Porsche’s new LMP1 racer is ready to hit the track

Developed between 2012 and 2013, the 919 Hybrid hit the track for the 2014 World Endurance Championship, marking Porsche’s return to top-tier racing since 1998. With a hybrid drivetrain that included a turbocharged V-4 engine, a rather awkward choice compared to what Audi and Toyota used in their prototypes, the 919 finished the 2014 WEC season third, managing to score only one win at Interlagos. At Le Mans, Porsche had to settle for 11th place. In 2015, the Germans returned with an improved version of the LMP1 and won five out of eight races, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, winning the Manufacturers’ Championship ahead of Audi and Toyota. For 2016, Porsche has revised the 919 Hybrid once again in order to defend its WEC and Le Mans trophies.

Much like all updates for modern prototype race cars, the 2016-spec 919 Hybrid is far from being a radical departure compared to its predecessor. Both the aerodynamic package and the drivetrain are indeed different, but to the extent that they no longer share components with the previous design. With the 919 already a successful race car, Porsche focused on improving efficiency and and reducing curb weight rather than enhancing performance, mostly because new FIA restrictions force Porsche to use around eight percent less fuel and power throughout the 2016 season.

This season, Porsche’s Team will field two 919 Hybrids. Car No. 1 will be driven by 2015 champions Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, and Brendon Hartley, while car No. 2 will be shared by Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, and Marc Lieb. Is the updated 919 good enough to defend its title? Find out more in our review below.

Continue reading to learn more about the 2016 Porsche 919 Hybrid.

Exterior

2016 Porsche 919 Hybrid High Resolution Exterior
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At first glance, the 2016 919 Hybrid is identical to last year’s model on the outside. However, several new aerodynamic features can be spotted upon closer inspection. For instance, the massive splitter under the nose was reshaped, while the winglets at each corner were enlarged for increased downforce. The front fenders are a bit more angled toward the back, yet another feature that reduces drag. Changes continue onto the rear fenders, which feature smaller air intakes and slightly larger posts for the massive rear wing. The rear of the car appears to be unchanged save for the revised wing and engine hood.

All these changes were made for improvements in efficiency and more stable handling in different driving situations.

All these changes were made for improvements in efficiency and more stable handling in different driving situations. Also, side winds, changes in balance under cornering as well as yaw and roll angles were further reduced.

Arguably the biggest news here is Porsche’s decision to fully exploit the FIA regulations and use three aerodynamic packages throughout the season. While in 2015 the focus was on the Le Mans race, with compromises for the other events, 2016 will see three different 919 Hybrids on the track. A high downforce package was developed for Silverstone, while Le Mans will bring a body focused on extremely low downforce. Another high downforce package will be used in the following six WEC races. This strategy is similar to the one Audi used in 2014 and 2015, when it brought slightly longer versions of the R18 at Circuit de la Sarthe.

Finally, the 919 Hybrid received a new livery that combines all three colors used at Le Mans in 2015. Both cars are finished in black and white with red accents and continue to sport the "Porsche Intelligent Performance" motto. Also, the cars will now wear numbers 1 and 2, a privilege that comes with winning the World Endurance Championship for manufacturers in 2015.

Interior

As usual, Porsche had nothing to say about the car’s cockpit and there are no photos to run by, but it’s safe to assume it’s nearly identical to last year’s model. All told, the driver will sit in a no-nonsense cabin and use a race-spec steering wheel with a rainbow of buttons and knobs to send input to everything from the front wheels to the drivetrain. The dashboard is a simple panel with more switches and buttons, but also includes a TFT screen for various operations. A lightweight, race-spec seat provides stability in corners. The seat, the structure and almost everything else is crafted from carbon-fiber. For enhanced safety, the 919 Hybrid is equipped with an FIA-approved roll cage and a fire extinguishing system.

