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Jani: “Clearly It’s Now an Open Game Again”

Neel Jani on inheriting Silverstone win, new-found momentum…

Photo: Porsche

Photo: Porsche

After Porsche inherited the overall win in last month’s season-opening Six Hours of Silverstone, Neel Jani feels the No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid could have gained the momentum it needs to change the tides this season in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

The post-race ruling that gave Jani, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb the victory has pushed the No. 2 Porsche into the lead of the championship, although the Swiss driver admits he has mixed feelings with the way things played out in the end.

“It doesn’t feel like a victory,” Jani told Sportscar365. “It’s the first time I won a race on the green table.

“We take the 25 points and we’re happy with that, but at the same time you feel sorry for Marcel [Fässler], Andre [Lotterer] and Ben [Treluyer].

“They did a good job and they’re good friends of ours. It’s a mixed feeling but overall we don’t mind the points.”

Not only did Jani and his co-drivers get the full haul of points, the Silverstone win also meant they were presented with the Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy on Wednesday at Spa.

“To be honest, I only realized how special the Tourist Trophy was when I looked at it,” he said.

“You see names on there like Tazio Nuvolari, Rudolf Caracciola and Stirling Moss. These are huge names from a long time ago that held that same trophy in their hands.”

Combined with the season-ending Bahrain round, the No. 2 crew now has two consecutive wins, which could mark a change in momentum within the Porsche team.

“For sure we want to do better than last year,” Jani said. “After some bad luck we had to support our teammates last year.

“We lost a lot of wins due to technical issues or penalties, so in one way we didn’t mind we got handed the win in Silverstone. We’ve had our fair share of losing out last year.

“Clearly now it’s an open game again. We’re a team, but we’re still egoists and we try to get the best result for ourselves.

“After Le Mans and Nürburgring everything is open and we can go for it.”

This weekend’s WEC Six Hours of Spa has started of well for the Porsche squad, with the team ending the opening day of Free Practice quickest and chief rival Audi more than 1 second adrift from the pace-setting 919 Hybrid.

“We’re not sure why the others are so far behind us, but they will catch up,” Jani said.

“It seems with tire degradation coming in everything gets more equal. At Silverstone you could see that as the stints progress, the more the cars become equal.

“Degradation has a big effect on each of the manufacturers and it will be quite though to double stint the tires here at Spa.”

The Porsche factory ace also pointed out that tackling the traffic has had an influence on the performance of the car, that is if it doesn’t come to a race-ending crash.

“Traffic has changed the way you lose time in cornering and how much you gain on the straight lines,” Jani said. “This made it a bit more difficult for us.

“I think we’ll have another tight race between all the manufacturers and it’s really just about surviving in traffic.”

As tradition has it, Porsche has brought a different spec of its car to Spa, which is in fact a compromise to what a circuit like Spa would normally demand and a full-on Le Mans trim.

“Spa still has a few more corners and less long straights, so we’re not completely in Le Mans spec yet,” Jani said.

“The weather is great. I’ve never seen Spa so warm for this race and that makes it easier to plan in terms of setup and aero.

“We’re still learning about the effect of the loss of fuel input into the engine, and how that effects us on each track.”

The 919 Hybrid Porsche used at a test at Aragon last week had less compromises and was geared towards a full Le Mans setup.

The most visual difference is the integration of new headlights on the car this weekend.

“The new lights really make a difference,” Jani said. “It helps us to see the apex, which was our main issue with the previous four-light configuration.

“Romain [Dumas] and Timo [Bernhard] told us they could see better in the Audi. Now [with the new headlights] they’re happy.”

Vincent Wouters (@VinceWouters) is a Belgium-based sports car racing reporter, providing coverage primarily of the Blancpain GT Series.

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