A lap of Spa onboard Earl Bamber’s Porsche 919 LMP1

Earl Bamber, Nick Tandy and Nico Hulkenberg took a determined victory at Le Mans last year, preparing for the 24 Hours of Le Mans by racing the number 19 919 LMP1 Hybrid at the 2015 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps. It was the first time that a third 919 had been run in a round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.

Last year’s Le Mans winners will not drive the Porsche 919 LMP1 Hybrid this year. Following the Volkswagen dieselgate scandal and the subsequent pressure to slash unnecessary costs within the VW Group, Porsche reduced its WEC LMP1 squad to two cars only for the season.

Porsche 919 LMP1 Hybrid Spa 2015 1

Earl Bamber impressed at Spa Supercup 2014

Bamber arrived in the Ardennes as a works team rookie, but had strong form in Belgium. The previous year, the talented New Zealander had taken the first pole of his first real season in global Porsche racing at Spa, nicking the Porsche Supercup pole by three-tenths of a second ahead of seasoned Supercup veteran and current Aston works driver, Nicki Thiim. Bamber dominated the race and took a memorable win for the Fach Auto Tech team, part sponsored by Porsche as the winner of the Porsche International Cup Scholarship. No doubt his performance at the circuit in changeable conditions was a sizeable ingredient in earning a works driver contract for 2015.

“I love this circuit, as it is a spectacular place,” said Bamber from the 919 garage in 2015. “I am so looking forward to taking the 919 through Eau Rouge and can’t wait to race that car. When the Silverstone race was on I was glued to the screen: it was one of the best races I have ever seen. It was like a six-hour Supercup race. I enjoyed working with Nico and Nick in testing and now I’m really looking forward to racing with our car crew for the first time.”

Porsche 919 LMP1 Hybrid Spa 2015 2

Spa WEC with the Porsche 919 LMP1

The race was a turbulent affair. A stunning qualifying performance from Tandy put the car second on the grid for his 919 debut, but, on lap seven, the 919 was involved in a collision with one of the 911 RSRs and was forced to stop for repairs. Hulkenberg then double-stinted form ninth overall, and handed the car to Bamber at the 80-lap mark. Tandy brought the car home sixth overall after fitting tyres to the left side of the car only in his final stop.

The overall weekend evidenced a phenomenal chemistry between the rookie trio, who delivered a gritty performance to forge formidable bonds, which eventually led to a great result for the team at Le Mans. It’s a real shame that they will not get the chance to defend their title this year (albeit Nico can’t do it anyway due a clash with F1).

Onboard Spa Francorchamps with Earl Bamber in a Porsche 919 LMP1 Hybrid

This in-car footage shows just how tight Spa is when racing an LMP1 car on track with the wide-arched GT cars. It is surprising just how much much of the lap is flat out: Eau Rouge, Radillon, most of the downhill run from Rivage onwards and even Blanchimont are taken with foot pinned to the throttle stop. This lap is run nowhere near the 919’s ultimate pace but it’s still impressive. This year’s 6 hours of Spa Francorchamps is on May 7.

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