Timo Bernhard says he’s more motivated than ever to secure the FIA World Endurance Championship titles this season to end Porsche’s LMP1 era on a high note, following today’s announcement of the German manufacturer’s withdrawal from the class.
Bernhard, who has been part of the Porsche LMP1 program since its inception, is looking forward to the remaining five rounds this year and is determined to make the most of the upcoming races.
“I’ve known since yesterday and it’s a great honor to be part of this program since day one,” he told Sportscar365. “I was the first driver in the rollout and I started from scratch to see how it developed.
“The decision is out and the goal is to do the maximum until the end of the year to try and secure both championships, drivers’ and manufacturers’, for Porsche.
“We will give it our maximum and for sure with five more races ahead I will enjoy every single one of them because the 919 Hybrid for me is the most enjoyable car I have ever driven.
“I will do everything possible to get the championships and to enjoy every single lap.”
The two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans overall winner said he isn’t yet feeling emotional about the end of the program, which has formed an integral part of his life in recent years.
“Probably a strong feeling will come at the end of the year because there will be a lot of memories,” he said. “I’m close with all the people, all the engineers, and I have high respect of all of them.
“We achieved big things together. We started the program and then I saw people coming in and growing it bigger. It was a lot of great memories but it’s not like it’s over now.”
The WEC has seen hard-fought competition in the LMP1 ranks since the arrival of Porsche in 2014, which Bernhard has described as the “golden era” of the sport.
“It was a very close fight, when you include Audi last year, with three incredible manufacturers,” he said.
“Every single car had a top-of-the-line lineup in terms of drivers. All the drivers were chosen because of their ability so for me this was just a great era and I enjoyed the racing a lot.
“It was a great camaraderie as well on the other side. There were tough fights on track but if there was an issue you could always speak openly, and the cars were very enjoyable to drive.
“It’s definitely a golden era for me.”
Despite the manufacturer’s exit from LMP1, Bernhard said he will remain with Porsche, with a number of options on the table for the future, including Formula E and a return to GT racing, although a decision has yet to be made.
“There was a dialogue that I will remain with Porsche and there’s a strong commitment,” he said. “It’s important for me to be able to stay with a brand, but what program, we have to see.”
The rapid growth of Bernhard’s GT team, Team75 Bernhard, which makes its 24-hour debut this weekend at Spa, could also factor into the equation, according to the 36-year-old German.
“For the future, we’d have to see which program, but independent of what’s going to happen with me personally, I see the team this weekend has a lot of potential and a lot of feedback from people watching and also internally from Porsche,” he said.
“I think we can do something good and it will grow. The question is how quickly it will grow but I have a good feeling about that.”
John Dagys contributed to this report