Drivetrain

2016 Porsche 919 Hybrid High Resolution Exterior
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Under the shell, the 919 Hybrid is essentially identical to last year’s car. The chassis structure remained unchanged, with a monocoque being a carbon-fiber sandwich construction manufactured as a single unit. The turbocharged, 2.0-liter V-4 engine continues to be a load-bearing member, while the hydraulically operated, sequential seven-speed gearbox is mounted in a carbon structure.

The engine was carried over, but Porsche increased the combustion efficiency and mixture preparation in order to increase output and reduce consumption

The engine was carried over, but Porsche increased the combustion efficiency and mixture preparation in order to increase output and reduce consumption. However, while the revised unit can generate in excess of 500 horsepower, it will use less than that on the race track due to new FIA restrictions, which require Porsche to utilize around eight percent less power than last year.

That doesn’t mean the 919 Hybrid will run with less than 500 horses at its disposal.

The updated energy recuperation system, which consists of a unit at the front axle and one in the exhaust tract, are able to create more than 400 horsepower. As a result, when in AWD mode, the 919 Hybrid uses a total output of around 900 horses, which should be more than enough to give its Audi- and Toyota-badged competitors a run for their money.

Other enhancements include a lighter gearbox, a lighter and more efficient energy recovery system, an optimized electric motor for the front axle, and a new-generation lithium-ion battery. A newly-developed front axle allows more set-up options, which will come in handy now that the 919 Hybrid uses three different downforce configurations.

Competition

Audi R18

2016 Audi R18 High Resolution Exterior
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Unlike the 919 Hybrid, the R18 received a significant makeover for 2016, which makes sense given that Audi was defeated for the first time in six years at Le Mans in 2015. Looking to recapture its crown, Audi gave the R18 a new nose that’s more aerodynamic and boxier front fenders. The splitter sits closer to the ground for increased downforce. The massive rear wing now sports a more complex design. Motivation comes from an updated 4.0-litr V-6 TDI rated at 514 horsepower and a motor generator unit that cranks out 408 horses. The flywheel energy system has been axed in favor of a lithium-ion acumulator.

Find out more about the Audi R18 here.

Toyota TS050 Hybrid LMP1

2016 Toyota TS050 Hybrid LMP1 Exterior
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Updated for 2016, the TS050 looks about the same from the outside, but much like the 919 Hybrid, it features revised aerodynamics in the front and rear. More modifications were made in the drivetrain department, where Toyota dropped in a 2.4-liter V-6, two electric motors, and a high-capacity lithium-ion battery. There are no performance numbers as of this writing, but we know for a fact that Toyota has jumped up to the 8 megajoule racing class with the new drivetrain. Toyota has yet to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but it won the WEC manufacturers’ championship in 2014. Needless to say, the Japanese have high hopes for 2016.

Read more about the Toyota TS050 Hybrid LMP1 here.

Conclusion

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Compared to the Audi R18 and the Toyota TS050, the Porsche 919 Hybrid sports fewer significant changes for the LMP1 category. However, that doesn’t mean that the Germans aren’t ready for yet another season of intense racing. As the reigning 24 Hours of Le Mans and WEC championship winner, Porsche had all the reasons to not meddle with last year’s successful recipe. Sure, the season is long and difficult and all sorts of trouble is likely to occur on the way, but Porsche already has two years of experience in the new LMP1 class and the 919 Hybrid finished the 2015 season as the most reliable race car in its class. It remains to be seen whether the 919 Hybrid will have what it takes to defeat Audi and Toyota for the second time, but as far as statistics go, Porsche seems more than ready to win its 18th Le Mans race and set yet another world record.

  • Leave it
    • * Stiff competition form Audi and Toyota
    • * Needs a heritage livery instead of the boring black/white theme

Press Release

World debut of the new 919 Hybrid: Two days before the official Prologue for the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) at Paul Ricard, France, Porsche is presenting its race car for this season. Strong development characterises the new 919 Hybrid’ technology. The powertrain became even more efficient, the aerodynamics were even more specific for the various race tracks and the weight of single components was even more reduced. “The over 900 hp strong Le Mans Prototype is ready for the title defence,” said Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1.

