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Porsche readies 911 RSR for Silverstone…
Hans Hermann is 85 years old. He once raced alongside the great Juan Manuel Fangio and began his career strafing European mountain passes in a privately owned Porsche 356. He is also an excellent baker. This is not a euphemism.
Why are we talking about a German pensioner proficient in endurance racing and no stranger to a clay oven when there’s a picture of a racing 911 above? Because in 1970, Hans - strapped into a Porsche 917 - capped off his astonishing racing career by capturing one of the most treasured scalps in the racing calendar for Porsche: outright victory at Le Mans for the first time.
16 overall victories later and we arrive at the 911 you see above; Porsche’s new entry into the most famous endurance race of them all. This weekend, the brand-spanking new 911 RSR - model number 991 - will contest the World Endurance Championship in the six hours of Silverstone, ahead of a summer return in the GTE class at Le Mans. It’s a precursor to Porsche’s planned assault on Le Mans’ LMP1 category (the big, scary one dominated by Audi) in 2014, 15 years since Porsche last competed for overall victory in the top class at La Sarthe.
First, that new 911 RSR. Porsche tells us its racers can lay claim to some 28,000 race victories in almost every motorsports series worldwide, and a brief glance through its history books will throw up drool-worthy gems like the 956 and of course, the aforementioned 917. But it’s the 911 that forms the foundation upon which Porsche has carved out its racing pedigree. This year it celebrates its 50th anniversary.
The RSR sits atop the GT3 R and GT3 Cup racers as the pinnacle of the 911 racing range. The 2013 car that will contest Le Mans’ GTE class - and Silverstone this weekend - features a 4.0-litre flat-six boxer engine developing 460bhp, hung out over the rear wheels.
Changes include a lighter six-speed sequential gearbox, with steering-wheel mounted shift paddles, a 100mm longer wheelbase, and better weight distribution. There’s a lower centre of gravity and a LOT of carbon fibre componentry including the front and rear wheel housings, front and rear lids, doors, underbody, wheel arches, rear wing, dashboard and even the centre console.
Porsche has even fitted the front end, front lid and rear panels with quick release systems, should an exuberant display of overtaking wipe out a vital piece, requiring it to be replaced. We’re quite certain Hans - who never drove a racing 911 to victory - would approve of the new RSR. But we’re even surer the big man would be looking forward to Porsche’s proper return to Le Mans next year.
The new LMP1 car will bear a heavy weight of expectation on its shoulders. The 1971 917 set a host of new records at Le Mans - lightest chassis, fastest lap, fastest average speed throughout the race and the furthest distance travelled over 24 hours. Here’s a short video Porsche released to tease its 2014 return.
So Porsche’s motorsport headquarters in Weissach has been necessarily expanded with a new workshop building and office complex to build next year’s car, while Fritz Enzinger is the man responsible for victory. Even if it takes Porsche’s Le Mans programme a year or two to get up to speed, they’ve got a bit of breathing space over new boys Audi. The four-ringed diesel-meisters have 11 outright Le Mans victories - two more than Ferrari - but Porsche remains way out in front with 16 titles.
In the meantime, pray savour the RSR. If you’re in the neighbourhood, pop down to Silverstone to check out the race this weekend. We’ll let you know how Porsche’s new 911 RSR got along, so check back on TopGear.com next week for more info…