Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Always something to watch in the WEC

Porsche is on something of a roll at the moment. Perhaps against the odds, the car of Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber and Nico Hülkenberg remained reliable for 24 hours at Le Mans, but was also markedly quicker than anything else out there and took a well-deserved victory. After the long summer break, Porsche showed that they did not forget how to win and if anything were more dominant both at the Nürburgring and in Austin, Texas, when they overcame various issues and problems on the way to two further wins.

There are a number of ways of measuring differences in performance over the course of a six-hour race and none is ideal – race pace can change, teams need to push, drivers may be more or less motivated – but whichever way you look at it, Porsche seems to have the upper hand at the moment and Audi doesn’t seem about to bounce back into the championship.

The average of the best 20% of laps is, for me, as good a way as any of evaluating the absolute pace of a car. Using this method, at the Nürburgring, Porsche was 0.5% quicker than Audi on the track. At Austin, Porsche’s advantage came down to 0.3%. In the first sector at Austin (which comprises the start-finish straight and turns 1, 2, 3 and 4), the Audis were actually quicker. This is the first time that an Audi’s sector times were quicker than those of Porsche since Spa-Francorchamps.

At Fuji, Audi plans to run some upgrades to the aero, but will we see the two R18 e-tron quattros close the gap still further in Japan? I somehow doubt it. Of the races in the remaining part of the season, the Circuit of the Americas was surely the one at which Audi was going to perform best.

There must come a point this season where even though Audi will be pushing as hard as they can, they must turn their attention to next year and the new car. While some upgrades to this year’s car will be relevant and transferable to next year’s model, other developments will surely have to wait until 2016. Until then, while Porsche may not have things all their own way, only reliability issues will stop them in the remainder of this year.

The LMP2 race at Austin was interesting though and perhaps worthy of a closer look.

The KCMG Oreca of Nicolas Lapierre, Richard Bradley and Matt Howson had to start from the back of the class grid, despite having been quickest in the qualifying session. But with six hours to play with, the team, fresh from winning the rounds at Le Mans and the Nürburgring, would no doubt have been confident of being able to increase their lead in the teams’ and drivers’ championships.

In the early laps, Lapierre made good progress, getting the Oreca up into second place in the class by the time the first pit stops came round, although Sam Bird, starting the G-Drive Ligier had made good use of the clearer track and had escaped into a lead of nearly ten seconds by this point. Both KCMG and G-Drive cars had changed drivers and tyres at the first stops, Bird handing over to Julien Canal and Lapierre to Richard Bradley. Meanwhile, Ryan Dalziel had stayed behind the wheel of the HPD-engined ESM Ligier, on the same set of tyres and took over the class lead.

On newer tyres though, both Bradley and Canal were closing in, and after just over an hour of the race, the Oreca managed to get past both Ligiers and into the lead. Richard Bradley was comfortably the quickest driver in the class at this stage, and proceeded to extend his advantage in the KCMG car. Bradley and Canal both stayed in for a double stint, but the KCMG team turned the British driver around eight seconds quicker than G-Drive, providing Bradley with a 34-second lead as the first Full Course Yellow was shown just before the two-hour mark.

As luck would have it, just as Julien came through at the end of his first full lap under the FCY, he completed the minimum 1h 15m driving time required of all drivers in LMP2, so the team wisely called him into the pits. Roman Rusinov was installed, a new set of Dunlops bolted on, and the G-Drive car set off again, now in third place, but with a crucial advantage in terms on strategy.

Sure enough, Bradley came in to hand the KCMG Oreca to silver-graded Matt Howson, and Nelson Panciatici pitted the Signatech Alpine a lap later, leaving the Rusinov with a lead of nearly a minute. The Russian must have been checking his lottery tickets, because just as the fuel light was coming on, another Full Course Yellow was called, and Rusinov duly pitted, having completed 27 laps in his stint. He kept the same tyres and emerged from the pits for a double stint, but again, managed to complete the stop while the opposition was touring round at 80km/h. The G-Drive Ligier was still leading, but with four stops completed, compared to the three stops of the KCMG Oreca. Unfortunately, the black-and-orange car would still have to make three more stops, the same as the blue-and-silver machine. Would KCMG be able to get the lead back using its superior pace?

All credit to Matt Howson, his lap times for the whole stint were, on average, just as fast as those of Rusinov. They were also a tad quicker than the gold-graded Richard Bradley – Matt actually going quicker in his second stint on the same tyres, and taking the lead at the four-hour mark as Rusinov pitted to hand the G-Drive car back to Sam Bird.

