German F1 driver Nico Hülkenberg debuts for Porsche Racing at Spa this weekend: part of a three-car Porsche 919 LMP1 Hybrid line up that is sure to generate serious presence on track and contribute to a very interesting race.
Driver lineups for the 919s numbered 17, 18 and 19 are arranged as follows:
- Porsche 919 Hybrid #17: Bernhard/Hartley/Webber
- Porsche 919 Hybrid #18: Dumas/Jani/Lieb
- Porsche 919 Hybrid #19: Bamber/Hülkenberg/Tandy
Adding a third 919 to the squad creates a huge logistical task for the Porsche WEC team, which has really been racing in its current form for just over a year. Add the massive power boost that comes with the move to an 8-megajoule powertrain and the additional stresses and strains this puts on the race car and there is a lot for the young team to deal with, running three prototypes and a pair of 911 RSRs in a six-hour race at the world’s greatest racetrack.
The power now developed by the 8MJ 919 Hybrid exceeds most other racing cars, including Formula 1 cars and all other prototype racers, but I have it on quite good authority that the primary challenge for the drivers is not just the huge amount of power available, but also how the 919 delivers that power. Four hundred horsepower arriving at the front wheels in one press of the throttle is tough on drivers and on tyres: we’ll have to see how the cars have developed since Silverstone when they get to Spa Francorchamps.
“The speed of the second generation of the 919 Hybrid was convincing at the season’s opening race at Silverstone,” said Fritz Enzinger, Vice President of Porsche’s LMP1 group. “The third 919 Hybrid for Spa is an entirely newly built car for Earl, Nick and Nico. Handling three such complex cars and nine drivers will be challenging. All three 919s will compete in the same aero configuration as raced at Silverstone. Regarding the demands of the hybrid management in the 8-megajoule class, we are constantly learning. Generally speaking, Spa’s track layout should favour our car.”
Putting the threat from Toyota aside for a moment, the biggest issue for Porsche race pace at Silverstone was the corner speed shown by the Audis. If they take a bit of downforce off to try and stay close to the 919s along Spa’s Kemmel Straight, they will slow down in the bends. Audi has already confirmed it will run a variety of aero packages across the three R18 e-tron Quattro prototypes at round two of the World Endurance Championship, but its biggest weapon may take the shape of Rene Rast: awesome former Porsche racer and now number 9 Audi boy, driving with Filipe Albuquerque and Marco Bonanomi.
Rast has two 24 hour Spa wins to his name, and debuts in LMP1 at the same race as Hülkenberg, Bamber and Tandy. No doubt all three have a huge learning curve ahead of them, but they are supremely talented racing drivers: absolutely amongst the best in the world. This race will be properly mega, so do not miss it! Fox Sports 1 shows WEC live in most of its territories, with Motors TV your friend in the UK. Eurosport will also show part of the race towards the end, or you can watch it via the excellent WEC app.