Porsche is releasing images of its Le Mans winning 919 Hybrid from 2015. There’s a long history here. Back in 2014, the Volkswagen Group company re-entered the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) with a turbo-charged four-cylinder combustion engine. The gasoline motor was driving the rear axle. There was also an exhaust energy recovery system, the latest lithium-ion battery technology for energy storage for the electric motor that powered the front axle, and a complex, to put it mildly, hybrid management system. In short, the ultimate four-wheel-drive racer that would and could compete with the world’s best from other automakers – including sister band Audi’s diesel LMP1 cars. This was and remains real “run what you brung” racing in a world that elsewhere is made up of phony of decals or makers’ badges on spec cars that passed for competition in other racing series.
Porsche claims it has set new standards in this technically demanding world endurance championship. The German racing firm that, ironically, now sells more trucks and sedans than the sports cars then the that made it famous – 356, 911 – can justifiably do so. During 2015, which was only the second year of competing in the top class at Le Mans, the Porsche team took a one-two finish at the grueling 24-Hours, as well as ultimately the manufacturers’ and drivers’ World Championship titles.
As part of the marketing of this very expensive, very competitive racing series, the Porsche 919 hybrid’s engine will be on display at race events, various exhibitions and, of course, in the Porsche Museum at Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen.
The world championship engine – with a displacement of a mere 2-liters – is said to be the most efficient combustion engine Porsche has built.
Alexander Hitzinger, Technical Director responsible for the 919, says: “Right from the beginning we had a brave concept, but it was also the right concept. This is paying off now.” As with every Porsche, the 919 Hybrid is being developed in Weissach at Porsche’s Research and Development center. Hitzinger’s people work closely it’s said with engineers from production cars. “They support us significantly in the areas of combustion development and fuel-mixture generation,” says Hitzinger.
However, the 919’s four-cylinder isn’t a flat engine like the new turbo generation for the 718 Boxster, as instead it has a 90-degree V angle. The small V4, with which Porsche took its 17th overall win at the Le Mans 24-Hours last year, had more than 500 horsepower that Porsche admitted to back then.
Now 2016 the regulations require a lower amount of energy from the fuel used per lap and have reduced the fuel flow for all the prototypes in the class. For the Porsche race engine this results in a loss of ~8% of fuel and, therefore, output which means less than 500 horsepower. Together with the electrical energy from brake energy from the front axle and exhaust energy, the Porsche 919 Hybrid’s overall power system is roughly 900 horsepower.
The regulations for the top segment of the WEC (class 1 Le Mans prototypes, LMP1) require manufacturers to use hybrid drive systems. They also establish a direct link between the sporty performance of the prototypes and their energy efficiency. Put simply, this means that a large amount of energy from recovery systems may be used. However, this entails a proportional reduction in the permitted amount of fuel per lap. The WEC gives engineers a great degree of freedom in terms of the hybrid drive concepts that may be employed. The teams can choose between diesel and petrol engines, naturally aspirated or turbocharged engines, various displacements, and one or two energy recovery systems. This set-up puts the focus on innovations that will have a huge impact on future production sports cars – and this was actually the main reason why Porsche decided to return to the world of top level motor racing.
The 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship. Aka WEC, begins with the traditional opener at Paul Ricard, Southern France. For the season’s big race at Le Mans two cars has been announced, which means 60 race cars will now compete on the famous 13.629-kilometer-long circuit.
Expansion has also happened to the race calendar: In 2016 the WEC will run for the first time on the New Mexico City Formula One circuit. This increases the calendar to nine races in nine countries. With the exception of Le Mans, the races are always six hours long and the field will be 32 cars divided into four classes.