JUN 11th 2014

Getting under the skin of Porsche's LMP1 charger

Le Mans cars have the happy habit of turning up at FoS. Wouldn’t it be great if the Porsche 919 Hybrid made it along having pounded the Circuit de la Sarthe for (hopefully) 24 hours?

We’ll keep our fingers crossed on that one, and in the meantime content ourselves with this brief glimpse under the skin of what is the most sophisticated racing car they’ve ever built, as Porsche’s LMP1 Technical Director Alexander Hitzinger explains: ‘The recuperation of kinetic braking energy at the front axle has great potential with the axle load being dynamically shifted to the front when you brake, so a system that exploits this was a logical step. In favour of this solution we gave up a KERS on the rear axle. If you start with a naturally aspirated engine, KERS is the only option you have. But using turbocharging gave us another option, which is why we opted for using the energy from exhaust gases from the turbocharger.’ Right you are, Alexander!

Frankly, all we can tell from these pictures is that the 2.0-litre V4 motor is tiny. In fact, it looks more like the kind of thing you’d fit to a big motorbike than an LMP Le Mans car.

The upshot of all this kinetic energy, conversion efficiency, thermodynamic recuperation, weight-optimised components and so on… is that over a full race distance the Porsche should develop enough energy to run a 60-Watt light bulb for 9687 hours! All of this is as a result of the new 2014 regulations which stipulate that the Porsche must consume no more than 4.78 litres of fuel per lap, which in turn means that the goal is to produce a car that uses around 30 percent less energy than the LMP1 cars were using last year.

So, not only has Porsche had to develop an LMP car without the kind of data their competitors have from recent seasons’ racing efforts, but they’ve also chosen to use their own engineers to develop the 919 Hybrid, as opposed to buying-in existing componentry from external companies. Brave …

As if that all wasn’t going to pose enough issues, they’re going toe-to-toe with Audi who have won a staggering 12 Le Mans 24-hour races since 2000, and Toyota who, on the basis of the results from the WEC races at Silverstone and Spa have the quickest car! Not that outright pace counts for much at Le Mans.

So, it seems that this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours could be one of the most hotly-contested for years. Will Porsche beat the odds and prevail over Audi and Toyota? Will Toyota come to the fore and win their first-ever Le Mans? Or (dare we say it …) will the hybrid technology cause a raft of failures? By 4pm on the 15th we’ll have our answer…

Share this