Porsche LMP1 team principal Andreas Seidl hopes the debut of its high-downforce aero kit will put the Porsche 919 Hybrid back in position to win races on pure pace against Toyota for the remainder of the FIA World Endurance Championship season.
The German manufacturer enters tomorrow’s Six Hours of Nürburgring on the heels of its third consecutive overall win at Le Mans, but achieved after all three of the pace-setting Toyota TS050 Hybrids either retired or hit trouble.
Having taken over the lead of the World Championship as a result of the double-points round, despite losing to Toyota in the first two races, Seidl feels their all-new aero package will pay dividends in the second half of the season.
“We hope we are now in a position this year to win, purely based on our own performance,” he said.
“Silverstone was clearly a high-downforce track, and Toyota had a quicker car.
“In Spa, for one lap we were pretty even, but the the tire degradation with our low-downforce kit was higher in the race, so we couldn’t really fight for the win.
“At Le Mans, Toyota was clearly better and quicker than us on one lap in quali, definitely, but in the race, it was depending on the conditions. At the beginning in the hot conditions we could stay with them, but in the night we dropped back.
“We knew about the compromises we made with the high-downforce kit we’re bringing now, so it looks good now for the championship.”
Seidl said the aero kit is a “huge step” forward, after electing to start the season in low-downforce trim, and running only one of the two permitted aero packages prior to Le Mans, unlike Toyota, which used both of its packages.
Porsche debuted its high-downforce kit in a two-day private test at Barcelona late last month, logging more than 1,100 miles with Le Mans winners Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber at the wheel.
“We focused on producing maximum downforce at the front and at the rear,” Seidl explained.
“We still have to manage our resources and we kept the basic concept of the car, in terms of cooling layout and airflow through the car, the same.
“So far it has worked pretty good, out of the box from the first session onwards. The guys did a great job back home, and also the guys who went to the test in Barcelona. I’m pretty happy.”
Defending World Champion Neel Jani said the extra downforce, which Seidl feels is more than what the Toyota produces, has given them more confidence as drivers.
“It’s a huge step and it’s a completely different driving style,” Jani told Sportscar365.
“With the low-downforce, you had to made sure you can get into the corner without overdriving the tire, but now we have the grip to hammer into the corner, and you can massively attack each corner.
“That’s a lot of fun to drive. You can attack every lap, and that’s fun.”
With six rounds still remaining, Seidl feels their strategy on taking further time to develop the high-downforce kit, and not debuting until post-Le Mans, will pay dividends later this year.
“We think it’s an advantage if you can really focus on that,” he said. “We first finished the [low-downforce] kit and then switched the focus onto the second kit, which was our strategy.”
Seidl, however, hasn’t ruled out reverting to a version of its low-downforce kit for end-of-year races, particularly Fuji Speedway, which he believes could go either way.
“We saw in previous years that teams were testing even both kits on the Friday, like we also did once, for somewhere in between.
“You have to figure out traffic, tire degradation, and make the decision which kit you’ll bring.”
Despite having missed out on pole to Toyota for tomorrow’s race, Jani feels optimistic about their chances, both on Sunday and for the remainder of the year.
“We hope to be strong everywhere and I think it will be close at every track,” he said. “Maybe at Fuji, Toyota might have a little edge, but at the rest, I think everything looks very close.”