Vijay Pattni11 December 2013

Webber drives new Le Mans Porsche

Mark gets early drive of new LMP1 company car: a hybrid with a 2.0-litre 4cyl. Wait, what?

One simple tweet late last night from the man who calls himself 'Aussie Grit'. "Next chapter. Enjoyed driving her today." It's official, then: Mark Webber is now a member of the Porsche familia.

The ‘her' he refers to is, of course, the 2014 Porsche LMP1 car: the car that Webber wasn't supposed to get access to until the beginning of next year. But, after some pleading with former employer Red Bull, he was let off the F1 leash early and strapped into a little carbon tub at Porsche's final 2013 test of its Le Mans contender in Portugal. 

So what do we know about the new Porsche? Not much, though a little nugget has come out of this Webber test: like the 918, the Le Mans car is a petrol-electric hybrid, but unlike the V8-powered 918, the racer features a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with direct injection and two energy recuperation systems. The energy recovered will then be stored in a battery, hooked up to an electric motor on the front axle.

The driver will decide when best to release this electrical boost, hopefully accompanied by an involuntary 'wheeeee' noise in the cockpit.

Said Mark of his test in Portugal: "My first day in this fascinating project was an intense experience for me. This is a major and important step for us all. It allows me to integrate with the team quicker and to contribute to further developing the LMP1 race car. We have a long way to go and it involves a lot of hard work. I have no misconceptions about this."

Porsche R&D chief Wolfgang Hatz sounds equally serious. "We always knew it wasn't going to be easy to return to top endurance racing after 16 years. We are finding new approaches in the development, implementation and application of leading edge tech. Ultimately, our customers will benefit the most."

Ah yes, customers. That's you lot out there, who will benefit from Webber and co's tests of the LMP1 car; this tech will trickle down into the Porsche road-car family at some point in the future. A 911 with a four-cylinder and electric tech? Hmmm.

Anyhow. It's all getting exciting now, isn't it? First Audi revealed a teaser pic of its new R18 e-tron, and now Porsche have snagged Webber from Red Bull early. And don't forget Toyota will be in the mix too. Who's your money on for victory in June?

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