Tandy, Barker and Webster: issue 128 driver columns
During my time in the 919 Hybrid side of Porsche’s garage, I’ve done a lot of testing, and I’ve always said that when driving, the way to get speed out of a racing car is pretty much the same whether you’re in a GT car or a prototype.
But actually racing an LMP1 – or LMP2 – car requires a slightly different philosophy, as I’ve found out over the first three rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Everyone says modern endurance racing is fl at out and, from my own experiences in the factory Porsche 911 RSR, this is certainly true in the GT ranks. Over in the US or in the GTE-Pro class of the FIA WEC, we’re driving at almost 100 per cent for the entire race, as are our rivals, and it results in some incredible action.
However, from my time behind the wheel of the 919 Hybrid (and KCMG’s ORECA), this isn’t strictly the case. As drivers, we’re still pushing to our maximum, but the boundaries are slightly different, as both the tyres and the energy systems (fuel and electric) need to be managed through each race.
If you go off the racing line – which is quite often when you’re lapping in traffi c – the prototypes seem to pick up a lot of rubbish on their tyres. It’s odd, as we’re all racing on the same track at the same time, and I’ve never experienced anything similar in the RSRs, but it takes a few laps for the tyre to come back to you.
I’ve been lucky enough to race at places such as Le Mans and Monaco, but before this year I’d never had a chance to compete at possibly the most legendary track in the world: the Nürburgring Nordschleife.
Luckily, the second round of this year’s Carrera Cup Deutschland saw us support the famous 24-hour race, giving me my first taste of the Green Hell. It was absolutely insane. The circuit is like a Hot Wheels track (only bigger), with loads of elevation changes and plenty of cambered corners.
It’s an amazing place, but you hear so much from so many different people about the track, because it’s so famous. Everyone thinks it’s awesome, but then everyone says, “Oh, it can really bite you.” In the end, I switched off to everyone’s opinions and got on with my preparation.
Being in the Carrera Cup Deutschland really forces you to learn fast, as it is so competitive, so I took it corner-by-corner and tried to remember the characteristics of each turn!
I don’t think you can go to a track like the Nordschleife for the fi rst time and expect to run at the front. I didn’t go into the meeting with any preconceptions, and I left pretty pleased with my performance.
Where do I start? Spa was just an awesome, awesome weekend. Obviously, after the crash in testing there, I was a little apprehensive (especially about Pouhon), but I quickly got that out my mind as soon as I arrived at the circuit.
The Thursday practice sessions were soaking wet, and the Michelin wet tyres we use are so soft that when they’re new, they’re so much faster than a used set. Just in case either qualifying or the races saw similar conditions, we decided not to use any of our new tyres, which meant we flew under the radar a bit when it came to ultimate lap time.
Qualifying was dry, and I put together three laps that would have been good enough for pole position (which was just as well, because I had one of my times disallowed for running over the track limits).
Normally, track limit offences happen on the exit of corners as you run wide, but I actually went four wheels off on the inside of the La Source hairpin, as the apex curb is big enough to fi t an entire Cup car!
I’m not normally as hot at qualifying as I am in the races – I prefer the racecraft required in the latter – but without wishing to blow my own trumpet, I think this was probably my best ever qualifying session, due in no small part to the excellent car set up by Team Parker Racing.