2016 Porsche 919 Hybrid High Resolution Exterior
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Even the livery of the Porsche 919 Hybrid’s third generation represents an evolution: In its debut year, 2014, the 919 was white and sported the claim “Porsche Intelligent Performance”. The first letters of this slogan were also on the 2015 racing cars with their background colours of white, red and black. In 2016, all three colours melt together into a new design.

Also new are the car numbers: In 2015 a one-two result at the Le Mans 24-hour race was achieved. Porsche won the manufacturers’ World Championship title. Timo Bernhard (DE), Brendon Hartley (NZ) and Mark Webber (AU) became the Drivers’ World Champions and will now race with the number 1 on their car. The sister car of Romain Dumas (FR), Neel Jani (CH) and Marc Lieb (DE) will carry the number 2.

The most important features of the new 919 Hybrid at a glance: For the first time Porsche fully exploits the WEC regulations by deploying three different aerodynamic packages to make the car best suit to the respective race tracks. Three aerodynamic specifications are the maximum allowed. The weight of the four-cylinder turbo engine, as well as its fuel consumption, could be further reduced. The two energy recovery systems of the hybrid drive have been improved in terms of efficiency. For 2016, also the components of the electric drive have become even more powerful and efficient. That applies for the optimised electric motor at the front axle, the power electronics and the new generation of lithium-ion battery cells in the in-house developed battery. A new front axle allows for more set-up options, while the intense tyre development with partner Michelin made a refined overall set-up for the new 919 Hybrid possible.

The 2016 Porsche 919 Hybrid in detail:
For the 2016 Porsche 919, the basis of the chassis structure remains unchanged, as does the hybrid drive concept with its two-litre V4 turbocharged petrol engine and the two different energy recovery systems (braking energy from the front axle and exhaust energy). Right from the start, for the 2014 season, Porsche had this courageous and spot on concept in place. But the first car showed exceptional potential, especially in terms of weight, and is why a new car for 2015 was built. For 2016, there is less need to change and Porsche is benefitting now from stability for the concept.

2016 Porsche 919 Hybrid High Resolution Exterior
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The WEC regulations back the hybrid:
The regulations for the LMP1 category require manufacturers to use hybrid drive systems and establish a direct link between performance and energy efficiency. This means that a large amount of energy from recovery systems may be used, but entails a proportional reduction in the permitted amount of fuel per lap. The quantity of fuel consumed in each lap is counted.

The WEC allows engineers a great degree of freedom in terms of the hybrid drive concepts. The teams can choose between diesel and petrol engines, naturally aspirated or turbocharged engines, various displacements, and one or two energy recovery systems. This formula puts the focus on innovations with high relevance for future production sports cars – and this was the main reason why Porsche decided to return to the world of top level motor racing.

V4-turbo with direct injection:
The combustion efficiency and mixture preparation of the 2-litre V4 turbocharged petrol engine, driving the rear axle, was further increased in close work with the engineers from production development in Weissach. Also the 90-degree V-engine shed some more weight. Last season, the output of the combustion engine was well above 500 hp. But the 2016 regulations stipulate a lower amount of energy from fuel per lap and reduce the maximum fuel flow for prototypes. In this way, the regulations prevent the LMP1 cars from becoming increasingly faster, yet at the same time fuel the engineers’ efforts to generate more power from increasingly less fuel. For the 919, this means around eight per cent less fuel and power. In other words: ten megajoules less energy per Le Mans lap from the fuel. That costs about four seconds for every 13.629-kilometre Le Mans lap. Through the new restrictions, the combustion engine has dropped to below 500 hp.

