The 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps is a huge deal for World Endurance Championship fans, as teams often compete with third cars and Le Mans-specific kit for the first time. Porsche may not have a third car, but their Le Mans package works: they locked out the front row for this weekend’s race.
Porsche scored their first pole position of the 2016 WEC season with the No. 1 car, whose two drivers Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard set a combined average fastest lap time of 1:55.793 minutes.
That’s one second slower than last year’s Hartley/Bernhard time, but Porsche—being a racing-focused company that’s excellent at racing excuses—blamed today’s higher track temperatures for the slower time. They’re also allowed less fuel this year, but that certainly hasn’t seemed to affect the lap times much in the top LMP1 class.
This weekend’s 6 Hour is also the debut of Porsche’s Le Mans package. Getting the car on pole with its teammate right beside it for the start is certainly a promising sign. Toyota’s No. 6 TS050 starts third, and Audi’s No. 8 R18 starts fourth. None of the three manufacturers brought a third car this year.
In addition to numerous aerodynamic tweaks for lower downforce and more straight-line speed, one of the most visible changes on the Le Mans-spec 919 is in the car’s headlights. They’re now brighter and more efficient, explained Porsche Team Head of Systems Jens Maurer in a team press release:
We have managed to improve the performance regarding the range of lighting to the side as well as the reach to the front. We have saved almost 30 per cent of weight, made the fitting easier and optimized the cooling.
Headlights aren’t something you usually view as a performance item, but bright headlamps are a must at Le Mans, as it gets ridiculously hard to see when the course takes a dark, high-speed run down the Mulsanne Straight.
Porsche hopes their new setup will keep up, with its twelve pairs of Osram LEDs and reflectors per unit. The lights have three modes: pencil beam for long-distance high-speed use, main beam and side beam. Seven individually controlled strings of lights in the headlamp direct tons of light exactly where it needs to go—even at a 45-degree angle in a turn. The bright lights are fed air from outside to keep them cool.
Each headlamp is a single unit, too, so repairs are a breeze: just pop it out replace the whole assembly.
You’ll also notice different colored RGB-LED light bars in the middle of the headlamps for the No. 1 and No. 2 cars. No. 1 is magenta, while No. 2 is blue. That’s a pretty clever way of telling the two cars apart.
As for the aerodynamic changes, Porsche’s easing into the full low-downforce spec at Spa a bit. They’ve adjusted things for a bit more grip than they’ll run at Le Mans, but it’s still a significant change from the car they ran at Silverstone.
Full results for the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps qualifying can be found here.