Porsche LMP1 chief Andreas Seidl believes his team’s operational and strategic strength will be the key to overcoming Toyota’s outright pace advantage in this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The German manufacturer enters the race chasing a third straight overall Le Mans victory, but appears to be on the back foot after a disappointing display at the pre-race test day earlier this month.
LMP1 rival Toyota locked out the top three positions on the timesheets on June 4, beating Porsche’s pole position time at last year’s race in the process despite having more pace in hand.
Porsche failed to put up a fight, finishing over three seconds off the fastest time to spark concern among its drivers that pole position and even the front row of the grid may be out of reach, and Seidl is inclined to agree.
“You will have seen at the pre-test that Toyota was impressively quick, so we have to see now how it goes this week,” Seidl told Sportscar365.
“For sure we made our conclusions also from the test day, and we will also find improvements on our side for the race week now. But we have to see how it goes.
“With what we have seen at the pre-test, I think we will not be really in a position to fight for the pole position.”
With Porsche appearing to lack Toyota’s outright pace at Le Mans this year, Seidl hopes to tap into the team’s experience and knowledge on the operational and strategic side at Le Mans in a bid to make up ground.
“In the end, it looks challenging in terms of pace for us here this year, so we have to focus on our operational strength and strategy,” he said.
“We think we have a good race car, a consistent race car with all the testing we have done. We have a lot of experience with this package because we are only focusing on that package.
“So we will fight every single minute of this race and then we have to see how it goes.”
Seidl added that it was “difficult to say” if this year’s Le Mans was one of the most challenging for the Porsche LMP1 program since its return in 2014, but recognized that Toyota had made a bigger step in performance with its TS050 Hybrid car over the winter.
“We have to see really how that week goes,” he said. “The prediction is quite high for the ambient temperatures, so we have to see how that suits the two different manufacturers in terms of tire usage and so on.
“[There are] still a lot of unknowns that we have to work through in the race week. But in the end, Toyota, you have to accept they did a great job.
“We did a huge step with our car in the winter. Toyota made, for the moment, at least for Le Mans, an even bigger one.
“So that’s part of the game. But we’re still in the fight.”
Porsche’s bid for a third straight Le Mans victory this weekend comes with an extra edge amid speculation that it could quit LMP1 at the end of the season given its struggles with the 919 Hybrid car and concerns about the future of the class.
John Dagys contributed to this report