Porsche's challenger for the 2014 WEC season is here at last. It's the 919 Hybrid, and it's ready for a really big fight.
Vijay Pattni04 March 2014
It’s here: the Porsche 919 Hybrid racer
This is it, the final race-ready version of Porsche’s Le Mans challenger. Watch out, Audi
And the significant Big Number is 16. Not the cylinder count (though wouldn't that be excellent?) but the number of years that have passed since Porsche last competed in the top tier of Le Mans. It's also the number of outright victories recorded by Porsche at La Sarthe, ahead of Audi (11) and Ferrari (9).
We're told it's the most complex racing machine Porsche has ever put together, using know-how acquired from building the epic Porsche 918 Spyder many of you watched last weekend when Hammond gave it a shakedown at the Abu Dhabi F1 circuit. It marks a transition in the WEC towards energy efficiency, and in fact will attempt to marry up the tech transfer between race and road cars.
As such, it gets a lightweight 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with direct injection that revs to a heady 9,000rpm, and features two energy recovery systems. One recovers energy via the exhaust gases (there's an electric generator powered by the exhaust gas stream), while another - like the 918 - houses a generator on the front axle and converts braking energy into electric energy.
It's all stored in water-cooled lithium ion battery packs until the driver decides he needs more poweeerrr. The front two wheels are then activated via a diff, and the car - in this phase - becomes four-wheel-drive. Petrol on the rear, electric up front. Simple, right?
Minimum weight sits at 870kg - as per the new regulations - thanks to a carbon fibre monocoque chassis with a sandwich construction. There's multi-link suspension, and 14in wide Michelin race tyres. Size wise, Porsche spent over 2,000 hours in the wind tunnel to fine tune the 919's aero; it's 4650mm long, 1050mm high, and between 1800mm and 1900mm wide.
That's not to neglect the driver, though, who we imagine is quite an important piece of the getting-it-across-the-line-first part of racing. The seat sits higher than previous LMP1 rules, and LED four-point headlights ensure good visibility during the twilight hours of racing. They also look rather cool, too.
So this new 919 has a lot riding on its svelte new shoulders. Not least because it will house Red Bull Formula One refugee Mark Webber (wonder what he's thinking about his former team's current malaise), along with his team mates Timo Bernhard (five-time Nurburgring champ), Romain Dumas (seven outright win in 24hr races), Brendon Hartley (Renault World Series champ), Neel Jani (LMS champ), and Marc Lieb (four-time Nurburgring champ, Spa 24hr winner and man who set the course record on the North Loop of the ‘Ring in the 918 last autumn).
More from Top Gear
Best of TopGear
- A message from TopGear.com
- The investigation's done. The BBC has delivered its Clarkson verdict. Here’s where we’re at
- Exclusive: up close with Aston's 800bhp Vulcan
- It costs £1.5m. It's very much not road legal. Only 24 will be built. You want one
- Bugatti has sold the very last Veyron
- The fastest car in history is all sold out. Middle Eastern customer buyers 450th, and final, Veyron GSV
- Ten highlights of the New York show
- As the doors of the NYC Auto Show prepare to swing open, here’s some of the new metal we’ll see there
- Alpina celebrates 50th with 200mph B6
- Renowned BMW fiddler brings in the half-century in the only way it knows how: speed and power