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It was the news that motorsport fans around the world had been waiting for: Porsche returns to contest the Le Mans 24 Hours and the World Endurance Championship (WEC) in 2014 with a newly-developed LMP1 sports prototype. The goal is clear: to bring home the 17th overall victory from the most famous endurance race in the world.
June 12th, 2013, was a very special day on the journey to Porsche’s comeback to the pinnacle of sports prototype racing: On the Porsche test track in Weissach, the new LMP1 vehicle successfully completed its first rollout. Porsche works driver Timo Bernhard put his new racer for the sports car World Endurance Championship and the Le Mans 24 Hours through its initial function test. “I was involved in the development of the new car from the very beginning,” he said.
“I feel very proud to be given the honour of driving the first metres with our baby. Already at this stage the car feels great.”
The LMP1 racer turned its first laps several weeks earlier than originally planned. “We’re right on schedule,” said Fritz Enzinger, Head of LMP1. “Our newly-formed squad has worked with incredible focus to put this highly-complex vehicle on the track so quickly. This gives us a few extra weeks of testing and further development. From 2014, the WEC regulations are first and foremost based on efficiency. That makes the competition amongst engineers even more interesting and presents us with completely new challenges.”
Since making the decision mid-May 2011 to return to top motorsport with an LMP1 vehicle, the Motorsport Centre in Weissach has expanded considerably. A workshop and an administration building were built. They accommodate around 200 employees who are responsible for the design, construction and running of the LMP1. From 2014 onwards, the vehicle will be fielded by a works team from Weissach.
“Best possible efficiency without compromising performance”
“In the development of our new LMP1 vehicle we faced the same challenges as for the production development of our road-going vehicles,” said Wolfgang Hatz, Board Member for Research and Development at Porsche AG on the occasion of the rollout in Weissach. “Our goal was to achieve the best possible efficiency without compromising performance.”
Matthias Müller, Chairman of the Board at Porsche AG, underlined the benefits that customers will have from the development of the high-tech race car. “In designing the new LMP1 car our engineers started with a clean slate and were able to apply new technologies within the framework of the technical regulations that will also benefit customers of our road-going vehicles in the future – after all, there is a race car in every Porsche.”
Four drivers are already confirmed for the 2014 comeback
Four drivers have been confirmed to pilot the new LMP1 vehicle in the sports car World Endurance Championship for Porsche in 2014: Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Mark Webber.
Timo Bernhard hails from Porsche’s in-house youth development programme. In 1999, Porsche recognised the potential of the then 18-year-old and trained him in the Porsche Junior team to become a professional race driver. In 2002 he signed on as a works driver and since then has scored victories and championship titles the world over. In 2010 the German Automobile Association ADAC voted him “Race Driver of the Year” thanks to his outstanding successes. Timo Bernhard is the only race driver who has managed to secure overall victories at all four of the most famous sports car classics. In 2010 he won the Le Mans 24 Hours, in 2003 the Daytona 24 Hours, the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2004 and a total of five times at the Nürburgring 24 hour race – another record.
Romain Dumas joined the circle of Porsche works drivers in 2004. Prior to that he turned heads with his performances in Formula 3, Formula 3000, at international GT races as well as in the Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland. He is one of the most experienced pilots at the Le Mans 24 Hours, where he has contested his favourite race at the Sarthe a total of twelve times. Joining forces with Timo Bernhard, he scored overall victory in Le Mans in 2010 at the wheel of an Audi. The two also celebrated huge successes in the USA in the RS Spyder sports prototype. In the 2007 and 2008 seasons they commandingly clinched the American Le Mans Series title. Romain Dumas teamed up with Timo Bernhard at four of the five overall wins at the Nürburgring 24 hour race. And in 2010 he celebrated overall victory at the Spa 24 Hours at the wheel of a Porsche 911.
“I very much look forward to this new challenge”
Mark Webber has already contested Le Mans twice. In 1998 he was runner-up in the FIA GT Championship. In his Formula 1 career between 2002 and today, he has won nine races. “It’s an honour for me to accompany Porsche at its return to the top category in Le Mans and the sports car World Endurance Championship and to be a part of the team,” said the Australian. “Porsche as a manufacturer has written motorsport history and is synonymous with outstanding technology and performance at the highest level. I very much look forward to this new challenge.”
Neel Jani has driven for the Rebellion Racing team in the American Le Mans Series and in the sports car World Endurance Championship since 2010. He first contested the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2009. The ex-Formula 1 test driver (Sauber and Scuderia Toro Rosso) will support Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas this year with testing. “To compete for Porsche in the sports car World Endurance Championship and at the Le Mans 24 Hours is a dream come true,” says the Swiss. “I’m looking forward to contributing my experience during testing. Porsche is unparalleled in sports car racing and I’m proud to now be a part of the Porsche works team.”
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
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