Two energy recuperation systems:
The kinetic energy produced at the front axle when braking is converted into electrical energy. The second recuperation system is installed in the exhaust tract, where the exhaust-gas stream drives a second turbine in parallel with the turbocharger. It uses excess energy from the exhaust pressure that would otherwise escape into the environment. The VTG technology used here – that is, the variable adaptation of the turbine geometry to the level of exhaust pressure – drives the turbines, even at low engine revs and low pressure. The additional turbine is connected to an electric generator. The electricity produced – along with that generated by the KERS at the front axle – is temporarily stored in lithium-ion battery cells. When the driver calls up the full-boost, additional power output of more than 400 hp will thrust him back into his seat. This power is applied to the front axle by the electric motor, and it temporarily transforms the 919 into an all-wheel drive car with system power of around 900 hp. For each circuit, the team works on developing the strategies for when and to what extent energy is recuperated and called up.

2016 Porsche 919 Hybrid High Resolution Exterior
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Lithium-ion battery for energy storage:
The WEC regulations allow engineers plenty of scope with regard to the energy storage medium: Initially, the competition used flywheels and ultracaps (electrochemical supercapacitors). For 2016, they are all following Porsche’s lead of lithium-ion batteries. Another important fundamental decision with the 919 Hybrid was the high voltage of 800-Volt – a technology that series developers are adopting in the Mission E concept car.

Energy classes in the WEC:
The regulations distinguish between four levels ranging from two to eight megajoules (MJ) of deployable energy. The calculation is based on the 13.629-kilometre lap in Le Mans, and is adjusted for the other eight racing circuits. The high level of efficiency of the combustion engine, the recovery systems and the energy storage enabled Porsche in 2015 to become the first and only manufacturer to choose the 8 MJ class. In this highest recuperation category, an FIA flowmeter device will limit the permitted amount of fuel per lap to 4.31 litres. Engineers also have to take into account the fact that the more powerful the energy recovery and storage systems are, the bigger and heavier they tend to be.

Energy/fuel use formulas for one lap in Le Mans* (13.629 km):
2 megajoules recovered energy = 4.70 litres petrol = 3.70 litres diesel
4 megajoules recovered energy = 4.54 litres petrol = 3.58 litres diesel
6 megajoules recovered energy = 4.38 litres petrol = 3.47 litres diesel
8 megajoules recovered energy = 4.31 litres petrol = 3.33 litres diesel
*valid from 01.01.2016 up to and including Le Mans 2016

Proven chassis with high safety margins:
Like in Formula 1, the Porsche 919 Hybrid monocoque is a carbon-fibre sandwich construction that is manufactured as a single unit. The monocoque, combustion engine and transmission as one unit ensure optimal rigidity. While the V4 engine fulfils a load-bearing function within the chassis, the hydraulically operated sequential 7-speed racing gearbox made of aluminium is mounted in a carbon structure. For 2016, the gearbox and gearbox mounting remain structurally identical. The focus for development on the gearbox was on weight reduction.

New front axle, strong tyre development:
For even better driving dynamics, balance, traction, grip and set-up options, the Porsche 919 Hybrid received a new front axle and an optimised rear axle for 2016. After intense testing in February, an increase in performance on the part of the Michelin tyres is expected.

2016 Porsche 919 Hybrid High Resolution Exterior
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Efficient aerodynamics for every race track:
Porsche took a three-pronged approach to aerodynamic improvements for the first time in 2016. Until now, Porsche settled on a compromise for the season-opening round of the World Championship and campaigned the 919 with lower downforce than would have been ideal for the Silverstone circuit. This compromise was for the sake of the season highlight at Le Mans. The French racetrack with its long straights requires very low drag, which means downforce must be limited to what is absolutely necessary. In 2016 the 919 will start the season running a high downforce package. It will be tackling Le Mans with an extremely low downforce configuration and will have another high downforce package for the following six WEC races. The regulations prohibit more than three aerodynamic configurations per year.

The changes to the aerodynamics were driven by further improvements in efficiency and more stable handling in different driving situations. Influences such as side winds, changes in balance under cornering as well as yaw and roll angles were further reduced.

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