Marking its return to the LMP1-class at Le Mans after a long hiatus, Porsche displayed the best of its ultra-performance racecar stable at the 2014 Geneva auto show. Sharing some technology with the new 918 Spyder production supercar, the Porsche 919 Hybrid will join Stuttgart’s team alongside the Porsche 911 RSR. Both the 919 Hybrid and 911 RSR will compete in the 2014 World Endurance Championship (WEC) series.
In the WEC’s highest category, the Porsche 919 Hybrid is well suited to meet the new, stricter regulations on power and efficiency. A 2.0-liter, turbocharged compact V-4 gasoline engine combines with a front-axle-mounted electric motor (powering the front wheels as needed) for a total of about 500 hp. As we saw when we spied the Porsche LMP1 prototype last June, the 919 Hybrid should be easy to spot on the track thanks to its eight-part LED headlamps, massive front spoiler, and low rear wing.
Aside from the lightweight body and aerodynamics, the Porsche 919 Hybrid uses a pair of energy recovery systems to increase efficiency. Similar to the brake regeneration system used on the 918 Spyder, a generator on the front axle converts kinetic energy from braking into electric energy that is stored in lithium-ion batteries. New and unique to the Porsche 919 Hybrid is an exhaust-driven electric generator, which helps conserve and recover thermal energy that would otherwise be expelled.
The only major change to the Porsche 911 RSR since it debuted in 2013 is a 10-hp power bump over last year’s model. Power from the 4.0-liter six-cylinder boxer engine is now rated at 470 hp, which is still routed to the rear wheels through a lightweight six-speed racing transmission operated using steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The same aerodynamic and weight-reduction strategies (thin windows, aerodynamic body kit, carbon fiber panels and interior pieces, and lightweight lithium-ion battery from the production 911 GT3) carry over from the 2013 911 RSR.
Last year’s Porsche 911 RSR was quite successful in the WEC series, with first- and second-place finishes in its class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In addition to a number of factory teams competing in the WEC, customer teams are set to enter racing programs such as the Tudor United Sport Car Championship with the Porsche 911 RSR. Most notable among these lucky customers is actor Patrick Dempsey, who will be competing at Le Mans this year representing Team Dempsey Racing Proton.
Porsche is definitely entering the WEC series with a full steam ahead, but we’ll have to see if the Porsche 919 Hybrid and 911 RSR have what it takes to bring the hardware home to Stuttgart.