SPORT

WEC 2014: Porsche 919 Hybrid Tops Test Times At Paul Ricard (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

31/03/2014 12:53 BST | Updated 31/03/2014 12:59 BST

Former Formula 1 driver Mark Webber has hailed Porsche's two-day test session at the Paul Ricard circuit for the FIA World Endurance Championship as "a big milestone".

Webber, who tested the new 919 Hybrid in public for the first time as the German manufacturer joined other teams at the circuit in the south of France, was pleased with progress and looked forward to the opening race at Silverstone next month.

mark webber

Mark Webber (r) in pensive mood with Porsche team-mate, Timo Bernhard

"This test here was a big milestone, the ex-Red Bull F1 driver said. "To enter two cars for the first time was a tremendous amount of hard work for the crew on the operational side.

"Smooth running was a well-deserved award and a good tonic for the guys after a long week. Every day we run we find more areas to improve, which is very encouraging. The track lay-out at Paul Ricard seems to suit our car very well. I’m curious to find out how we can perform in Silverstone.“

Webber's team-mate Brendon Hartley recorded the fastest time of 1:41.289 on the 5.791km track with the Audi trio of Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benot Treluyer second, 0.784s behind and the sister Porsche car of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb third, a further 0.053s behind. The fastest of the Toyotas was fourth.

Team principal Andreas Seidl was understandably cautious for the Silverstone race though as Porsche is making its return to the top tier of sportscar racing after 16 years.

“We made good progress in all areas – be it team-work, performance or reliability," he said. "But we know very well that we cannot catch up overnight with the advantage our competition has in terms of experience, and we have quite a lot of homework to do before the season’s opening race."

How much comparison can be made between the leading factory-run LMP1 cars is debatable though as each team was running its own test programme with different fuel loads. However, Porsche managed to clock up more than 3,500km over the two days with no technical issues indicating that the 919 is looking solid and reliable ahead of its race debut on 20 April.