Porsche proves pace at official 24 Hours of Le Mans test
It’s June, which in Porsche circles means one thing: Le Mans. In just a few weeks time 60 prototype and GT machines will line up at the Circuit de la Sarthe for the 84th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
In preparation for the world’s most famous endurance race, this weekend the class of 2016 took to the 8.47-mile track this weekend for seven hours of official pre-event testing.
In both the LMP1 and GTE-Pro classes, the factory Porsche squad proved at the Le Mans test that they will once again be a strong contender for victory, with both the 919 Hybrid and the 911 RSR topping their respective time sheets for much of the day’s action.
After the dirty track (much of which is public roads for most of the year) rubbered in during the first hour, the first truly representative time was set by Mark Webber in the no. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid, lapping in 3m22.555s just before the two-hour mark in the morning’s session.
It didn’t take long for the time to be beaten however, when it was eclipsed, it was the no. 2 Porsche 919 in the hands of Neel Jani that did it, first setting a time of 3m22.376s before going a few hundredths of a second faster two laps later into his morning run.
The Swiss racer’s time would stand for another three hours until 2015 WEC champion, Webber responded with a lap of 3m22.270s, providing Porsche’s best lap of the test.
Lucas di Grassi in the no. 8 Audi R18 e-tron quattro would eventually beat Webber’s benchmark with a time of 3m21.375s just before the seven-hour mark however, with a late red flag preventing Porsche from bolting new tyres to the 919 Hybrid duo, Weissach will be happy with its pace relative to its rivals.
Interestingly, compared to its challengers at Audi and Toyota, Porsche was running more downforce its LMP1 machine, the top speed of both the no. 1 and no. 2 entries around 5kph lower than its rivals along the Mulsanne Straight.
If Porsche chooses to keep a similar aero balance for the race in two weeks, this will no doubt help it negotiate traffic. As driver of the no. 2 919 Hybrid, Marc Lieb pointed out, “The car’s driveability is good and perhaps this is the most important factor for a 24-hour race.”
In the GTE-Pro class, the Porsche Motorsport-entered 911 RSRs (absent from the FIA WEC this season), returned with a bang, topping the time sheets for most of the day, just like their LMP1 big brothers.
It was reigning overall Le Mans champion, Nick Tandy who set the fastest 911 lap of the day, stopping the clocks at 3m55.402s in the no. 91 car he will share with USCC teammates, Patrick Pilet and Kévin Estre.
The no. 92, piloted by Frédéric Makowiecki, Jörg Bergmeister and Earl Bamber was not far behind with a lap of 3m55.691s (set by Makowiecki) and, while the no. 63 Corvette eventually set the fastest lap of the day, Porsche will be happy with second and third as well as their sterling reliability throughout the test.
The 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans kicks off next Wednesday with the first qualifying session. Keep up to date with all the action on Total911.com.