Wolfgang Hatz, executive board member and director of Research and Development, talks about the connection between racing and high-tech developments for Porsche sports cars.
Steve McQueen’s philosophy of racing from the movie Le Mans has long become widely quoted worldwide: “Racing is life. Anything that happens before or after is just waiting.” Since the 1970s, Porsche has taken the liberty of modifying this piece of wisdom, or, to be more precise, of accelerating it. Yes, racing is life. The rest is automotive development. Which at Porsche also takes place at racing speed.
Porsche has been living from racing experience for more than sixty years now. All of its standard-series cars have benefited from competition on the racetracks. The tachometer in the center and the ignition to the left of the steering column are two clearly visible signs of this development in the cockpit. Transfer of technology from the racetrack to the road runs just as smoothly as it does regularly in all other areas too, from aerodynamics to the drive system and the suspension.
Despite McQueen’s statement, life between races at the Weissach Development Center constitutes its own race between races, in which bold technical challenges have to be mastered under the most extreme time pressure. The rest of life has long consisted of developing, testing, and further developing—needless to say, at high speed.
Following the successful era of customer racing with GT cars, the company’s new commitment to the World Endurance Championship (WEC) is based on the credo of Porsche Intelligent Performance. The fuel consumption regulations for the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 14–15 and the other seven WEC races crystallize the sustainable efficiency at the core of the Porsche brand to a challenging racing format. An important condition for us has long been met: the new 919 Hybrid in the LMP1 class (Le Mans prototype) was developed and built entirely by Porsche. The LMP1 Hybrid project began around three years ago not only with a blank slate but also on an open field. In the meantime we have erected new buildings for more than two hundred employees in the racing department, right next to the development center for the 918 Spyder hybrid super sports car. When our new wind tunnel starts up operations this year, the Weissach Development Center will possess a golden motorsports triangle consisting of design and assembly, the wind tunnel, and its own test course. This circuit is where all of our racing designs have undergone their first operational tests, including the 917, the Porsche TAG Turbo for the Formula One, and the LMP2 RS Spyder.
The prototype mission will be flanked by the entry of two GT factory teams with the overhauled 911 RSR. Porsche’s commitment to the top level of racing is not pursued at the cost of customer sports. With around two hundred GT racing cars a year, Porsche is also the largest manufacturer of racing cars.
The exchange of information among colleagues from our ambitious 919 Hybrid, 918 Spyder, and 911 RSR projects takes place informally in the most efficient way at all levels at our communications center, constructed specially for this purpose—our motorsports cafeteria.
Photo by Christoph Bauer