Timo Bernhard says he’s “managing expectations” ahead of Team75 Bernhard’s major endurance race debut in this weekend’s Total 24 Hours of Spa.
The German squad, owned by the two-time Le Mans winner and 2015 FIA World Endurance Champion, steps up to Blancpain GT Series competition for the first time, fielding a factory supported Porsche 911 GT3 R for works drivers Laurens Vanthoor, Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre.
While having achieved success in Porsche’s single-make series, as well as ADAC GT Masters and VLN competition, the family-run squad is set for a new challenge, in flying the flag for the German manufacturer as Porsche’s only Pro class entry in the stacked 64-car field.
“It’s a good feeling to see how the team is developing and how we pull the program off for Spa,” Bernhard told Sportscar365.
“We have good support from our partners and from Porsche, but still, for the whole team it will be the first 24-hour race. I have to manage our expectations a bit because after a good [test day], that doesn’t say a lot because not everybody was going for lap times.
“Still, it shows that we have a good package and we can get a good result.”
Vanthoor, the inaugural Intercontinental GT Challenge champion, topped the time charts at the test day earlier this month, showing the Porsche’s potential in a car that’s been underrepresented in Blancpain GT in recent years.
Despite having shown encouraging initial pace, Bernhard wouldn’t be drawn to a specific target this weekend.
“[A good finish] is what we’re aiming for, without naming a result because it’s such top-level competition, it’s against eight or nine manufacturers, and you never know how temperature might influence it or if one of the other cars might have an advantage if it’s warmer or cooler,” he said.
“This is something that will be new to us because we’re not running the whole year in Blancpain GT, so it’s something that we have to experience throughout the weekend.
“It’s not fair to name any outcomes now but we’ll take it seriously and so far the team is doing a good job in preparing for it.”
While receiving works support in the form of engineers and drivers this weekend, the team is very much a family-run effort, with Timo’s father, Rudiger, involved on the technical and car preparation and his mother organizing the operations and logistics.
Longtime sports car ace Klaus Graf, meanwhile, serves as team manager, having helped elevate the team to GT3 racing last year.
“It’s a big effort and it’s a big race,” Bernhard said. “It’s not a full-factory effort, obviously, but it’s a factory-supported customer program.
“I’m very happy that Porsche is giving us this opportunity, to showcase what we’re capable of.”
Bernhard has made no secrets of his ambitions of Team75 Bernhard one day becoming a factory team, although the Porsche LMP1 driver realizes it’s a gradual process, with Spa serving as a first step.
“It’s a direction that we definitely want to have in the future of the team,” he said. “How quickly that happens, I don’t know, but for sure we want to go for more long-distance racing, if that’s possible.
“It’s very early, and WEC is a far-ahead dream because I love the championship and it’s the top championship in terms of sports cars. It’s very early and we’ll do it step-by-step, not having a number or a year tag on it.
“I want to be realistic and I know how hard work it is to set something up like that.
“I was not expecting that Spa was going to happen this year so it was really something where all the ingredients fit together.”