Porsche’s highly anticipated new LMP1 sports prototype which the factory team will race next year at Le Mans and in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) had a successful first rollout Wednesday at Porsche’s Weissach test track.
With the Board of Porsche AG in attendance, factory driver Timo Bernhard was behind the wheel to carry out an initial shakedown and function check.
The new car was ahead of schedule for it’s first track test which has also allowed Porsche more test and development time said Fritz Enzinger, Head of LMP1.
“We are well on schedule, our newly formed team has worked with utmost concentration on getting this highly complex vehicle on the track as soon as possible,” noted Enzinger. “This allows us a few additional weeks for more testing and further development. From 2014, the regulations are primarily based on efficiency. This makes the competition amongst engineers more interesting and presents us with completely new challenges.”
Since the decision was taken in mid-2011 to return to sportscar racing with an all-new LMP1 Porsche’s Weissach Motorsport Centre has grown significantly. A workshop and administration building has been built and will house approximately 200 employees who are responsible for the design, assembly and deployment of the new car.
“I was involved in the development of the new car right from the outset,” said Bernhard. “I’m very proud that I was the one to take our baby through its first paces today. Already now the car feels great. I look forward to testing the vehicle in the coming weeks and months with my friend and colleague Romain Dumas.” Bernhard and fellow factory driver Romain Dumas are the first two regular drivers announced for the LMP1 programme and will carry out the majority of testing on a variety of circuits.
“During the development of our new LMP1 vehicle, we faced the same challenge as in the series production development of our road legal cars,” noted Wolfgang Hatz, Porsche Board Member for Research and Development. “Our aim was to achieve the best possible efficiency without compromising performance.”
Matthias Müller, Porsche Chairman of the Executive Board, was keen to stress that technology and lessons learned with the new prototype will find their way to the road car division.
“The engineers were able to start with a blank sheet of paper in the design of the new LMP1 car that was out here today on the Weissach race track for the first time. Hence, they were able to apply many new technologies within the framework of the regulations that will also benefit the customers of our road legal automobiles in the future. After all, there’s a race car in every Porsche.”
While Porsche prepare for their factory return to endurance racing next year, Toyoya have declared themselves ready for this year’s Le Mans 24 hours.
Following their return to the “24” last year, Toyota enters this year race with two cars; the #7 for Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima plus the #8 for Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Stéphane Sarrazin.
Both driver line-ups will benefit from the 2013-specification TS030 Hybrid prototype, which raced for the first time at Spa in the hands of the #7 crew. Seven test sessions, including last Sunday’s official Le Mans test day have now convinced Toyota that the updated TS030 “Is a significant step forward in terms of reliability and performance.”
Their preparation programme included several endurance tests, designed to push the TS030 and the team to the limit over 30 hours of continuous running. The heart of Toyota’s challenge is their hybrid powertrain, which recuperates energy under braking in the seven designated hybrid recovery zones before automatically delivering 300hp of boost.
A busy day at the test day saw the team complete over 2,000km focusing on the set-up of the car and its powertrain, long-run pace as well as tyre evaluation. Last year the #7 fought a thrilling battle at the front and led the race at six hours before ultimately retiring due to an engine problem, while the #8 crashed heavily whilst lapping a slower car.
Yoshiaki Kinoshita, Team President:
“We are very much looking forward to the Le Mans 24 Hours. Last year’s Le Mans was our first race with the TS030 HYBRID so we expected to face some difficulties; this year we are better prepared and we expect to demonstrate that. Leading Le Mans last year, and winning three WEC races, has given us a taste for success. It would be a dream for us to stand on the top of the podium at such a legendary race. We are facing a very tough opponent in Audi so it is hard to be confident, but we know we have done everything in our power to be ready and we will give 100% effort to succeed. It is a very long week and many things can happen so we must be ready for the challenges to come.”
Alex Wurz (#7):
“Coming to Le Mans in 2013, as in every year, is exciting. It is a race I really love. It gives you a buzz already at the test so I am happy to come back for the race. Le Mans is an incredible mix of cool history, old-school motorsport and modern technology like the hybrid system and aerodynamics on our car. It is such a great mix. If you have it won and you stand on the podium that is an incredible feeling and you want it again; that’s why I come back. Last year it was really difficult for us as it was our first race. We did as much as we could to be ready but it was not possible to truly fight for the whole race, even if we did take the lead. This time we had an intense programme over the winter, but we saw our competitor also improved a lot so I’m enjoying this challenge.”
Nicolas Lapierre (#7):
“It’s very exciting to be back here. The team is much more ready than we were last year at the same time so it is promising. We have been a bit disappointed by the two first races this year so I hope we can show some improvement, particularly in terms of results. But it is looking okay, the team is more prepared and everyone has more experience of this track than last year so it should be better. Le Mans is a very special event; it is definitely the most important race of the season. As a French driver it is significant because it is a French race but for everyone it is important as one of the most popular races in the world. I have never finished on the podium here as I have always had some bad luck, but last year gave me a taste of leading this race so I hope this year is the lucky one.”
Kazuki Nakajima (#7):
“I am looking forward to my second Le Mans 24 Hours. Last year’s race feels like only yesterday; it was really quick year and one which was very busy for me. After last year’s race we had a very good season and I enjoyed being part of the winning team at Fuji, plus winning the Formula Nippon championship. Compared to last year we are much better prepared but still I think we need to find a bit of speed and luck to win the race. Personally I am much more relaxed with the benefit of last year’s experience. I really enjoyed my first visit, particularly the atmosphere which is something different and very special. The track is very high speed and there is a lot of drama going on, so I learnt a lot last year and feel better prepared this time.”
