Bernhard: I think it’s a quite cool thing

Porsche drove an amazing time at the famous Nürburgring Nordschleife, where their Porsche 919 Evo did a 5:19,55, which is almost one minute faster than the official track record that Stefan Bellof did in a Porsche 956 C back in 1983.

Since the lap today wasn’t set during a race, but under a test, this doesn’t count as a new lap record, but it’s still an impressive time that Timo Bernhard did in a slightly modified Le Mans winning car.

During the Le Mans week, had the chance to talk with him about the preparations for this lap, and about his future.

It must be nice to still run the Porsche 919 around the world on different tracks. We saw some video from Nürburgring Nordschleife, but we didn’t hear the end result. Was it just preparing for something late on?

“Yeah, it was just a test. On that day it was just to check the car, to see if it’s possible to drive with this car, how the car feels, get the data. This day it was never the goal to break any record, so we never went quicker than the current laptime. Now we have to see what happens, with track availability. For sure it was a big pleasure to drive this car there, very very quick, and I have to say that we have proved that it’s possible with this car, to drive the Nordschleife with the last evolution top level of a LMP1 car, on this beautiful track. It’s two things coming together – the quickest car I’ve ever driven, on the most beautiful track of the world. And it was a nice afternoon.”

Timo Bernhard
Photo: JJ Media

But it must be quite a different set-up on the car, to go over all the bumps and crests.

“Yeah yeah yeah, for sure. And I have to say, it’s not a 5-minute job, so we didn’t arrive, unload the car, and then say, what do we need to change… It was a long preparation, even for this test. Simulator sessions, thinking about the track, contributing from a driver’s view, because I know the track quite well. And I also went there myself, to check the track myself, and to see what could be done. So it’s not a 5-minute job to bring the these things together, but in the end we showed that it was possible to drive.

“If you look at the corner speed, it was not just a case of cruising around, but it was at a good speed. When I went out the first time, there were no people, and then after 20 minutes – many people were there and making photos and video – and they even found out who was driving, with their long lenses, so it was great fun. And I think it’s a cool project, also for the young people. For young people, the Nordschleife has a certain myth, they think it’s the ultimate track that they play on the PlayStation, or watch onboard or videos. For them, to see a top level car on this beautiful track, it’s something for young people to come and look at, compare with their own laptimes that they are doing on the simulator, so I think it’s quite a cool thing to do from a manufacturer, thinking outside the box a bit.”

Porsche 919 Evo Nordschleife
Photo: Porsche Motorsport

You have your own race team in Germany in the ADAC GT Masters. Have you put in any pre-orders of the Porsche 911 RSR GTE car in two or three years?

“No no no, not yet. At the moment we try to do it step by step, and this year it was the first time that we ran at the 24 Hours at the Nürburgring. We had a small problem on the car, but up until then we were running P5-P6. At the end of the race, we were quite quick in the rain as well, so a top 5 position could have been possible, which would have been mega.

“We are still running the two cars in GT Masters, one of them I drive. So every year we step it up a little bit. We are planning on doing Spa again this year with one car, so there is some momentum in, but for sure we are still away from dreaming about Le Mans. But maybe in a couple of years, I mean, there is definitely a chance of the team progressing like that. But I want to be realistic as well, and I don’t want to stress the team too much, too early. It needs to grow a bit.

“It’s quite relaxing to come here (to Le Mans, editor), to not worry about the team structure or team, and just drive, so it’s quite relaxed. It’s a lot of work to do both, if you are a driver and team owner at the same time, as I’ve learned this year, it’s a different momentum, so it’s definitely quite, I wouldn’t say relaxing, but different.”

Timo Bernhard drove the Porsche 911 RSR #94 during the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but had to retire due to suspension failure after 7 hours of racing due to a suspension problem, that couldn’t be fixed on the car.

He will be back in ADAC GT Masters action in just over a month’s time, when the series visits Nürburgring for the 4th weekend of the season.

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