Neel Jani on his record-breaking lap at Le Mans

In focus

On 10 June 2015, Neel Jani set a new qualifying record at Le Mans, completing his lap of the track in 3:16.887 minutes at an average speed of 249.2 km/h (154.8 mph).

“It was just after 10 pm on Wednesday, still not quite dark and it was the first lap of qualifying. I knew that I would probably have just this one chance for pole. The weather forecast was uncertain and Porsche is happy if any team colleague gets into pole position. I cautiously ran in the tyres on the warm-up lap and brought them up to temperature. When I was driving towards the start:finish line, I saw it – a slower LMP2 car. I wanted to overtake it at the start of the Mulsanne straight. But in the Tertre Rouge, I realised that it wasn’t going to work. The LMP2 was too far away. I would meet it in the first chicane and lose time. To prevent this, I boosted more than is healthy, because you miss the electrical energy later on. I just managed to pass the LMP2 before I had to start saving fuel. Through the chicane and then I accelerated out of it. Although I now had less boost, I had made up some time. In the second chicane, I had to slow down somewhat earlier in order to save the fuel that I had burnt up previously. As I was driving slower, I braked too early. Then comes Mulsanne, with its bumps in the road. This time I hit the curve perfectly and also the kerb coming out of the bend, without going into the rev limiter. Then over the crest towards Indianapolis. A Corvette came into view in front of me. Indianapolis is a fast right-left combination. I thought that if I took the right-hander with a lot of speed, I would in fact come out too far on the left, but then I would simply stay on the left and push in on the inside next to the Corvette. I flashed my headlights to warn him and drove in uncompromisingly on the left onto the dirty track. I knew the Corvette had a camera pointing to the rear and would have an arrow showing from which side a car was attacking. So then I thought, if this was going to work at all, then it would be with a Corvette. In any case, they’re all professionals on the track in Le Mans. I was able to press myself into the steeply banked curve. Done it! Now Arnage, an extremely slow right-hander. Just like Mulsanne, it has an uneven surface in the braking zone. This time it was spot on. I accelerated towards the Porsche curves. At this point, you can see a good ten seconds ahead. There was no longer a car! My time had come. At the limit through the Porsche curves, steering into the right-hander, in sixth gear. The first left-hander, the second – I gave it full throttle the whole time. You wouldn’t do that normally. Nothing had better go wrong in the Porsche curves, otherwise there’d be a dreadful crash. Yet in this qualifier, I risked a bit more for a few tenths of a second. So first the second left-hander, then the long right-hander. Don’t slide out too far when changing direction because there’s only grip on the inside. And it actually worked as well. Then comes Karting, a left-hander that slopes to the outside. The car always understeers there, you really have to make sure that you stay inside the white line. I was now four seconds faster than the reference. Two more chicanes. Lots of people drive straight on there because they have problems adjusting after the ultra-fast Porsche curves. At the Ford chicane, the entrance isn’t visible, and it’s even more difficult in the dark. But I had noted the braking point. Avoid the artificial grass at the exit to the last chicane, otherwise you have no traction to accelerate. Full throttle. Finishing line. I was thinking about the LMP2, about boosting too early and the Corvette... Then I saw the 3:16.887. And I was glad I wouldn’t have to go through all that again.”

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