Anthony Davidson (#8):
“It’s exciting to be back in Le Mans and I certainly expect a much better conclusion than last year. A lot has happened since we arrived at Le Mans 12 months ago; the team has learnt a lot and matured while I have completed my recovery programme after the accident. I’m ready to generate some much better memories! I feel good, I’m confident in the team and I know my team-mates are very strong. We have prepared quite intensely for this race over the past months and it was nice to see at the official test day how much progress has been made in the last year. The team is better prepared on all levels; we know the challenge facing us and we are ready for this. We will do the best possible job we can and keep pushing for the best possible result.”
Sébastien Buemi (#8):
“This will be my second time in Le Mans and I learnt so much about this place from our 2012 experience. I knew already it is a special race track but after racing here for the first time I can appreciate that even more. Last year we did the shakedown of the #8 car directly at Le Mans so it was not ideal preparation. This time we are in much better shape and I hope this allows us to challenge. Of course, the first aim is to get to the chequered flag, which is not easy in such a demanding race. Ultimately we want to get to the flag first but there is a lot of work to do before that point. The team knows what is needed to challenge and I’m very confident we can do a good job. But Le Mans is Le Mans and 24 hours is very long.”
Stéphane Sarrazin (#8):
“For me Le Mans is a dream, a dream of victory. It is the hardest race I did in my life because we are waiting all year for this race, with big preparation for this one event. I have been on the podium a few times and many times leading, but never winning – I hope this year is a good one. It is really hard to race for 24 hours but we are prepared for this thanks to our testing and training programmes and we are ready. It is very special here because we are on national roads most of the time so it is a very unique circuit, the trees are quite close and there are a lot of stories about this track. We feel something different here compared to a normal track. I like this feeling and I know perfectly each single metre of this track. So I cannot wait to get started.”
On the eve of the 90th running of the Le Mans 24 hours, Hugues de Chaunac, President of the ORECA racing group (celebrating its own 40th anniversary this year) has been awarded the Spirit of Le Mans trophy by race organizers the Automobile Club de l’Ouest. The trophy is awarded to a person who has best displayed the spirit of Le Mans.
ORECA’s history is tightly linked to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Debuting in 1977 with Renault, ORECA has entered the historic race 18 times, both alongside the biggest manufacturers and as its own constructor.
This year, ORECA will be on hand as a partner with Toyota to provide operational support in the running of their two TS030 HYBRID cars. A major player in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, ORECA has one overall victory with Mazda (1991), three wins in GT with the Chrysler Viper (1998, 1999, 2000), as well as the lap record in the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP (2010) and six top 5 finishes overall in its last nine participations.
ORECA is also entered as a constructor, with eight chassis (seven ORECA 03 and one Alpine A450), and oversees the engine preparation for nine competitors in LM P2. In accepting the trophy, De Chaunac spoke of his lifelong passion passion for the race and the special significance of receiving the award this year.
“It’s a great honor and proud moment to receive the Spirit of Le Mans trophy,” said de Chaunac. “I’m especially happy because 2013 is a very special year, the 90 years of the Le Mans 24 Hours and the 40 years of ORECA. During my first visit to Le Mans, as a spectator during the Matra years, I dreamed of being a part of this legendary race. Forty years later I can say that I realized that dream, the path that ORECA has taken has often been linked to Le Mans, and here it is again today.
“Whether it is working with big manufacturers like Mazda, Chrysler, and today Toyota, or Team ORECA, with the Audi R8, Peugeot 908 HDi FAP and ORECA 01, or finally as a constructor with the ORECA 03 LM P2, I have experienced some very special times at Le Mans, and tough moments too. But I know one thing, I can’t miss this event, I’ve become an addict. I’m thrilled to join the many big names that have been honored by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest.”
Since the world debut of Bentley’s GT3 Concept Racer at the Paris Auto Salon in September 2012, a dedicated team of Bentley engineers has been developing the Continental GT3 in preparation for Bentley’s highly anticipated return to the track.
With expert guidance and cooperation from Bentley’s GT3 technical partner, M-Sport Ltd, the race-ready version of the Continental has been taking shape over the last six months. Leading the project is Brian Gush, Bentley’s Director of Motorsport, who took the company to victory at Le Mans in 2003.
“Motorsport is an integral part of Bentley, and the performance and endurance qualities of all of our road cars reflect this racing heritage,” said Gush. “Not one single part of the GT3 has escaped our attention, and the result is a car that can compete with the field in terms of factors such as power, weight and aerodynamics.”
Powered by a race-configured version of Bentley’s highly efficient 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine, the GT3 puts its power to the road via a six-speed sequential racing gearbox. Double wishbone suspension, four-way adjustable dampers and competition brakes make up the chassis system, while more than 1000 kg of weight has been saved over the Continental GT road car by removing the equipment and parts that make the road car such as double glazing, over fifty ECUs and extensive electrical systems.
The Continental GT doors have been replaced by race versions, weighing just 12% of the originals. The silhouette of the road car is retained as the main body shell is almost a direct carryover, while doors, boot lid and bonnet are now hand-crafted in carbon fibre.
The bodyshell itself benefits from a comprehensive FIA-specification roll cage, more than doubling its stiffness. Meanwhile, the carbon fibre racing seat has been trimmed by the craftsmen and women at the Crewe factory, who have also meticulously stitched the racing steering wheel and door pulls, just as they would on a Continental GT road car. Bentley anticipate the Continental GT3 will soon be ready to begin a test programme ahead of its race debut. By James Foreman