Lieb: Porsche pumped up following Le Mans success


NÜRBURGRING – Porsche LMP1 driver Marc Lieb believes that the team is entering the second half of the FIA World Endurance Championship in high spirits following its success at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

Porsche claimed its first overall victory at Le Mans since 1998 as the no. 19 car of Nico Hülkenberg, Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy headed up a one-two finish for the German marque.

Speaking ahead of this weekend’s 6 Hours of Nürburgring in his native Germany, Lieb spoke about the new high downforce package that has been fitted to the Porsche 919 Hybrid cars for the race.

“It looks a little bit different from the outside,” Lieb said. “It’s a big change. Obviously the track conditions weren’t as good as in the test days in the first session [which was largely wet], but everyone is pushing forwards in one direction.

“In the team, everyone is really pumped up after the success at Le Mans. So it’s obviously giving everything a lot of confidence. It’s great to see the work which has been done after Le Mans.

“I think it’s a good step and should bring us a little bit closer to the competitors. I think we’re in good shape for the weekend, but it’s a six hour race, and temperatures will increase for Sunday, so this will be the question mark for tire wear. But I can’t wait to go out and race.”

Audi has also changed its aero kit for the forthcoming weekend, reverting back to the package that it used for the 6 Hours of Spa in June.

Championship leader Marcel Fassler spoke about how Audi has been working to improve its car following its defeat at Le Mans to Porsche.

“Yes for sure after Le Mans, we were working a little bit,” Fassler said. “But obviously from the outside you can’t see it as much as for example with Porsche, the aerodynamics they have.

“Sure, we try to develop things to be prepared for the big fight now to the end of the season. There are still five races to go.

“We’re leading by 22 points or something. It’s at least something, but the races are long and our opponents are really good and fast so we need to score points, that’s the main point, and try to be in front of our competitors all the time. It sounds an easy thing to do, but we’ll try to do it.”

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds