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Porsche Set To Begin WEC Defense

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, April 12 2016
The WEC defending champion Porsche 919 Hybrid is sporting the No. 1 this season.

The WEC defending champion Porsche 919 Hybrid is sporting the No. 1 this season.

When the World Endurance Championship begins its 2016 racing season this coming weekend at the Silverstone road course in England, it will do so without the No. 17 and No. 18 Porsche 919 Hybrid cars in the field.

That’s because in the wake of winning the prestigious WEC in 2015, Porsche has earned the right to put the No. 1 on the champion 919 and No. 2 on its stablemate 919.

“The number one looks gorgeous on our Porsche,” Mark Webber, who co-drove the No. 17 Porsche to the championship last year with Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley,  said. “It is the fruits of everything we have done last year, and we will have to work incredibly hard to keep it in our team.”

Porsche broke back into LMP1 racing three years ago. Porsche being Porsche, hopes were high that success in a class owned by Audi and Toyota. But there was also the realization that those two marques had the advantage when it came to experience in a series which has moved to hydrid systems.

The 919s struggled early in the 2014 debut season but not for long.

In 2015, the 919s showed speed and reliability and the results was the securing of the WEC’s big prizes – the championship and overall victory in the Le Mans 24 Hour race.

In 2016, Porsche is making a championship defense in the class for the first time in 30 years.

Several things stand it its way.

First, is new equipment. The rules package for 2016 has mandated the LMP1 cars use eight percent less fuel. To conform, the new 919s are using downsized two-litre V4 turbocharged petrol engines that utilize two different energy recovery systems. The cars have also been put on a diet.

Still, the 919 almost equalled its lap times from the previous year at the official WEC Prologue in Le Castellet, France.

“We have kept the car’s concept and thanks to this stability were able to develop the 919 in detail,” said team principal Andreas Seidl. “Weight reduction and performance improvement from various

Porsche team principal Andreas Seidl.

Porsche team principal Andreas Seidl.

components have made the 919 even more efficient. Suspension and aero development have meant better handling.”

The iconic Silverstone Formula One course, which will be the site of the season premier, is 3.66 miles around and features 18 corners.

Seidl said the new 919 should be suitable to that configuration this weekend.

“For the first time we have a high downforce aero package in place for Silverstone circuit’s fast corners,” he said. “In the previous years we had no resources to do that, because we focussed so much on Le Mans. Since the 2015 WEC finale in November we have covered almost 23,000 kilometres of testing with the 919 in different specifications. It was partly endurance and partly performance testing. Also as a team we have improved over the winter. We are ready for the new season and excited to see were we stand compared to our competition.”

The second thing standing in Porsche’s path is the competition. Like Porsche, both Audi and Toyota have revamped their racing packages.

The Audi R18 e-tron Quattro is virtually all new. From looks to an improved energy retrieval system, the Audi upgrade is complete.

Toyota, after its down year of 2015, has scurried to upgrade. The new TS 050 will have new looks and a new kinetic energy recovery system.

What Porsche has not changed is its driving lineup.

Webber, Bernhard and Hartley will man the No. 1 919 while Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb will be in the No. 2 car when the six-hour race at Silverstone begins.

“I’m so much looking forward to Silverstone,” Jani said. “I don’t think we’re that much faster than the competition as lap times in Le Castellet suggested, but we’re positive and do have high expectations. The fast and flowing corners are what Silverstone is famous for. Normally it rains at some point and for this the conditions we had for our test in Spa at the end of March were a good exercise.”

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, April 12 2016
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