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The Endurance Man

He is the longest-serving Porsche works driver and the only one to have become Porsche Motorsport Champion in all categories. Timo Bernhard has been driving a Porsche for 20 years.

Text: Matthias Mederer Photo: Porsche 23.05.2019 3 min

As Timo Bernhard once said, the best racing driver is the one who has the greatest capacity for commands from outside, for disturbing influences on pure driving. Because that's what racing is all about. Who finds - instinctively, because there is often no time for rationality - a quick answer when something unforeseen happens? With this talent, you can go far. Not just as a racer. But especially there. In particularly good cases, the route then leads to Le Mans. And there on the winners rostrum.

»There are moments,« says Bernhard, »especially at night in Le Mans, when you have the feeling of being completely with yourself. Tunnel vision. And everything is automated. The reflexes take over, drive the car. I've often had moments - a stone on the road, or someone spinning out in front of me - and I react, I catch the car, however ossible, and only then, seconds later, I think about what could have happened. And then the pulse goes up. You don't drive with your head, it goes much, much faster.«

After 20 years as a Porsche works driver, endurance world champion, Le Mans winner and Nürburgring record driver, Bernhard naturally knows what he is talking about, although today he admits that expectations were very modest at the beginning. »I have kept the letter with the invitation to the Porsche Juniorensichtung (Juniors screening ) until today. I went there and didn't really have any expectations. Honestly, I didn't really know what to expect. I had only thought from race to race and only gradually understood what a great opportunity it was for me and what the Porsche myth really meant.«

Today Bernhard is the longest serving Porsche works driver. He was the only driver to win the championship in all Porsche Motorsport categories: Porsche Carrera Cup (2001), GT title in the American Le Mans Series (2004), LMP2 winner in the American Le Man Series (2007, 2008) and LMP1 FIA Endurance World Champion (2015, 2017). The highlight was the overall victory in Le Mans at the 24-hour classic in 2017. »The absolute highlight of my career.«

When Bernhard looks back on 20 years of Porsche Motorsport, it is the number 919 that arouses the most emotions. Bernhard was involved in the LMP1 project from the very beginning. He drove the Rollout in 2013. And: With a time of 5:19.55 minutes, Bernhard set a new track record for the »Green Hell« on a specially prepared 919 Hybrid Evo in 2018 as five-time overall winner of the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring. »The crowning glory of the 919 program,« says Bernhard and adds: »I've given my all on this round. Due to the aerodynamics, I could drive trough passages on the Nordschleife at full throttle on which I never imagined doing that before. The Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo is my absolute favorite racing car, an ultimate racing machine.« it can hardly get any more sporty.

This is another reason why Bernhard has been looking after the next generation of racing drivers since the end of the LMP1 project. Together with his father he leads his own racing team - KÜS Team 75. It should come as no surprise that the team relies entirely on Porsche cars. »I owe so much to the brand and the people at Porsche,« says Bernhard. »Porsche is my brand. It's a knighthood and something special to drive for Porsche.«