Neel Jani Q&A: “My Le Mans lap record isn't set in stone”

Neel Jani believes that his Le Mans lap record set in 2015 could come under attack this year, despite rule changes to slow down the LMP1 cars.

Neel Jani Q&A: “My Le Mans lap record isn't set in stone”
Ambiance during pole winning celebration for #18 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, Marc Lieb
Neel Jani, Porsche Team
#2 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, Marc Lieb
#1 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and #2 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, Marc Lieb
#18 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, Marc Lieb
Neel Jani, Porsche Team
#1 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and #2 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, Marc Lieb
Neel Jani, Porsche Team
#18 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Neel Jani
#18 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Neel Jani interviewed by Cyndie Allemann

In the wake of the rapid development of hybrid-powered LMP1 cars, which led to Jani’s stunning 3m16.887s pole position time for last year’s race, the decision was made by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest to slow the cars for 2016.

The previous record was Stephane Sarrazin’s 3m18.513s set in 2008 with a Peugeot 908 – and Jani's lap was a staggering 5s quicker than the 2014 pole.

A 300kW limit has been slapped on the LMP1 cars’ released hybrid power at FIA Grade 2 tracks (Le Mans is the only Grade 2 track on the WEC calendar). All hybrid-powered cars also now have a reduced fuel-per-lap rate for Le Mans.

However, Jani still believes the LMP1 cars could threaten his mark at Le Mans – as he claims the track conditions were far from perfect when he set the time.

“I think for the Le Mans record... the track wasn't great when I did it,” Jani told Motorsport.com. “And with what I heard from Toyota and everyone... I don't know where we'll end up, but the record isn't set in stone, because the track was at least two seconds slower when I did it, compared to later in the week.

“I think we all lost out a bit, we all regained most of it, but I don't know if we regained 90 percent or 100 percent. But we didn't lose everything, that's for sure.

“At Le Mans, with the power they're taking away from us, we're losing four seconds. It means two or three seconds here [at Paul Ricard]. I think we regained most of it, especially thanks to the aero, the suspension, and a little bit the engine too. The sound is better, it's a bit more aggressive for a V4!”

Jani on the upcoming WEC season

How do you feel about the revised Porsche 919 for 2016?

“I really like this design. The car looks aggressive, even though it's not like the Audi or the Toyota, but I think we made a good step forward in terms of aero and suspension.

“Our concept is what everyone is doing now – Toyota and Audi. On our side, our forte really is reliability, which is what we felt in testing last week. The car worked well, which is good.”

Do you feel like there was a bigger step between the 2014 car and the 2015 one, or between the 2015 one and this one?

“We lost a lot of power for this year, nearly eight percent. At Le Mans, this represents four seconds already. I think we regained part of it, so I'm confident that the car will perform, but we can't gain six seconds like we did between 2014 and 2015. But we still gained something.”

Which of your rivals do you fear?

“Audi, I'm not too sure yet... But we heard that Toyota have gained a lot, that they have a very strong car and package. I'll say more tomorrow, but Toyota are going to be very strong and Audi won't have any reliability issues.

“We know one thing for sure – Audi wasn't so quick in 2014 and 2015 but when came Le Mans they were spot on. And what happened last year with Toyota, being at the back with no chance, won't happen to another team because everyone has been warned. It was like a warning.”

What's the forte of your new car?

“I think it will be reliability and the concept. Because we did this concept first, everyone copied it, but we understand it better, its strengths and weaknesses. Which goes with reliability. This will make us stronger this year.”

With one fewer car at Spa and Le Mans, how did your approach change?

“It's a shame neither we nor Audi have a third car, because it's good for competition, but it didn't change much in terms of development or that kind of things. It doesn't help us, but it doesn't affect us. But it's a shame, because it would be great to have more cars.”

What's your programme like here for the Prologue?

“We're mostly preparing for Silverstone. We're not using any special aero kit for here, we're preparing for Silverstone.”

shares
comments
Toyota working on third Le Mans LMP1 entry for 2017

Previous article

Toyota working on third Le Mans LMP1 entry for 2017

Next article

Toyota had to "retaliate aggressively" with new car - Davidson

Toyota had to "retaliate aggressively" with new car - Davidson
Load comments
Why Toyota's Le Mans victory was not as simple as it looked Prime

Why Toyota's Le Mans victory was not as simple as it looked

Toyota scored its fourth Le Mans 24 Hours victory and a 1-2, with the #7 car of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez beating the #8. But although it looked straightforward from the outside, Toyota faced serious problem that had to be solved with some quick-thinking and ingenuity.

Le Mans
Aug 24, 2021
What we've learned from the Le Mans 24 Hours so far Prime

What we've learned from the Le Mans 24 Hours so far

The new dawn for the FIA World Endurance Championship has arrived at Le Mans, as Hypercars prepare to duel for victory in the world's oldest endurance race. Motorsport.com picks out the 10 things we have learned in the build up to the race.

Le Mans
Aug 21, 2021
Le Mans 2021: The team-by-team guide Prime

Le Mans 2021: The team-by-team guide

After a two-month delay due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Le Mans 24 Hours is set to get underway with the start of the Hypercar era at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Le Mans
Aug 21, 2021
Can Toyota's #7 crew break its Le Mans curse? Prime

Can Toyota's #7 crew break its Le Mans curse?

One Toyota, normally with the number 7 on the side, always seems to attract the bad luck in the Le Mans 24 Hours. Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez are hoping for a change in fortune this time around, but face significantly more unknowns than in recent years

Le Mans
Aug 19, 2021
Why Glickenhaus should be taken seriously on its Le Mans bow Prime

Why Glickenhaus should be taken seriously on its Le Mans bow

Many were quick to dismiss Glickenhaus when the boutique American sportscar firm's entry into the top class of the Le Mans 24 Hours was announced. It's all-new LMH racer, powered by an engine built by a rally specialist, goes in as the underdog against Toyota but the mathematical odds suggest that it has more than just a faint hope of success.

Le Mans
Aug 18, 2021
How 1971's benchmark Le Mans team lost with the best car Prime

How 1971's benchmark Le Mans team lost with the best car

The JW Automotive Engineering team won twice at the Le Mans 24 Hours with ageing Fords and was considered the heavy favourite to add more victories to its tally after partnering with Porsche. But despite being armed with the all-conquering 917, this formidable combination was never as successful in real life as on the big screen.

Le Mans
Aug 15, 2021
Why Jose Maria Lopez isn’t motivated by emulating Fangio Prime

Why Jose Maria Lopez isn’t motivated by emulating Fangio

Having twice missed out on Formula 1 and reinvented himself as a touring car driver, Jose Maria Lopez has had a rocky ride to becoming a four-time world champion. One more would put him level with his nation's favourite son, but there's another prize he would value far more than the honour of matching Juan Manuel Fangio's tally.

WEC
Aug 14, 2021
The understated Le Mans legend who has earned a testimonial Prime

The understated Le Mans legend who has earned a testimonial

OPINION: After 24 Le Mans 24 Hours participations, 50-year-old Emmanuel Collard will be absent from the grid this year, stuck at the mercy of his gold driver grading. But, while he's not motivated by breaking start records, the French veteran is determined to return to the field next year.

WEC
Jul 24, 2021