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Material battle Le Mans: one car on the track, two in the pits

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Le Mans material battle
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E s is the longest race in the world. The distance record in Le Mans is 5,410.7 kilometers, set in 2010 by the Audi team Rockenfeller /Bernhard /Dumas. A car has to be able to do this distance. Plus reserve. At Porsche, the iron rule applies: a kit must be able to survive 6,500 kilometers.

During the 24-hour race, everything can be exchanged except for the engine, the gearbox and the chassis. All other parts are prepared in the garage. In duplicate. But which kit is used when and where is an exciting story. It shows how complex the preparation for Le Mans is.

Porsche 919 racing parts at the shakedown on the Bugatti course

It starts with the pre-test. All three Porsche 919 Hybrids are brand new. At the end of the test drives two weeks before the race, the parts have around 800 kilometers on the clock. On the Monday after, they will be removed and prepared as replacement kit number 1. Essentially, it's about the four corners of the vehicle, the radiator and the gearbox interior.

On Tuesday after the pre-test, the three Porsches were equipped with the parts that will later contest the race. They were retracted during a shakedown on the Bugatti circuit at Le Mans and then immediately removed again. For the two official training days on Wednesday and Thursday, a third set of the large components was screwed onto the 919 chassis with the V4 turbo. Not brand new. The components had already covered 300 to 400 kilometers in races. During the two training days, another 1,000 kilometers are added.

One and a half minutes for a vehicle corner

Thursday night begins then the major renovation for the Porsche mechanics. The racing kit from the shakedown comes back to the cars. And the training set becomes the number 2 spare parts store. When assembling the racing cars, every screw is checked twice, every move is checked twice and three times.

The two replacement kits are stacked in the garage. In an emergency, they can be screwed to the car in no time at all. 'We can create a corner, for example the complete right front axle with drive shafts, wheel carriers and vented brakes, in one and a half minutes,' reveals Operations Manager Urs Kuratle. Last year the best time was 2.18 minutes. But Porsche was still new to the LMP1 business.

What asounds like gigantic effort, is actually relatively efficient. If Le Mans is over without major damage, Porsche can contest the rest of the season with the racing set and the two replacement kits. Because the unused components still have enough remaining life. In the subsequent six-hour races, only 1,200 kilometers are reeled off.

In this respect, it would be financial insanity if the ACO and the FIA ​​put their plans into practice and declare Le Mans the season finale. Then all the parts would end up in the warehouse long before the end of their service life.

Drivers practice repairs

The mechanic crews for the three cars consist of six people each. You work through the 24 hours. Shifts are only used for the marathon tests in winter. Every move is practiced a thousand times. But there are still repairs that can ruin a race. Changing the battery takes an hour and a half. Because it is well hidden deep inside the car.

The drivers sometimes have to be mechanics too. If the car breaks down on the track with a defect, only the driver is allowed to repair it. He is instructed by radio. There is an extra long cable for this, so that the driver can communicate with the box outside of his car.

The tool set weighs just under kilograms and is stowed to the right of the driver's seat. This includes a screwdriver, open-ended wrench and special tools for removing the panel. The drivers have to prepare for the mission. Every Thursday before the race, the so-called 'cockpit training' drills for half an hour with each driver for specific damage cases.

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