Porsche smashes 35-year-old track record

Riley Riley

Timo Bernhard has smashed the lap record at the famous Nurburgring behind the wheel of a Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo.

His time of of 5 minutes 19.55 seconds for the 20.832 kilometre Nürburgring Nordschleife race circuit eclipsed the existing record which had stood for 35 years by 51.58 seconds.

Bernhard averaged 233.8 km/h on what is regarded by race drivers, engineers and enthusiasts alike as the world’s most difficult track.

The previous record was held by Stefan Bellof.

For 35 years and 31 days Bellof’s 6:11.13 minutes record had evaded challengers.

The German driver from Gießen, who tragically died at Spa-Francorchamps in 1985, was the biggest racing talent of his time.

He set the record on May 28 in 1983 at the wheel of a powerful 462kW Rothmans Porsche 956 C during practice for the 1000km WEC sports car race.

A  proud and relieved Timo Bernhard climbed out of the tight Le Mans prototype cockpit.

Also German, he is a five-time overall winner of the Nürburgring 24-hours, two-time outright winner of the Le Mans 24-hours and reigning World Endurance Champion with the Porsche 919 Hybrid.

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“This is a great moment for me and for the entire team — the 919 program’s icing on the cake,” he said.

“The Evo was perfectly prepared and I have done my best on this lap. Thanks to the aerodynamic downforce, at sections I never imagined you can stay on full throttle.

“I’m pretty familiar with the Nordschleife. But today I got to learn it in a new way”, said the 37-year old from Bruchmühlbach-Miesau.

Bernhard s a huge admirer of Stefan Bellof. In 2015, on the 30th anniversary of Bellof’s fatal accident, he raced at the Spa-Francorchamps 6-hour race of the FIA World Endurance Championship with a helmet carrying the famous black-red-gold design of the 1980s star.

“For me Stefan Bellof is and remains a giant,” he said. “Today my respect for his achievement with the technology available back then increased even more.”

Today’s success is the second track record for the Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo.

On April 9 this year in Spa, the dramatic evolution of the three-times Le Mans winner lapped faster than a Formula One car with Neel Jani at the wheel.

The 34-year old Porsche works driver from Switzerland – Le Mans outright winner and Endurance World Champion of 2016 – set a lap of 1:41,770 minutes on the 7.004km Grand Prix circuit in the Belgian Ardennes mountains.

He topped the previous track record by 0.783 seconds, set by Lewis Hamilton in 2017 qualifying.

The British Mercedes driver took pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix in 1:42.553 minutes.

The Evo is based on the car that took outright victory at the Le Mans 24-Hours and won the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Combined power has been lifted to a whopping 865kW with a change of regulations recently.

The car weighs only 849kg and with modified and now active aerodynamics generates 50 per cent more downforce compared to the WEC model.

Top speed at the Nürburgring was 369.4 km/h.

The record breaking car is powered by a compact 2.0-litre turbocharged V4-cylinder engine and two energy recovery systems – brake energy from the front axle combined with exhaust energy.

The combustion engine drives the rear axle while the electric motor boosts the front axle to accelerate the car with four-wheel drive.

At the same time it recuperates energy from the exhaust system that otherwise would pass unused into the atmosphere.

The electrical energy that comes from the front brakes and the exhaust system is stored temporarily in a liquid-cooled lithium ion battery.

WEC efficiency regulations limited the energy from fuel per lap by using a fuel flow meter.

The V4’s output back then was around 373kW, but freed from restrictions and equipped with updated software and running regular race fuel containing 20 per cent bio ethanol — it delivers 537kW.

Because the amount of energy from the two recovery systems was limited as well, the systems stayed far below their potential.

With full boost available, however, electric output increased by 10 per cent from 298 to 328kW.

A new larger front diffuser now balances the new and very large rear wing, both of which have actively controlled drag reduction systems.

Underneath turning vanes and floor have been optimised, and fixed height side skirts increase the aerodynamic performance again as efficiently as possible.

In total aero modifications have resulted in 53 per cent higher downforce and an increase in efficiency by 66 per cent (compared to 2017 Spa WEC).

To help further expand the performance envelope, the Evo gained a four-wheel brake-by-wire system to provide additional dynamic yaw control.

The power steering was adapted for the higher loads and stronger suspension wishbones were designed.

Compared to the car in conventional race trim, the dry weight was reduced by 39kg to 849kg.

To achieve this, air-conditioning, windscreen wiper, several sensors, electronic devices from race control, lights systems and the pneumatic jack system were removed.

Michelin developed special tyre compounds for the 919 Evo that produces more downforce than a Formula One car.

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