If Porsche’s return to the Detroit auto show could be summed up in a single word, that word is “racing.” Video screens displayed vintage footage of RSKs, 908s, 917s, GT3s, and even the ill-fated CART racer on the track; driving legends Derek Bell and Hurley Heywood made an appearance; and the 918 RSR — a preview of what a race-spec version of the company’s new supercar could look like — was rolled onto the stand for a world debut.
The 918 RSR isn’t exactly a surprise (after all, Porsche executives have long hinted a race version of the 918 Spyder concept was a possibility) but it is absolutely stunning, especially when viewed in person. The 918 Spyder, first shown last year in Geneva, was certainly an attractive automobile, but its long, low, sleek form is arguably even more striking in coupe form. The rear spoiler, decklid fan and orange-on-light-blue paint scheme (Gulf, anyone?) all trigger flashbacks of 917s, but many aspects of the 918’s rounded form — including the rounded fenders and curvaceous roofline — are more evocative of earlier 907/908 endurance racers.
The technology beneath the skin, however, owes almost nothing to history. Like the 918 Spyder, the 918 RSR is a gasoline-electric hybrid, but the system used in the racing coupe owes almost nothing to that used in the drop-top sports car. Instead, the system shown here is an evolution of the flywheel-based KERS design first used in the 911 GT3 R Hybrid. Energy recuperated during braking spins a flywheel mounted inside the cabin, which in turn generates electricity that feeds a pair of motors coupled to the front wheels. In partnership with the mid-mounted 563-horsepower, 3.4-liter V-8, the entire system is capable of providing up to 767 horsepower.
Porsche hasn’t stated exactly what it plans to do with the RSR, but we wouldn’t be surprised if this reveal is but the start of something interesting. Officials, including CEO Mathias Muller, refer to the car as a “technological test bed,” while Wolfgang Durheimer, Porsche’s previous R&D chief and the newly-appointed head of Volkswagen Group motorsport activities, also noted he is “looking forward to developing this car” as part of his new position. We also couldn’t help that Roger Penske, who also managed/owned teams running Porsche’s RS Spyder LMP cars, was also ogling the 918 and talking to executives. Coincidence? Perhaps, but the stars appear to be aligning…