“In 2014, it will not be the fastest car that wins the World Endurance Championship series and the 24 hours of Le Mans, rather it will be the car that goes the furthest with a defined amount of energy. And it is precisely this challenge that carmakers must overcome. The 919 Hybrid is our fastest mobile research laboratory and the most complex race car that Porsche has ever built." That’s Matthias Müller, chairman of Porsche AG, talking of the car that will be campaigned in the 2014 World Endurance Championships (WEC), including a run at the storied French circuit that’s about 128 miles southwest of Paris.
The energy management is predicated on the turbocharged, 2.0-liter direct-injected four cylinder engine—a V4—that produces approximately 500 hp and works in conjunction with two energy recovery systems.
They’ve developed a system that recovers energy from the exhaust gases, using the exhaust to run an electric generator to produce more power that’s stored in lithium ion batteries.
Then there’s a generator on the front axle that uses the kinetic energy recovered when braking (a.k.a., regenerative braking); the kinetic energy is stored as electrical energy.
When the driver needs an additional power boost, then an electric motor is used to drive the front axle of the car, as the internal combustion engine drives the rear wheels. (Architecturally, this makes the car an all-wheel-drive vehicle, as long as there is the available electricity to drive the front-axle motor.)
More than 200 people are working at a Porsche facility in Weissach, Germany, on the development and build of Le Mans prototype (LMP) vehicles. Said Friedrich Enzinger, head of LMP1: "Within two and one half years we built the infrastructure, assembled our team and put this highly complex race car on wheels. We have the greatest respect for the lead our competitors have in racing experience. Our objective in the first year is simple: to finish races and be competitive."
One suspects that the definition of “competitive” also includes “winning races.”
Porsche has been absent from Le Mans since 1998, and given the remarkable record that its sister company Audi has been racking up over the past few years, presumably there is going to be nothing but the highest levels of competitiveness.
(While the casual race fan may not be familiar with the exclusive premium sponsor of Porsche for the WEC run, DMG MORI, readers of this site know that that is one of the leading machine tool manufacturers in the world.)