Geneva 2014: Porsche ready for Le Mans with 919 Hybrid

For racing fans in Europe, the Geneva Motor Show is the unofficial countdown to the 24 Heures du Monde — or 24 hours of LeMans — endurance sportscar race. Germany’s Porsche kicked-off the show’s media day off with the unveiling of two new LeMans-bound racecars.

Porsche and LeMans have become synonymous. It started with the iconic Porsche 917, which gave the German automaker its first overall win at LeMans in 1970. After winning consistently in the sports car clauses in the ‘70s with its 911-based 934, 935 and 936 prototypes, Porsche continued to dominate the Group C class with its 956/962C racecar — one of the most successful prototype racers in history. And now, after its last overall LeMans victory with its 911 GT1-98 prototype in 1998, Porsche’s long awaited return to the top ranks of the historic French race will ride with a new works team dubbed “Porsche Team” and two 919 Hybrid prototype sports cars that will run in the top category of Le Mans prototypes (LMP1) this June.

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Similar to the Audi but different from the Toyota LMP1 racecars, the Porsche 919 Hybrid is powered by a turbocharged, 2.0-litre four-cylinder gas engine that’s aided by two energy recovery systems: one from its brakes and a second that recovers heat from its exhaust. While the V4 gas engine powers the 919 Hybrid’s rear wheels, the energy recovery system sends power to its front wheels.

Pulling the tarp off the 919 Hybrid here in Geneva was two of the scheduled 919 Hybrid’s drivers for this year’s LeMans race, ex-Formula one driver Mark Weber and Porsche works drivers Timo Bernhard. Along with LeMans, the 919 Hybrid will also compete in the remaining 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship events. Expect to see the new Porsche LeMans racer test at France’s Circuit Paul Ricard at the end of March while it preps for the WEC season kick-off at Silverstone, England in April.

In addition to the 919 Hybrid, Porsche will race the 911 RSR at this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans.

In addition to the 919 Hybrid, Porsche will race the 911 RSR at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
John LeBlanc, Driving

While Porsche says the 919 Hybrid can be regarded as a “research laboratory for the technology of future production vehicles”, the automaker’s second Geneva racecar debut — the new 911 RSR —is more about the present. In defense of its double Lemans GT-class win in 2013, Porsche Team Manthey will enter a pair of 911 RSRs in this year’s GTE Pro class, a class that includes works teams from Aston Martin, Chevrolet, Ferrari and SRT. Porsche says many details on the Porsche GT sports car revamped for the last race in the 2013 season. The modified aerodynamics of the front end, a wider rear wing and adapted chassis kinematics are said to ensure “enhanced balance and improved controllability at its handling limits.”

“In the 2013 season, the 911 RSR gave impressive proof of its long-distance capabilities by its double victory at Le Mans,” said Head of Porsche Motorsport Hartman Kristen. “At the 24 hour race in Daytona, we again celebrated a win in a classic long-distance race with the revised version of the 911 RSR – this is certainly a good omen for Le Mans 2014.”

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