In giving the Le-Mans winning Porsche 919 Hybrid the send off it deserves, Porsche recently unleashed it at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium, to realise its true, unrestricted potentional, to devastating effect.
With the 4WD 919 Hybrid, Porsche won the Le Mans 24-Hours three times in a row, from 2015 to 2017, as well as the world champion titles (driver and manufacturer) in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) during the same years.
Technical restrictions from the FIA for the Class 1 LeMans prototypes meant competition was close between Porsche, Audi and Toyota but Porsche never knew what the 2017 championship-winning 919 Hybrid, when unchained, could really do until now.
The result was a new lap record of 1:41.770 minutes around the seven kilometre circuit, 0.7 seconds faster than Lewis Hamilton’s time in a Mercedes W07 Hybrid F1 car, set in August 2017 – a time that secured him pole position for that year’s Belgian Grand Prix.The 919 Hybrid also achieved a staggering top speed of 359 km/h in the hands of Porsche works driver, Neel Jani.
“The 919 Evo is definitely the fastest car I ever drove. The speed on which everything happens on a single lap with the 919 Evo is that fast that the demand on reaction speed is very different to what I was used to in the WEC”, said Jani.
He added, “We are not only faster than the F1 pole from 2017. Today’s lap was twelve seconds faster compared to our WEC pole position from last year!”Several aerodynamic modifications were made while the entire powertrain remained untouched. A larger front diffuser was used to balance the larger rear wing along with aerodynamic adjustments in the undercarriage with fixed height side skirts.
Other enhancements to the 919 Hybrid included a four-wheel brake-by-wire system, while its power steering was adapted for the higher loads. It also featured stronger suspension wishbones (front and rear).Compared to a race-prepped car, the record-breaking 919 Hybrid saw a reduction of 39 kilograms in weight to just 849 kilograms – about the weight of a Lotus Elise.
Everything from the air-conditioning to windscreen wipers, sensors, lighting system and even the pneumatic jack was removed to produce the record lap. Even Michelin, Porsche’s long-time tyre partner was in on the action – developing new tyre compounds for more grip without compromising safety – for a car with more downforce than a Formula 1 car.Without restrictions to engine performance, the 919 Hybrid’s 2.0-litre turbocharged V4 engine made 720 hp, up from 500 while its electric motor made 440 hp, up from 400.
The record lap at Spa was part of the 919’s Tribute Tour. Next up, the legendary Nordschleife before the start of the 24-Hours Nürburgring race on May 12.