Porsche chases Le Mans glory with evolutionary 919 Hybrid
F1 might be the pinnacle of world motorsport, but World Endurance Championship racing has it covered for excitement. Every team competing in LMP1 class uses a different engine layout, pitting hybrids against naturally-aspirated brutes. Having won Le Mans last year, Porsche has unveiled its more powerful hybrid entry for the 2017 title fight.
Although it looks relatively similar to the car it replaces, Porsche says between 60 and 70 percent of the 919 Hybrid is new for 2017. Both cars share the same basic monocoque, but everything from the hybrid boost system to the aerodynamics package is has been redone.
"The basic concept of the 919 Hybrid still offers scope to optimise the finer details and further boost efficiency," says Andreas Seidl, Team Principal. "The monocoque has remained unchanged since 2016, but the optimisation potential of all other components was analysed and, in most cases, adjustments made accordingly."
New technical regulations have taken away some of the aerodynamic freedom enjoyed by teams last year, cutting downforce in an attempt to make cars slower (and safer) through the corners. The team in Weissach has developed two aero packages for the 919 Hybrid; one designed specifically for the long straights of Circuit de la Sarthe, and another setup for tight, twisty circuits.
Both setups benefit from a new nose, complete with the biggest set of headlights we've ever seen. Apparently, the aerodynamics of the outgoing car were being thrown out of balance as the nose collected spent rubber from the track surface, so the shape has been revised to account for this buildup over the course of a race. Eagle-eyed viewers will see the taller, wider, longer wheelarches up front, along with new ducting along the side of the car.
As you might imagine, the new 919 also benefits from a set of powertrain upgrades. Power still comes from a turbocharged V4 engine, hooked up to an energy-harvesting hybrid boost system. The petrol engine makes just under 500 hp (368 kW) and powers the rear wheels exclusively, while the lithium-ion battery powers a 400 hp (294 kW) electric motor on the front axle.
Energy is recovered under braking, but the battery is also replenished from a small turbine fitted in the exhaust system. This turbine – capable of spinning at up to 120,000 RPM – feeds a generator, which in turn tops up the battery.
Unlike F1, the World Endurance Championship encourages teams to push the boundaries when it comes to in-car electronics. This year, Porsche says its traction control and hybrid management systems have been optimised to make tires last longer – crucial, given new WEC regulations leave teams three fewer sets of tires to play with over a race weekend.
The new 919 Hybrid was unveiled at Monza, and will be on show in WEC Prologue testing tomorrow.