As Bird emerged from the pits, he was twenty seconds adrift of Howson in the KCMG Oreca, but within seven laps he was past and consolidating his position, knowing that once Nicolas Lapierre was back in the Oreca, the KCMG car would only have to make one more stop, whereas he would have to stop twice more.

Howson handed over to Lapierre with just under an hour and forty minutes remaining, and as the Frenchman rejoined, the gap between the G-Drive Ligier and the KCMG Oreca was not much short of a lap – plenty of time for Bird to make that extra stop and still come out ahead. In the end, it was academic, since the KCMG car was assessed a penalty for a pit stop infringement and the G-Drive car won in the end by 1m 21s.

The analysis makes interesting reading.

First, the Average Lap Times. This is based on taking the best 20% of laps completed under fully green flag conditions.

No. Car Average lap time
47 KCMG Oreca 05 Nissan 1m 57.923s
26 G-Drive Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan 1m 57.942s

Looking at individual driver performances is often a dangerous business, and usually there are reasons that stints may be different, but again, looking at the average of the best 20% of laps completed we get:
No. 26 G-Drive Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan
Driver FIA Grade Laps Driving Time Average lap time
Sam Bird Platinum 81 2h 40m 35.089s 1m 57.634s
Julien Canal Silver 37 1h 17m 49.002s 1m 59.898s
Roman Rusinov Gold 52 1h 53m 59.901s 1m 58.873s

No. 47 KCMG Oreca 05 Nissan
Driver FIA Grade Laps Driving Time Average lap time
Nicolas Lapierre Platinum 72 2h 23m 03.109s 1m 57.533s
Richard Bradley Gold 50 1h 48m 38.235s 1m 58.515s
Matt Howson Silver 48 1h 42m 15.371s 1m 58.788s

All of this seems to show how well-matched the two cars were in Austin. The difference (apart from KCMG’s penalty) was down to the pit stops:
Total Time in Pits
No. Car No. of stops Time in pits
26 G-Drive Ligier 7 7m 53.626s
47 KCMG Oreca 7* 7m 42.068s
*including stop/go penalty

But this doesn’t tell the whole story. What if the KCMG Oreca hadn’t been served the penalty for the pit lane infringement? The fact is that it would still have been at least 45s behind the Ligier. The Ligier’s advantage came because 2m 12s of its time spent in the pits was while the FCY was in operation. I reckon this saved it almost a minute on its overall race time. Then again, what if Rusinov’s contact with Gianluca Roda in the Corvette (in the fourth hour) had been more serious? That might have been much more costly for G-Drive.

With three rounds of the championship remaining, KCMG has a fourteen-point lead in the Teams’ standings: in effect that means the team needs a win and two second places to finish the year. If LMP1 is getting predictable, then LMP2 is most certainly not!

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The WEC at the COTA - some predictions

So, the World Endurance Championship arrives at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas this weekend for round five of the eight rounds that compose the championship.

There is no shortage of preview material out there on the Internet, so instead I shall plough my own furrow here, using the data from previous races to make some predictions that I hope are not too far wide of the mark.

This is the third time that the WEC has visited this venue - readers may remember that last year’s race had to be stopped due to torrential rain. It was restarted after a delay of more than three-quarters of an hour, and cars ran behind the Safety Car for four laps before the green flag was shown, so all in all more than an hour of racing was lost. Therefore, comparisons with the race distance of 157 laps in six hours are meaningless.

In 2013, 187 laps were completed by the winning Audi e-tron quattro, driven by Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Loïc Duval. What none of us knew at the time, was that not only would it be Allan McNish’s last win in the WEC, but Tom Kristensen’s also - the Scot retiring from full-time racing at the end of that year, and the Dane at the end of last year.

It is likely then, that the record of 187 laps from 2013 will be beaten this year – I estimate that the race distance could be somewhere between 190 and 195 laps, if it is dry and the race is free of yellow flags. Furthermore, the winning Audi made seven pit stops in 2013 and used 371 litres of diesel and the second-placed Toyota, which completed the same number of laps, also made seven stops, and used 443 litres of petrol. This year, Porsche and Toyota will be limited to 389 litres (petrol) to cover the same distance, and Audi to 324 litres of diesel.

