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Porsche Works Drivers 2019

Porsche Works Drivers 2019

Porsche has just announced a multi-year deal with Puma to kit out its race teams and develop a range of motorsport merchandise. It has also shared the first photo of the 2019 Porsche Works Drivers.

In November 2018, Porsche announced an apparently similar multi-year deal with Hugo Boss. The Boss logo is clearly visible on the race suits and there are a lot of Porsche products on the Hugo Boss site, so one assumes that the two will co-exist as premium vs standard product tiers.

Puma will develop, sell and market a range of Porsche Motorsport replica and fan wear products including clothing, footwear, headwear, accessories and bags aimed at Porsche Motorsport fans and motorsport enthusiasts.

“Puma has a long and successful tradition in motorsport,” said Fritz Enzinger, Vice President Porsche Motorsport. “The innovation and creativity of Puma, one of the world’s leading sports lifestyle companies, fits in with our team and our brand, so we are pleased to welcome Puma as a new partner of the Porsche Motorsport Teams.”

Puma will equip all twenty-four Porsche Works Drivers, Juniors and Young Professionals as well as all pit crews of the Porsche factory teams with the latest fireproof motorsport clothing. In addition to equipping the Porsche Formula E and factory GT racing teams, Puma will supply shoes and travel luggage for the whole Porsche Motorsport division.

News of the Puma deal is accompanied by a group shot of the 2019 Porsche Works Drivers. This first mention of the forthcoming Porsche motorsport season is always a good start to the year. Here’s a list of the drivers that will compete for Weissach this year.

Porsche Works Drivers 2019 (including Juniors and Young Professionals)

Back Row L-R: Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet, Mathieu Jaminet, Laurens Vanthoor, Earl Bamber, Kévin Estre, Michael Christensen, Gianmaria Bruni, Richard Lietz, Frédéric Makowiecki

Middle Row L-R: Andre Lotterer, Neel Jani, Patrick Long, Jörg Bergmeister, Timo Bernhardt, Brendon Hartley, Romain Dumas, Sven Müller, Dirk Werner

Front Row L-R: Matt Campbell, Matteo Cairoli, Dennis Olsen, Jaxon Evans, Julian Andlauer

Timo Bernhard claims Nurbürgring lap record in Porsche 919

Timo Bernhard claims Nurbürgring lap record in Porsche 919

Timo Bernhard has claimed an all-time Nürburgring lap record in the Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo, with a staggering lap time of 5:19.55 outpacing the great Stefan Bellof’s Nürburgring lap record of 6:11.13, set in qualifying for the 1983 Nürburgring 1000kms.

Bellof’s lap record had been regarded as almost unbreakable, as it was set on a shorter circuit: a section having been bypassed to avoid construction of the new grand prix circuit. While today’s Nürburgring Nordschleife is 14.2 miles (20.8 kilometres) long, the ’83 circuit was a smidge under 13 miles in total. Adding almost 1500 metres to the distance had made the record almost unassailable.

Race car engineering has enjoyed substantial advancements in the intervening years, with hybrid power, four-wheel traction and modern tyre technology bringing incredible mid-corner speed and acceleration into play. That said, you still need a nut behind the wheel and Porsche chose 37 year-old works driver, Timo Bernhard for the job. It was a solid decision.

“This is a great moment for me and for the entire team,” said Bernhard. “It is the icing on the cake for the 919 programme. I’m pretty familiar with the Nordschleife, but today I got to learn it in a new way. Thanks to the downforce, you can stay on full throttle in places I never imagined. For me, Stefan Bellof is and remains a giant; today, my respect for his achievement with the technology available back then increased even more.”

Dickie Meaden was at the circuit to see the lap record, with access to the speed data from the record-breaking run. “So, approach to Schwedenkreuz was 344 km/h, took crest at 322. VMAX on Dottinger was 369 km/h, lap average 233.9 km/h” tweeted Meaden, who last year made his own attempt on Bellof’s record in the Toyota LMP1 simulator.

The 919 continues to demonstrate just how much excitement electric power can bring to road cars. The other side of this is that it’s hard to imagine manufacturers and lawmakers allowing tomorrow’s hybrid performance cars to run completely unrestricted on public roads, given their seemingly unlimited performance potential.

