Next year, Porsche returns to the 24 Hours of Le Mans as an official factory entry, and yesterday the Porsche LMP1 took its first steps at the car maker’s private test track in Weissach.
Porsche works driver Timo Bernhard, who has been involved in the development of the new car from the outset, took it through its initial function check. He said “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 Dumas are the first factory drivers in the LMP1 project and will carry out the majority of its testing. Infiniti Red Bull Racing driver Mark Webber has been rumoured to join the team, making the move from F1 to endurance racing, but Porsche have denied any such agreement, or that discussions have taken place.
Webber is a well-known fan of the marque and owner of a 911 GT2 RS, so the rumours although quietened down have yet to be completely silenced.
Porsche’s LMP1 racer turned its first laps on the circuit several weeks ahead of schedule, but there’s still plenty of work to cover. Fritz Enzinger, Head of the Porsche LMP1 project said “From 2014, the regulations are primarily based on efficiency. This makes the competition amongst engineers more interesting and presents us with completely new challenges.”
“During the development of our new LMP1 vehicle, we faced the same challenge as in the series production development of our road legal cars,” says Wolfgang Hatz, Board Member for Research and Development at Porsche AG. “Our aim was to achieve the best possible efficiency without compromising performance.”
With sister-company Audi winding down its LMP1 efforts it would be tempting to assume Porsche are building on a race-winning platform, but with the regulation changes in 2014 the Porsche LMP1 engineers were able to start with a blank sheet of paper.
During the last few years Audi have transferred many of the lessons learned on the track to its road cars, Porsche hope to go one better, with Porsche’s Chairman Matthias Müller saying “After all, there’s a race car in every Porsche.”
In addition to the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans, Porsche will also compete in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), which means we can look forward to seeing it at the Silverstone round next April.