It broke the record at Spa, and it positively obliterated the record at the Nürburgring. But the Porsche 919 Evo narrowly missed out on claiming another record when it ran at one of the UK’s premier racing circuits this past weekend.
Brands Hatch alternated with Silverstone to host the British Grand Prix in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, and has seen every type of racing car under the sun lap its tarmac in the years since – including touring cars, GT cars, even NASCARs.
Porsche brought its repurposed Le Mans prototype to the circuit this past weekend, running on the shorter Indy layout. And though it wasn’t out to set any records, it came pretty close. The best lap, set by Nick Tandy at 38.16 seconds, came within a tenth of beating the 38.032 seconds in which Scott Mansell muscled the Benetton B197 F1 around the circuit in the EuroBOSS race in 2004, and barely more than a second behind the 37.006-second qualifying lap that Paul Tracy clocked in the CART race the year before.
As Autosport details, though, the 919 wasn’t set up to set any records like it did in Belgium and Germany. For starters, Tandy had never driven the car before Sunday. For another, the hybrid powertrain wasn’t optimized for the circuit. And the car was running on off-the-shelf rubber, instead of the purpose-made tires it ran (with on-site support from Michelin) at Spa and the Nordschleife. With those factors in place, it could have shaved a second or two off its lap time.
“That’s up there with the best thing I’ve ever done,” Tandy told Autosport. “It’s the fastest car I’ve ever driven so it was cool. The thing is, by the time you’ve done the out-lap the tyre is gone. If we had the race tyres then we’d be in the 35s.”
“We didn’t have any preparation here so we needed a lot of manual operation from the driver,” elaborated Porsche test engineer Olivier Champenois. “Obviously we would have to map it around the track with the knowledge we’ve gathered here to be able to optimise it.”