Also, it seems clear that the race this year will be a seven-stint race (six stops) – I reckon that both Audi and Porsche will be stopping every 29-30 laps, and that means that the minimum stint length (without needing to add an extra stop), will be 22 laps. In other words, if there is rain, a full course yellow, or someone suffers minor damage or a slow puncture, and they have completed more than 22 laps, then it makes sense to stop immediately. Otherwise, drivers will be encouraged to stay out and “drive around the problem” to avoid the need for an extra pit stop.

What about the lap times, though? I wouldn’t be surprised to see Porsche averaging 1m 48.2s per lap over a 30-lap stint, given the kinds of times that the two 919 Hybrids were managing at the Nürburgring. Quite where Audi will be will depend on whether they are able to find the right aero balance. This was clearly lacking at the Nürburgring, and Audi found themselves half-a-second (on average) slower than the Porsches, even though they had a 5km/h advantage through the speed trap.

Consider this also: the Six Hours of the Circuit of the Americas is a 24-tyre race (for the LMP1 cars, for qualifying and the race – plus two ‘joker’ tyres). If the Porsche is producing more aerodynamic grip than the Audi, it may be that it is the Audis that struggle to make the tyres last for two stints, rather than the Porsches, as it was in Spa-Francorchamps.

The rear bodywork of the Porsches caused some eyebrows to be raised at the Nürburgring, as it featured some extensions to the wheel-arches that appeared to go over the rear bodywork. There were suggestions that this was in contravention of paragraph 3.6.2 of the Technical Regulations.

Of more concern to Audi, however, was the fact that Porsche’s pit stops continued to be four to five seconds faster. Some of this is obviously due to the fact that Porsche are putting in less fuel at each pit stop, but there are still two aspects that have to be explained: why do the Porsches stop earlier than they need to (for refuelling)? And how do they manage to get the fuel into the car so quickly? I believe the answers to these two questions are linked, but until I get confirmation from the team, I will speculate no more.

The weather forecast suggests that it will be a warm, dry race, with temperatures soaring into the thirties (Celsius) for the start, and only dropping to around 27 deg. by the 11pm finish. Very similar, in fact, to the temperatures we had for the Nürburgring race.

The folk at Porsche must be rubbing their hands together in glee.

Friday, 11 September 2015

The Rest of the Barcelona 24 hours

After witnessing the 24-hour races at Dubai, Daytona, Nürburgring, Le Mans and Spa already this year, I stayed up all night again last weekend, to watch my sixth 24-hour race of the year. It was the first Barcelona 24 hours I had attended – indeed it was the first motor race of any kind that I had seen in Spain but it marked the 44th different motorsport venue that I’ve seen action at. It was the 65th 24-hour race I have been to (I think), and as expected, the Creventic-organised event was enjoyable, entertaining and dramatic.

I’ve written a race report for DailySportsCar already, so I don’t propose to repeat that here, instead I thought I would bombard you with a few numbers. Also, having received a (good-natured, I think) complaint that my race report did not even mention the class winner in SP3, I thought I had better address that situation too.

There were seventy-four cars that started the race – and no, I am not going to mention all of them – in nine classes, and fifty-two of them took the chequered flag 24 hours later. Almost exactly the same percentage (70%) as finished in this year’s Dubai 24 hours, but considerably more than Daytona (55%), Nürburgring (68%), Le Mans (67%) or Spa (56%).

The Barcelona race featured thirteen caution periods – neutralised, in Creventic events, by a Code-60 purple flag – the same number as we had during the Dubai race. In Dubai this accounted for a total of 3h 19m, whereas at Barcelona the neutralised time was just 2h 07m. Compare that with 5h 06m at Daytona or 4h 33m at Spa (including both Safety Car and FCY periods), although just 2h 02m at Le Mans (ignoring periods when Slow Zones were in force).

There were eighteen changes of the overall lead during the race, and six different cars led at one point or another. At Dubai we had 11 changes among 4 different cars, at Le Mans there were 27 changes among 4 different cars, at Spa 23 changes of lead among 9 different cars and at Nürburgring, there were 34 changes of lead among 10 different cars. But nothing can beat the 58 changes of lead between 9 different cars in this year’s 24 hours at Daytona!

All of that being as it may, I am well aware that there is more to a 24-hour race than merely numbers. On the emotional side, although I enjoyed being at the Barcelona 24 hours, I didn’t quite experience as much of it as I would have liked. I didn’t get to look around the track at all, didn’t see any of Barcelona itself, and wasn’t really able to appreciate the ambience of the place. I also found the immediate vicinity somewhat uninspiring: the track is built very much in a “brown-field” area, and while I am sure that the Formula One cars generate a good atmosphere when they are there, for the rest of the year the place is just a little forlorn.