New Porsche Formula E car meets Mission E launch

New Porsche Formula E car meets Mission E launch

The FIA has confirmed Porsche’s entry into the 2019 Formula E championship. Porsche’s Formula E debut will coincide with the launch of the production version of the Mission E: Stuttgart’s first all-electric sport car and part of the six billion Euros being invested into electric mobility up to the end of 2022.

Former head of the 919 project, Andreas Seidl, will be responsible for the technical development and the execution of the Formula E programme. “The possibilities and performance of electric cars have been a central topic at Porsche for quite a while,” says the Team Principal. “The deeper our engineers get into the topic, the more fascinating the solutions become. We can’t wait to receive our first vehicle in early 2019 and to test our own powertrain in it.”

Porsche unveiled the Mission E Cross Turismo at this year’s Geneva Motor Show: another take on the 800-volt Mission E Concept car blessed with 600 horsepower giving more than 500 kilometres of range. The production version may end up with slightly lower numbers, but it definitely won’t be cheap so it will need plenty of toys to show for the money. Four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering with the usual electronic driver aids should still take the four door, four-seater to sixty in 3.5 seconds, which will obviously keep people entertained.

The Gen2 Formula E car will also create some added entertainment compared to the current model, as drivers will finally be able to run a complete race without needing a car change in the middle of it. As a motorsport fan who pays no attention to Formula E, the upgrade is unlikely to have any impact on my perception of the series or of the brands taking part, but for those marketing the new Mission E to a generation that links E with excitement rather than lean-running eco superminis, the connections are excellent.

Tweaked Porsche 919 Hybrid goes fastest at Spa

Tweaked Porsche 919 Hybrid goes fastest at Spa

In an interesting PR move, timed to make the monthly motoring press just as its former WEC rivals take to the track at Spa Francorchamps for the first race of the 2018 World Endurance Championship on May 3-6, Porsche has run a modified version of its lightened 919 Hybrid with over 50% more downforce around the Spa Francorchamps circuit, setting a time twelve seconds quicker than the WEC pole position lap from last year’s Spa Six Hours.

Porsche took 39 kilos off the 919 LMP1’s dry weight in race trim by losing the 919 race car’s air jacks, lights, air conditioning, windscreen wiper, race control trackers and other parts, allowing the car to top the scales a smidge under 850 kilos. The maths here are a little strange, as the minimum dry weight allowed under LMP1 regs is 875 kilos, so you would think it might have been lighter, but anyway.

The car was then fitted with a much-improved aero package, including a larger front wing and a massive rear wing, both fitted with hydraulically controlled drag reduction systems (DRS) to strip away downforce on Spa’s long Kemmel Straight. Together with changes to the floor and turning vanes, the downforce produced by this tweaked 919 was 53% higher than the WEC-legal 919 LMP1 that took pole at Spa in 2017.

The real benefit of the improved downforce at this particular track is that the driver can run the car absolutely flat out from the exit of the La Source hairpin, through Eau Rouge and Radillion and the Kemmel Straight up to the braking for Les Combes: a distance of more than 2 kilometres. We don’t know the top speed difference with the higher entry speed and DRS being used, but I guess that it’s not a small number.

The lighter weight and higher downforce was pushed along by more horsepower from the 2-litre V4 Turbo engine, which enjoyed substantial improvements when freed from the fuel consumption limits imposed as part of the endurance racing regs, where the fuel usage at Spa was capped at just under 2.5 litres per lap. Set to use as much fuel as the engine could handle, power from the V4 rose from 500 bhp to over 720 horsepower – approaching 50% more. The hybrid systems were tweaked to add ten percent more power, so 440 horsepower.

With 440hp driving the front wheels and 720 bhp driving the rear wheels, Weissach added reinforced wishbones to all four corners, added an “actively controlled lockout system” (whatever this does, it was not fitted to the WEC compliant 919) and a new brake-by-wire system to limit yaw as the car piled through Spa’s twists and turns. With so much more power, downforce and electronic controls, the car set a lap time some three quarters of a second quicker than Lewis Hamilton’s F1 pole position lap from 2017.

