Mission Report

The Mission Future Sportscar: For the moment

The volume is getting louder at the large Porsche site next to Goodwood House.

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And not only on the track – the young New Zealander Brendon Hartley is racing over the asphalt at the Festival of Speed in the Porsche 919 Hybrid that won at Le Mans, and will be showcasing the vehicle at the hill climb. The noise is, above all, being generated at the Porsche site, which is as close to the race track as could be: This is where fans, friends and track officials are applauding with particular abandon when the 900 hp racer speeds past twice a day. And a few of the latter even seem to have moisture pooling in the corners of their eyes.

When the new Hybrid racers crossed the finish line in Le Mans in 1st and 2nd place, the CEO of Porsche, Matthias Müller and Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Dr Wolfgang Porsche were truly overwhelmed by emotion. When a product that they made is granted admission to the Olympus of Le Mans and is immortalised in the pages of Porsche history, then even they allow their hard exteriors to soften. They regard the 919 as the perfect interpretation of the Porsche mentality, Porsche courage and Porsche competitiveness. It has gone down in history. Just like the legendary 917.

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Like every racing vehicle that Porsche has developed over the last 60 years, the 917 also represents a never-ending mission: using all the experience gained and, of course, all the races won, as insight and expertise for producing sportscars. Every racing vehicle on roads all over the world lives on in the spirit of each Porsche sportscar.

Porsche has always made it a mission to keep challenging itself, to put its principles on the test bench and to find new solutions. Endurance racing enjoys the highest status of all in this – and, first and foremost, Le Mans, the race to beat all races. Porsche is blazing new trails with the 919 Hybrid here as well, as it has so often done over the course of its history, while speeding its way into the future.

Walliser describes this as follows: “The very first 356 won a hill climb in Salzburg just 14 days after its completion. This makes the basic raison d'être at Porsche all the more clear: Always making the lightest vehicle, and the vehicle that is the best to drive.” Today, this applies in equal measure for a 959 as the all-wheel hero of the Paris-Dakar Rally as it did for “all 917 models from the Piëch era.”

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However, other milestones can be named in response to the question about the most important Porsche in motorsports history: “The RS60, 906, 907 and 908 were among the best to ever grace a race track,” as the former works driver Brian Redman (who won the Targa Florio in 1970 in a 908, and the 24h of Daytona in a 917K) recalls. Mass agrees: “The 908/3 was a highly iconic, sensational vehicle. The CanAm Spyder crushed the competition in America with its unbelievable power and performance, and the clever aerodynamic package.” And Bischoff adds: “The 936 and the Group C up to 956/962, which is when monocoque construction started, the ground effect aerodynamics and the age of electronics all started. Seven Le Mans victories for the 956/962 types speak for themselves.”

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The 936 won in Le Mans three times – 1976, 1977 and 1981. Racing along at 360 km/h, the vehicle was the fastest of any on the field, fuelled by a 620 hp, six-cylinder, flat, turbocharged engine. Time constraints made its development touch-and-go – the engineers were forced to resort to using the parts available, from the 908/3, 917/10 and 911 Carrera RSR Turbo 2.1 types. Which they did very successfully.

This too is typical to Porsche: going our own way. Believing in our own mission. Ignoring doubts and then stepping up to prove the contrary. Regardless whether it's a rear engine, a lightweight magnesium frame design or, as in this case, a hybrid drive. It doesn't matter how many people were shaking their heads, the concepts prevailed and did so successfully. Sooner or later.

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But how does anyone manage to maintain this level of solidarity and success for such a long time? Hartley: "It's the passion. Most automobile manufacturers don't have anything like this." And this is just how to win at Le Mans. By focussing on the essentials. By never looking for the easiest solution but finding the most consistent one. The prototype of the 919 Hybrid, weighing just 870 kilos due to its composite fibre monocoque, made of carbon fibre with a honeycomb aluminium core, is propelled by a two-litre V4 engine with a turbocharger that delivers 500 hp, and an approximately 400 hp strong electric motor – combustion power for the rear axle, electrical energy on the front axle. Porsche has never before driven at Le Mans with a design as bold as this. "The Porsche mission has always been the sportscar of the future," as Hartley formulates it, "we will soon being seeing many of these 919 technologies in road vehicles."

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