Bernhard column: Giving Toyota a run for its money at Silverstone

Porsche driver Timo Bernhard reviews the opening round of the FIA World Endurance Championship at Silverstone, where his team gave Toyota a run for its money despite its low-downforce set-up.

Bernhard column: Giving Toyota a run for its money at Silverstone
#2 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber, Brendon Hartley
#2 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber, Brendon Hartley
Timo Bernhard, Porsche Team
#2 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber, Brendon Hartley
#1 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Neel Jani, Andre Lotterer, Nick Tandy, #2 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber, Brendon Hartley
#2 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber, Brendon Hartley
Podium: #2 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber, Brendon Hartley
Timo Bernhard, Porsche Team
#2 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber, Brendon Hartley
#91 Porsche Team Porsche 911 RSR: Richard Lietz, Frédéric Makowiecki, #2 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber, Brendon Hartley

A six-second gap to the winner after six hours of racing: the first race of the season in Silverstone was an exciting battle from start to finish.

After the preparations in Weissach, the winter tests and the prologue at Monza, I was raring to finally start the season.

We have a new teammate, Earl Bamber, in our car #2 this year. I have known Earl for quite a while now. Three years ago he was one of the drivers in my German Porsche Carrera Cup team; we won races together and led the championship.

We couldn't keep him in the team for long though, because he was already a great driver back then and taken up as a Porsche works driver. In 2015 we shared the garage as colleagues; he was part of the winning car for Porsche.

He's steadily developed since then and I'm convinced that Brendon and I will be able to continue our success story with him.

This year the regulations only allow two aerodynamic packages per season, one of which is of course low downforce for Le Mans. In favour of a longer development period, Porsche decided to wait until after Le Mans with the high-downforce package - and therefore we didn't have the ideal set-up for Silverstone.

It went better than expected though, as both cars ran seamlessly the whole weekend, which isn't a given at the first race of the season. The team did a brilliant job!

Practice on Friday went well for us and we were able to work on the race set-up in dry conditions. Brendon and myself were in the car on Saturday for qualifying, but neither of us had a perfect lap.

I made a small mistake on my first lap and had to start a new attempt, however the tyres were over the peak and in the end we qualified on the second row in fourth.

The grandstands were full on Sunday and the atmosphere at the track was great. Brendon moved up from his fourth place start to third in the opening corners on the first lap, and was able to keep up with the pace of the leading Toyotas.

He handed over the car for the second stint in second place. At my first stop, the team decided to change onto inters as it started to rain.

It wasn't easy to find a good rhythm in the changing conditions, but I was able to keep up with the leading Toyota. The necessary change back to slicks shortened the second half of my scheduled double-stint from 29 to 12 laps.

The team passed on a tyre change at the last stop when Brendon drove the last stint to save time, which worked out well as he took over the lead when he came out of the box.

However, his tyres weren't in great shape anymore, and in the tight battle with Sebastien Buemi in the Toyota he couldn't fight him off and got overtaken seven laps before the chequered flag to finish second.

Due to the situation with the aero packages, both our performance and our result was better than expected. To only have a six second gap after six hours of racing between two different cars with different concepts is incredible, and exactly what we need in endurance racing.

It's definitely an encouraging result and gives us confidence for the next race in Spa, where we will run our Le Mans aero package, which should work in our favour. The target is clear: we want the first victory for Porsche this season.

The battle with Toyota promises to make for an exciting championship.

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