Drivers, though, tended to be enthusiastic about the track, although from where I was standing, some parts seemed to be a little overly technical – of the other tracks on the 24-hour circuit, I suppose Barcelona comes closest to Dubai in that sense. And there’s nothing really wrong with that, it’s just that being in the middle of a desert, I don’t expect anything more of Dubai, whereas Barcelona has a little more heritage: Montjuich Park, Pedralbes, even Sitges Terramar. Despite a physical proximity, the Circuit de Catalunya – built in 1991 – has little or no echoes of history.

I didn’t see a published crowd figure, but there seemed to be a decent crowd there. Not in comparison to the other European 24-hour races, but certainly compared to other Creventic races. It was good, too to see so many families there. Endurance racing may be a specialist niche, but surely the enthusiasm of plenty of Spanish children will be sparked by Mercedes SLS AMGs or the Ferrari 458 Italia in years to come!

So what about the race? As I’ve said, the stories in the GT3 (A6), and to an extent, the SP2 and 997 classes I have already covered elsewhere. In our commentary for, I think we gave all the classes due mention, too. But I fear there may be some justification in suggestions that the SP3 class deserves more attention, not least because of British interest, but also because the class itself is broadly for GT4 cars and it attracted a wide range of different types of cars.

There were nine cars in the SP3 entry list: two Ginettas, two Aston Martins, a Porsche, a Lotus, a Maserati, a BMW and a Saker. While the GT3 field was dominated by German manufacturers and international teams, the GT4 field was much more of a British domain, with six British teams and 21 British drivers in the entry.

Qualifying provided the SP3 cars the opportunity truly to show their mettle, a wet track during the session for the supposedly faster A6 and SP2 cars preventing anyone from lapping quicker than 2m 05.991s. The rain had stopped for the SP3 and A3T cars, and it took most of the session for the track to dry, but by the end of the forty-five minute session it became clear that the lower-class cars would eclipse the times of the earlier session.

Quickest in qualifying was thus Alex Osborne with the APO Sport Porsche, just over a second quicker than Bradley Ellis in the Optimum Motorsport Ginetta, who was a similar interval ahead of Cor Euser in his Lotus Evora. Common sense prevailed, and although the top thirteen cars from session 2 were quicker than Renger van der Zande managed in his SLS AMG, the GT3, 997 and SP2 cars lined up at the front of the grid, the SP3 class taking up their positions on rows fifteen and beyond.

In the race, not one of the cars had a trouble-free run, and initially the class was led by the rapid Alex Osborne in the APO Sport Porsche, which got up to eighth place overall before its first pit stop, which dropped the car to 34th overall, seventh in class. After this, the lead swung to the Lotus Evora, driven by Cor Euser, Huub Delnoij and Hal Prewitt, to the Optimum Ginetta of Flick Haigh, Bradley Ellis, Adrian Barwick and Will Moore and even the Aston Martin Vantage of Dan Brown, Tom Black, Angelos Metaxa and Chris Kemp - which led for a lap during Saturday afternoon - as James and Paul May tried to drag the Porsche back up the order.

As darkness fell, it seemed like the Optimum Ginetta was establishing itself in the lead, until Flick Haigh had an encounter with another car just after 9pm, while being passed by the Ferrari 458, and spent more than two hours in the pits being repaired. This put the APO Porsche back in the class lead, until 1:30am, when a twenty-minute unscheduled pit stop sent the car tumbling back down the order and handed the lead to Martin Thomas in the CWS 4x4 Ginetta G55.

Thomas then had a fifteen-minute stop to hand the car to Tony Hughes, which gave the lead back to the Lotus Evora, and the Ginetta faded away further at daybreak with another thirty-five minute stop to address alternator problems. This left us with a two-way fight for class honours between the Cor Euser Lotus and the APO Porsche that continued right to the end of the race.

