Porsche has, arguably, the most advanced hybrid system of all: a front-axle kinetic and an exhaust gas-driven turbine feeding energy into water-cooled, lithium-ion batteries. This provides much greater energy than Audi can achieve, and delivers the power much more flexibly than Toyota. The small-capacity engine can be boosted whenever the engineers have the fuel available to them, providing the team with the ability to make the most of opportunities that might arise.
We saw at Silverstone and Spa how fast the Porsches were; they are also economical. If any car in the LMP1-H class has the ability to manage 14 laps, then it is for sure the Porsche. The fact that they did not go that far during the Test Day is surely irrelevant. Toyota may also go 14 laps come the race, but they may have to shave ultimate performance to achieve that. Porsche will be able to complete 14 laps at full power.
How fast is fast? Here are the top speeds, measured at the speed trap located just before the first chicane on the Mulsanne straight.
|No.||Car||Top Speed||Average top speed|
The ‘average’ top speed is the average of the best 25 speeds recorded - removing the effect of any ‘bansai’ lappery or trickery to gain bragging rights.
The main conclusion to be drawn from this is that the two Porsches had very different programmes. I don’t think that is particularly surprising in the circumstances, but what is interesting is that the two cars finished the day separated by just a quarter of a second in terms of best lap, and the ‘ideal lap’ i.e. the one achieved by taking the sum of the best three sector times, for the no. 14 Porsche was within a hundredth of a second of that of the no. 2 Audi.
Porsche may be in only its third race, but it has spent a long time testing, and should, by now, know what it is doing. Reliability may be an issue, but then this technology is so new that Toyota must have similar concerns, and even Audi’s bullet-proof reputation puts it at risk.
The other thing to consider is going to be the time spent in the pits. Even though Michelin is providing tyres to Porsche, Audi and Toyota, it will be interesting to see if they all are able to make the tyres last the same. The more potent Toyota may find that tyre wear is more of an issue. And of course this is the area in which all the teams were concentrating at the test. And they won't tell us (at this stage) what they have learned!
I don’t expect Porsche to participate in what is undoubtedly going to be a no-holds barred battle at the front in the opening few hours, but I do expect them to get on with the job quietly and efficiently, and if they can stay out of trouble, they will certainly be a feature when the sun comes up next Sunday morning.
I’ve said it before; but it bears repetition: Toyota is the favourite for this year’s 24 hours, but if they are not perfect - on the track and in the pits - then they cannot expect to win.