Obviously there is some satisfaction for Porsche in demonstrating the potential of an unleashed 919, but it is hardly a like-for-like comparison with cars running in a fully FIA compliant form in higher ambient temperatures later in the year, so what the exercise actually tells us is hard to say. However, there can be no doubting the intention of the timing of this release, which will definitely be a talking point at next month’s Spa 6 Hours and will also form part of the chatter all the way through the 2018 season.

WEC mandarins might be pretty cross at Porsche’s timing, but spectators have every right to feel equally annoyed that the governing body won’t let manufacturers spending millions of Euros in race car development run these cars at their full potential, all of the time. Instead, WEC (and F1) fans are challenged to follow quieter racing with arbitrary fuel economy targets. Obviously endurance is partly about deploying energy with intelligence but capping the engines at less than two-thirds of their potential is a huge downside: a 2-litre engine making 720 bhp is something quite special and worth shouting about.

I like the 919 hot rod story, but am not sure what to take away from it other than Volkswagen is pretty unhappy with the handicaps applied to its prototypes and wants to make a point right at the start of the first season it won’t be running with Porsche or Audi in LMP1. The other big stone flipped over by this is that, if an F1 car was allowed to pick a time and date to run at its full potential with unhindered engine power, full electronics and optimum aero around Spa Francorchamps, then a tweaked 850-kilo LMP1 car probably wouldn’t see it for very long. Whether that matters or not is another story. Pretty sure I know which of my race friends will squeak the loudest.

Porsche 919 bows out with Pole Position and a Podium

Porsche 919 bows out with Pole Position and a Podium

The Porsche team literally went balls-out from pole position in the final race of the 2017 World Endurance Championship season (see Neel Jani’s photo below), but even that was not enough to stop Toyota Gazoo Racing from taking its fifth win of the year.

At the chequered flag in Bahrain, the number eight Toyota of Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Anthony Davidson claimed victory ahead of the two Porsche 919 Hybrids, but that was only after the number 1 919 had a collision with the number 86 Gulf Porsche while leading the race. Tandy was forced into the pits, Davidson took over the lead and built a 70-second cushion ahead of the number 2 919, which had pitted for fresh front bodywork during hour one.

That was pretty much all she wrote on positions, and the top three LMP1 cars finished in this order. Toyota’s win made the TS050 Hybrid the first car in WEC or the old World Sportscar Championship to win five races in a single season: well done to all the Toyota team on a terrific battle. I also liked what Akio Toyoda, President of the Toyoda Motor Corporation had to say after the race:

“What I thought anew following our last three races with Porsche, starting with the Fuji round, was that I wanted to compete in a race that would make Porsche want to take on Toyota again. That is one of the reasons we approached Fuji, Shanghai, and, then, Bahrain determined to win, and, this time, we were able to do just that.

“It was determined at the previous race in Shanghai that Porsche would be this year’s champion. To Porsche, please let me once again offer my congratulations. Although we experienced our share of regret this year, if this final race leaves Porsche feeling it would like another chance to take on Toyota, our team would be able to end the season with a bit of pride. To all those at Porsche, by all means, someday, on some road, for our mutual making of ever-better cars, please let us compete with you again.”

Porsche had to win the GTE Pro race to claim the GT crown for 2017, but it was not to be. The Ferrari came home in front and took that title, while Aston Martin claimed honours in GTE Am. “We did a lot of things right in this first season with the new 911 RSR,” said Richard Lietz. “Ultimately, we were in a position to fight for the drivers’ world championship. In today’s race, we tried several courageous measures and learned a lot, albeit a little too late. Nevertheless, I take my hat off to the team for being so brave. We were beaten by a very strong opponent.”

Alonso takes Pole Position for Le Mans attention

Toyota also scored a huge PR win post-race by announcing that every deck chair’s favourite driver, Fernando Alonso, would test for the team in Bahrain next week, with a view to competing at Le Mans in 2018. Next year may be Alonso’s best chance to take the win en route to his dream “Triple Crown” – winning the Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans 24 and Indy 500 – but he has a few talented team mates and the usual roll of the motorsport dice to beat first.

So we reach the end of the road for the 919 Hybrid, although it might not be the Porsche WEC team’s last hurrah. Rumours of upcoming regulation changes in the not too distant future to bring road car styling back to the top WEC category has got McLaren and Aston looking at projects. Staying at home while supercar competitors steal the marketing gold at La Sarthe would be rather un-Porschelike.