry that won at Le Mans in the hands of Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber and Nico Hülkenberg was only scheduled to race at Spa and La Sarthe.
Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas (who once again team up in the no. 18 car) are the highest placed Porsche racers in the drivers’ standings, with all three sitting in equal fourth.
The no. 17 crew of Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard sit in equal fifth (four points behind their stablemates) after finishing second at the double points-paying race at Le Mans.
The two Porsche 919 Hybrids (which will revert back to the white liveries seen at Silverstone and Spa) will feature a new high downforce aerodynamic package designed for the more technical circuits that feature in the second half of the FIA WEC season.
Audi will likely provide Weissach with their biggest challenge at the Nürburgring, with both German giants hoping to impress on home ground. Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fässler were the only R18 e-tron quattro crew to get on the podium at Le Mans and currently top the drivers’ table.
In the GTE-Pro field, both Porsche Team Manthey 911 RSRs will revert back to their pre-Le Mans two-driver line-ups, with the no. 91 car crewed by Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen, and Patrick Pilet and Frédéric Makowiecki in the no. 92 machine.
The two cars finished off the podium at Le Mans after mechanical problems in the 24-hour race however, the Manthey-run squad will be buoyed by the 911 RSRs recent Stateside successes where Pilet and Tandy have won three races in a row.
While the British ace may not be racing a Porsche this weekend, he will still compete in the Six Hours of Nürburgring, expanding his prototype experience in KCMG’s ORECA LMP2 entry (a car that currently leads the second-tier prototype standings).
After three free practice sessions today and tomorrow, GTE qualifying takes place at 1:00pm GMT on Saturday, with the grid-setting LMP session straight afterwards at 1:30pm. The Six Hours of Nürburgring kicks off at 12pm GMT on Sunday.
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