Michael Christensen has a very good feeling about this weekends FIA World Endurance Championship round at Sebring International Raceway.
Porsche #92 currently leads the GTE Pro category with such a big gap, that they will still be in the lead after the weekend, no matter what happens during the Friday race.
And there is a good reason to why they only did four laps in the first Wednesday practice session.
“There was no reason for us to test, when the temperatures were the highest, since will will be racing at night. We have tested both Saturday and Sunday under similar conditions (like in FP1, editor), so for us, there was no point in burning a set of tires, for something that we already knew.”
Some other teams opted to race with three-driver crews, but both Porsche teams will have just two drivers in each. Isn’t it going to be tougher for the drivers?
“Of course it’s physically harder than if you were three, that’s for sure. But we think there are more advantages to being two rather than three. And we believe that we are in good enough physical shape, to be able to do one more hour than usual.”
Christensen doesn’t want to forecast any predictions for the weekend, until they actually do the race.
“It’s tough to know, where people are compared to each other. At the end of the day, everybody has to do one-hour stints to have enough tires for the race. But our first impression is that the car does what it’s supposed to do. We’ve only done one and a half hours in the real conditions, so it’s a bit hard to find the right setup for that. We will start at 4, with 40 degrees track temperature, and when we get towards the finish of the race, we will be down to 20, so that has a huge influence on how the tires work. We saw that yesterday too. So we have to try and find a compromise, and we are trying to look at the data from yesterday and today. That is the important thing. Performance wise I think we are at the level as last year, so we just have to push on.”
One possibility to help a bit with the degrading temperatures would be to go on a softer compound towards the end of the race, but Michael isn’t willing to speak too much about it.
“That all depends on what strategy you have,” he said with a smile on his lips and a shrug of his shoulders.
Even though the team has such a big margin in the Championship, the end is of season is getting closer and closer. So is that something that the team is thinking about?
“It’s clear that we are in a commanding lead in the Championship at the moment, and no matter what, we will still lead the championship after this race. You don’t want to throw that opportunity away, that you have build up, and you have to keep that in mind as a team – how do we get the best possible outcome of this situation, without stressing about something, that you can’t change anyway. We have to do our job well, like always – we have to continue the flow we have had so far, the good job, and that’s what we are focussing on. We are trying to see if we can continue to be as robust with our performance and strategy, as I think we have been, which has created this big gap, because others have made silly mistakes here and there, and we have delivered over and over again. And we want to continue doing that. Of course we are getting closer and closer to the finishing line, and we have to think about that too, in one way or another.”
Porsche does, however, have two different agendas, since there are both a Drivers Championship and a Constructors Championship.
“The Constructors Championship is number one priority for Porsche to win, and it has a bit more forgiving points scale, since the Am cars also score points, of if one car retire, another will just pick up points – but of course not as many. If you retire in the Drivers Championship, it’s just zero points, because the Am drivers also grabs those. So if you have a problem, there will be an AM car finishing ahead of you, and taking points away from you. It’s not enough just to get through the race – you have to do well, to get points, and we have to look at that – how do we get the most points, and not risk everything, so we of course have to keep that in mind.”
An extra challenge at Sebring is that the teams don’t have their usual garages to work in, but instead it’s an “American pitlane” with concrete wall, while the cars have to go back to a tent in the paddock to be repaired by more than four mechanics.
“It’s a different kind of event, especially with the way that things are being operated, since we have a pitwall between the team and the car – previously it was just open, so you could push the car into the garage, but you can’t do that here – now it has to go back to the tent, to repair a bigger issue. And it’s clear that we have to avoid that. We don’t need any problems.”
If things will go to plan, we will have to wait and see for tonight’s qualifying, and not the least when the 1000 Miles or 8 Hours race runs tomorrow.