Here’s a look at the detail of the lap times and times spent in the pits for each of the class:

Class SP2 (GT4)
No. Car Team Average lap time
43 Porsche 997 Cup GT4 APO Sport 2m 01.871s
160 Lotus Evora GT4 Cor Euser Racing 2m 01.405s
178 Ginetta G55 GT4 CWS 4x4 2m 03.888s
163 Ginetta G55 GT4 Optimum Motorsport 2m 03.752s
170 Aston Martin Vantage GT4 Speedworks Motorsport 2m 04.233s
173 BMW M3 V8 Rollcentre Racing 2m 04.982s
165 Aston Martin Vantage GT4 Vantage Racing 2m 03.740s
89 Saker GT TDI HTM-Red Camel Racing 2m 04.294s
125 Maserati Gran Turismo Boutsen-Ginion Racing 2m 02.736s

Class SP2 (GT4)
Pos. No. Car No. of pit stops Total time in pit lane
1 43 Porsche 997 Cup GT4 15 1h 32m 48.759s
2 160 Lotus Evora GT4 16 1h 07m 14.648s
3 178 Ginetta G55 GT4 19 2h 16m 23.403s
4 163 Ginetta G55 GT4 15 1h 49m 01.279s
5 170 Aston Martin Vantage GT4 21 2h 59m 29.793s
6 173 BMW M3 V8 19 3h 09m 11.911s
7 165 Aston Martin Vantage GT4 10 (DNF) N/A
8 89 Saker GT TDI 17 (DNF) N/A
9 125 Maserati Gran Turismo 9 (DNF) N/A

It was a well-deserved win for the Northamptonshire-based team, finishing just 52s ahead of Cor Euser’s Lotus Evora. The rest of the SP3 field was more than twenty laps behind: to put that in perspective, it would have taken nearly an hour for the third-placed CWS 4x4 Ginetta to catch up!

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Porsche - dominating the WEC?

Porsche’s win at Le Mans in June may have come as a surprise, but their win at the Nürburgring ten days ago was predictable from the moment that Hans-Joachim Stuck waved the flag to start the race. Audi Sport Team Joest may have threatened occasionally through practice, but once the race started, it was clear that only mechanical frailty was going to stop the Porsche steamroller.

Porsche’s test programme has taken them through the various weaknesses of the 919 Hybrid, and one by one, these have been addressed – to the point where the Weissach cars put their rivals from Ingolstadt well and truly in the shade in the sunshine and soaring temperatures in Germany.

Take a look at the average lap times from the best 20% of green laps completed:
Lap Times
No. Car Drivers Best Lap Average of best 20%
1 Toyota Davidson/Buemi/Nakajima 1m 40.207s 1m 40.940s
2 Toyota Wurz/Sarrazin/Conway 1m 40.738s 1m 41.374s
7 Audi Fässler/Tréluyer/Lotterer 1m 38.611s 1m 39.768s
8 Audi Di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis 1m 38.608s 1m 39.581s
17 Porsche Bernhard/Webber/Hartley 1m 38.307s 1m 38.904s
18 Porsche Dumas/Jani/Lieb 1m 37.955s 1m 39.129s

Notice how the average lap time of the no. 17 Porsche is much closer to its best than any of the other cars. There is no doubt that the Porsches were quicker, this time.

Remember, at Le Mans there was nothing to choose between the average times of Audi and those of Porsche, and in addition, there has been a change to the Equivalence of Technology since Le Mans, which has handed Audi an additional 0.5kg/h of fuel (up from 79.0kg/h to 79.5kg/h) and reduced Porsche’s from 88.5kg/h to 87.0kg/h. Both teams also had a reduction in fuel capacity, but this would not have affected the raw pace of either car.

So, in theory at least, the casual observer might have expected the Audi to have been quicker – certainly not 0.5% slower. Except that Porsche brought what were effectively two new cars to the Nürburgring. In particular, the new cars featured a new, high-downforce aero kit, which had not been previously raced during the season.

At Silverstone – in conditions that were very different from those at the ’Ring – Audi used a high-downforce configuration, whereas Porsche was focussing its preparation on Le Mans, and had its cars very much closer, aerodynamically, to the configuration that it was to run at Le Mans. As a result, the average lap times of the Audis were a degree quicker than the Porsches.

Spa saw the debut of the Le Mans-aero Audis, and in terms of raw pace, this was the first time that Porsche’s race pace was quicker than Audi’s – to the tune of around 0.4%. Despite its pace, in the race, the Porsche used up its allocation of 24 tyres, and ended up with dramatically slower lap times as the tyres went into their second stint. The Audis, on the other hand, seemed to float above the tarmac: Benoît Tréluyer actually triple-stinting his Michelins in his final shift behind the wheel.

At neither Le Mans nor Nürburgring were tyres an issue – the regulations allowing teams to use eight sets of tyres in what was scheduled to be a seven-stint race in Germany – and Porsche’s dominance allowed them to overcome problems for both their cars.

