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WEC: the story behind the works drivers' helmet designs

The mandala drawn by a little sister, a lion's mane in the wind, the pride in a nation or a star to symbolise the FIA WEC title – the helmet designs of the Porsche works drivers all have an individual touch.

This year, the Porsche works team competes with a slightly different line-up: Gianmaria Bruni from Italy and Austrian Richard Lietz share the cockpit of the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR, as in previous years but the Frenchman Kévin Estre is now joined in the No. 92 sister car by Neel Jani from Switzerland. The 2016 outright Le Mans winner not only brings a wealth of experience to the driver crew in the FIA WEC, Jani also lets the sun shine during his campaigns.

Neel Jani: it all began with a mandala drawn by his sister

The design was created in the year 2000. My sister Reena, who was 13 years old at that time, often painted mandalas. One of them was of the sun, which can now be seen on top of my helmet. I still think it’s a great element, and in a way, it pays tribute to our Indian roots on my father’s side. Jani and his now 34-year-old sister have an Indian father and a Swiss mother.

That’s why there are still some white strips on my helmet today. At that time, we couldn’t put stickers over the entire surface. But I think it’s great: the white combined with the bright red gives the design a slightly lighter look – Feng Shui in motor racing, so to speak, says Jani.

Richard Lietz: pragmatism and national pride

“I’m not a fan of overly aggressive designs,” says the architecture and design fan. The latest concept, which differs only slightly from my previous one, comes from the Italian studio CF Design. I heard about this company through my teammate Gimmi. I like their work. It suits my personality and my wishes regarding my racing gear.

The red and white stripes in the lower area of the helmet represent another classic element – a clear nod to the origins of the 37-year-old Porsche works driver. “I’m Austrian and I’m proud of it,” says Lietz, who is from Ybbsitz in Lower Austria. He sees his devotion to his homeland not as nationalism but instead as something that distinguishes him from others: I’m Austrian – there are not too many of us!

The basic design of the Frenchman’s helmet has not changed since 2008, only new colour accents have been added. “I always match the colour scheme to the vehicle design. When we drove the Pink Pig at Le Mans in 2018, my helmet reflected that. When I’m driving the Porsche 911 GT3 R for Manthey-Racing, I adapt the colours to the ‘Grello’ green and yellow,

This orange has a special meaning for me. As a teenager, I really liked Kimi Räikkönen’s helmet design. It was such a vibrant orange, so I adopted it. I took the design on the back, which resembles a flag fluttering in the wind, from a competitor in kart racing. I just thought it looked cool, says Estre. The back of the helmet features a small gold star. “It’s like the national football teams,” Estre smiles, adding with a laugh: “A star for every world championship. I won the FIA WEC title in 2018/2019. As you can see, there is still enough space for more.”

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Apr 29, 2021 at 08:51

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