Porsche’s title-winning 919 Hybrid has broken the unofficial track record at Spa-Francorchamps, which was previously held by reigning F1 champion Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton clocked a time of 1:42.553 last August to secure pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix but that effort was beaten by Neel Jani on Monday, as he piloted a heavily modified version of Porsche’s 919 Hybrid.
Porsche took three successive Le Mans wins and WEC titles from 2015 to 2017 with its 919 Hybrid but withdrew from LMP1 at the end of the year, in order to focus on its upcoming Formula E entry.
However, Porsche is taking the 919 Hybrid on a ‘farewell tour’, which involved its attempt on the track record at Spa-Francorchamps, using an ‘Evo’ version of the car.
Jani, who was part of Porsche’s LMP1 crew, registered a time of 1:41.770 as the manufacturer sought to demonstrate the car’s ability once it was freed from the WEC’s regulations.
The time was over 12 seconds faster than the car’s pole-winning effort from last year’s 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.
Porsche made several aerodynamic modifications to its 919 Hybrid, including a larger front diffuser, the introduction of a Drag Reduction System, as well as applying updates that were prepared for 2018, but never raced due to Porsche’s exit.
Jani also enjoyed substantially more power, with the WEC’s fuel flow system removed, the previous 500HP achieved was increased to 720HP, enabling the Swiss driver to reach a top speed of 359km/h.
“This was an absolute fantastic lap – an outstanding drivers’ performance from Neel and the result of great engineering,” said Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1.
“Today’s track record impressively proves the ultimate performance of the most innovative race car of its time.
“Our target was to show what the Porsche 919 Hybrid is able to do when we loosen the restrictions that normally come from the regulations.”
Jani commented: “It is definitely the fastest car I ever drove. The grip level is at a fully new dimension for me, I couldn’t imagine this amount beforehand.
“The speed on which everything happens on a single lap with the 919 is that fast that the demand on reaction speed is very different to what I was used to in the WEC.
“We are not only faster than the F1 pole from 2017. Today’s lap was 12 seconds faster compared to our WEC pole position from last year!”
Porsche believes that further lap time would have been possible had it not been restricted by its resources.
“It was kind of an engineer’s dream come true for us”, said LMP1 Chief Race Engineer Stephen Mitas, who led the project.
“Having developed, improved and raced the car for four years, the guys had a very close relationship to it. We all knew, no matter how successful the 919 Hybrid was, it could never show its full abilities.
“Actually even the Evo version doesn’t fully exploit the technical potential. This time we were not limited by regulations but resources. It is a very satisfying feeling that what we’ve done to the car was enough to crack the Formula 1 record.”