In the early stages of the race, it seemed that either Timo Bernhard was deliberately holding up the Audis to allow Neel Jani to establish a lead, or that he had a problem of some sort on the car. Consider this:

Before/After FCY Comparison
No. Driver Average of laps 2-9 Average of laps 13-23
17 Timo Bernhard 1m 39.504s 1m 42.404s
18 Neel Jani 1m 39.128s 1m 40.379s

(In case you have forgotten, the FCY came between laps 10 and 12.)

In fact the explanation was that a dive plane had failed on the Porsche, ruining the balance of the car. Coincidentally, Marcel Fässler suffered a puncture on the Audi and headed for the pits, just as Bernhard gave up the struggle and brought the Porsche in for a new nose section.

From here on in, the no. 17 Porsche had it all its own way, continuing to lap quicker than anyone else. However, in addition to looking at lap times, it is also worth looking at top speed: a sure indication of how teams were playing the drag/downforce balancing act.

Top Speeds
No. Car Drivers Top Speed (km/h)
1 Toyota Davidson/Buemi/Nakajima 303.9
2 Toyota Wurz/Sarrazin/Conway 311.2
7 Audi Fässler/Tréluyer/Lotterer 316.2
8 Audi Di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis 317.1
17 Porsche Bernhard/Webber/Hartley 311.2
18 Porsche Dumas/Jani/Lieb 312.0

From this, there doesn’t seem to be much doubt that the Audi was not running much downforce – surely, with the benefit of hindsight, a mistake given the disparity in lap times?

The penalties that affected the no. 18 Porsche came as a surprise. To be clear, the penalties were for exceeding the so-called ‘instantaneous limit’, which relates to the maximum permitted fuel flow measured in kg/h. This should not be confused with the ‘energy limit’, which limits the amount of energy (in MJ) used per lap. It is far less likely that the latter will be exceeded, since it can be averaged over three consecutive laps.

As I have already said, the limit for Porsche had been reduced for the Nürburgring race, from 88.5kg/h to 87.0kg/h. Interestingly, the offending laps, according to the official bulletins, were not even that fast. Compare these with the average of the best 20% lap time for the Porsche of 1m 39.129s.

Fuel Limit Offence - Porsche
No. Driver Lap No. Lap Time
18 Neel Jani 27 1m 40.309s
18 Neel Jani 28 1m 40.547s
18 Marc Lieb 46 1m 39.482s
18 Marc Lieb 47 1m 41.205s

According to Porsche, a sensor on the engine malfunctioned, resulting in too much fuel being pumped through to the engine. Once this had been identified, it was switched off, as apparently (how very Porsche), it had a redundancy. Not before three stop/go penalties had been applied though, of five, thirty and sixty seconds. The total delay for the Porsche – accounting for the time lost driving through the pit lane as well – was around 2m 30s, which is roughly what the gap was between the two 919s at the end of the race (bearing in mind that they were separated by a lap). So it is fair to say that there was no real difference over the course of six hours, between the two cars.

There were suggestions (borne out by the difference between the best and average lap times) that Audi was not as consistent as Porsche’s. My preferred method for measuring consistency is to look at the standard deviation (a statistical term for measuring the spread of values around their mean) of the lap times – and this suggests that, if anything, the standard deviation of Audi’s lap times was actually less than that of Porsche. (Clearly, for this purpose one has to exclude pit stops, yellow periods, etc.) But certainly the consistency of the no. 17 car was better than the others.

Finally, a quick look at the performances of the individual Porsche drivers.

Porsche Driver Comparison
No. Driver Laps Best Lap Time Average Lap Time
17 Timo Bernhard 58 1m 38.422s 1m 38.758s
17 Mark Webber 81 1m 38.307s 1m 38.912s
17 Brendon Hartley 64 1m 38.428s 1m 39.020s
18 Romain Dumas 33 1m 38.822s 1m 39.420s
18 Neel Jani 107 1m 37.955s 1m 38.846s
18 Marc Lieb 62 1m 39.188s 1m 39.577s

The World Endurance Championship reconvenes at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas next week, and the LMP1 cars are going to be limited to six sets of (slick) tyres for qualifying and the race. Porsche will no doubt be hoping that their high-downforce configuration will preserve the tyres, since they will have to double-stint them at least once. And surely Audi will revert to a Silverstone-style high-downforce configuration for their two R18 e-tron quattros?

It will be dark for more than half of the race, which should see temperatures coming down from their seasonal high of the low thirties (Celsius), to more manageable levels, but if Audi doesn’t find some pace from somewhere, then Porsche is going to make the remainder of the season look very straightforward.