This weekend sees the second round of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) in Belgium. The Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps takes place on the breath-taking track in the Ardennes mountains and counts as the dress rehearsal for the Le Mans 24 Hours (June 18/19).
“I’m very much looking forward to Spa,” commented Brendon Hartley. “Firstly, because I love the track, secondly because I think it should be a good one for our 919 Hybrid, and lastly because it’s a chance to well and truly put the Silverstone race behind me. Car number 1 does not have any runs on the board, but I’m confident we will bounce back and get our title defence underway in Spa.”
Drivers love her corners, fans enjoy the atmosphere, engineers become desperate about the layout. This is due to the Belgian circuit’s long full throttle sections, which are approached with low downforce. The aerodynamic configuration is key and will be a mixture between the Silverstone (high downforce) and the Le Mans specifications (minimum drag).
At the season’s opening round in Silverstone it became clear that the class 1 Le Mans prototypes, of which the Porsche 919 Hybrid is one of them, hadn’t become any slower despite having eight per cent less fuel available per lap. The fastest race lap (Neel Jani, 1:40.303 minutes) was over half a second quicker than last year’s bench mark in the race (Audi, 1:40.836 minutes), and even nearly two seconds better than last year’s fastest race lap set by a Porsche (1:42.245 minutes).
The Porsche trio of Romain Dumas (FR), Neel Jani (CH) and Marc Lieb (DE) is currently leading the drivers’ championship and wants to defend this position, or preferably extend it. The sister car’s crew with the reigning World Champions Timo Bernhard (DE), Brendon Hartley (NZ) and Mark Webber (AU) had a solid lead of 45 seconds in Silverstone, but retired after an accident when lapping a GT car and desperately wants to catch up now.
“Both our cars were competitive enough to win the Silverstone race,” said Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1, “but both had incidents. In Spa we must have a package in place that’s just as competitive, but serving different demands. Spa may see a new balance of competition. We have to fully exploit the 919 Hybrid’s potential, finish the race with two cars and score as many points as possible.”