Porsche WEC star Neel Jani says the German manufacturer is effectively playing its “joker” card in this weekend’s Silverstone opener, after LMP1 rival Toyota dominated qualifying.
Running in high-downforce trim, the Toyota TS050 Hybrids locked out the front row of the grid on Saturday, with Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi sealing pole position.
The best of the Porsches, the #1 car shared by Neel Jani and Nick Tandy, had a combined laptime 1.311s off the pace, and still over a second behind the second-placed #8 Toyota.
But, using the low-downforce kit, Jani admitted Porsche knew it would be hard-pressed to challenge Toyota, and stressed the importance of not giving away points unnecessarily.
“With the low-downforce package here, we always knew we were on the back foot,” Jani told Motorsport.com.
“We always knew we’d have to sacrifice Silverstone. But also the 1m36s Toyota did is unbelievable and we hope in the race the gap gets a bit closer.
“The most important for us is to finish, because we don’t want to give away points. This is basically our joker race, and we don’t want to give away points we don’t need to.
“Hopefully those extra months of developing the high-downforce kit will give us the edge for the second half of the season, and then no one remembers Silverstone.”
Despite Toyota’s domination, Jani said he was satisfied with the performance of the 919 in low-downforce spec, and believes Porsche will be in a stronger position for the next round at Spa.
“It’s worth nothing our laptime, even though we came with low downforce, is quicker than last year’s,” Jani added. “We improved the car massively.
“This low downforce package feels very good. I would have never imagined it would feel so good on this track, which gives me a lot of confidence for Spa and Le Mans.”
Toyota “expecting a fight”
Anthony Davidson, who shared the #8 Toyota with Kazuki Nakajima in qualifying, said he expects Sunday’s race to be a “different story”, even if the Japanese marque retains the edge on sheer pace.
“In terms of qualifying pace, we expected to have some margin over Porsche, maybe not quite as much as what we had in the race,” Davidson told Motorsport.com.
“Tomorrow will be a different story. We should still have an advantage in some shape or form, but you shouldn’t expect to have the same advantage in qualifying.
“If you run more downforce, you don’t benefit all the time because of traffic. If you run lower downforce, you always enjoy better top speed. So we’re expecting more of a fight.”