The Autodromo Nazionale di Monza was more than just the scene of this year’s pre-season FIA/WEC Prologue, it also witnessed the unveiling of the 2017 Porsche 919 Hybrid. Having remained under wraps until Friday 31 March, the media was given a first glimpse of this new Porsche at the 2017 Prologue, with which the factory will contest the WEC this year. With the new 919 Hybrid, Porsche announced its intention of securing a hat-trick of Le Mans 24 Hour titles as well as their third consecutive FIA WEC Manufacturers and Drivers titles.
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP, faces the season with a great deal of respect: “Each and every one of the nine endurance races presents a challenge. Reliability is the basic requirement; six hours of navigating around the many cars in the different categories, each driving at different speeds, makes each race unpredictable.” The Le Mans 24 Hours, at four times the duration of the other races, remains the jewel in the crown for the Stuttgart manufacturer.
About the 2017 Porsche 919 Hybrid
The 2017 model of the Porsche 919 Hybrid boasts a range of new innovations, particularly in the vehicle’s aerodynamics, the chassis and the combustion engine. Team Principal Andreas Seidl, who will continue to serve as acting technical director, said, “For the 2017 season, 60 to 70 per cent of the vehicle is newly developed. The basic concept of the 919 Hybrid still offers scope to optimise the finer details and further boost efficiency. The monocoque has remained unchanged since 2016, but the optimisation potential of all other components was analysed and, in most cases, adjustments were made accordingly.”
The technical regulations for the 2017 WEC series introduce further limitations in terms of the dimensions of some body components that affect aerodynamics. In an effort to increase safety, the new measurements reduce the downforce of the LMP1 prototypes, which in turn lowers the vehicle’s cornering speed for safety reasons. In 2016, LMP1 prototypes were allowed three aerodynamics packages for the season, but this has now been limited to two aerodynamics packages per season. The one package is obviously designed for the low downforce requirements at Le Mans, the other offering a higher level of drag with greater downforce for tracks with twists and turns. In general, the 2017 season will require a higher level of compromise than was the case with the three aerodynamics packages in 2016.
“As a result of the aerodynamic losses we will incur due to the new regulations, we are expecting to see a three to four-second increase in lap times at Le Mans,” explained Seidl. “We will have to wait and see how well the various enhancements we have made will compensate for these losses.”
As part of the package of enhancement measures, the Porsche engineers have boosted the efficiency and performance of the drivetrain. The transmission on the front and rear axle, the combustion engine, the electric motor and the energy recovery systems have all been optimised, but the basic principle behind the drive system is unchanged.
The 919 will once again run in the highest energy efficiency class prescribed by the regulations, that is the 8 megajoule class (measured over the 13.629-kilometre (8.4 mile) circuit of Le Mans). In doing so, the 919 is restricted to a fuel consumption of 4.31 litres per lap. Both consumption values are closely monitored and totalled up after each lap.
Driving quality and tyres
LMP1 teams will now have three fewer sets of tyres available to them for each race weekend and car, so tyre sets will need to withstand double stints of racing on a more frequent basis, lasting the equivalent of two tanks of fuel or a driving time of around one and a half hours. This has required the engineers to rework the traction control and hybrid management, both of these factors having a significant impact on the service life of the tyres, thereby allowing longer stints on a set of tyres.
2017 LMP1 drivers
Porsche 919 Hybrid #1 will be driven by Neel Jani (33, Switzerland), André Lotterer (35, Germany) and Nick Tandy (32, Great Britain). The #2 car will be shared between Timo Bernhard (36, Germany) and the two New Zealanders Earl Bamber (26) and Brendon Hartley (27).
Porsche 919 Hybrid at the 2017 Prologue
As can be expected, one could reasonably safely predict that the lap times would improve over the five sessions, but without anyone really revealing any advantage over another. A summary of these times for each session is below:
|Sun. AM Session 4||Sun. PM
As can be seen from the above times, the LMP1 Porsches were very consistent in their times across the five sessions, confirming their intentions to test components and drivers in a race environment.
Porsche 911 RSR at the 2017 Prologue
As most Porsche enthusiasts will know by now, the mid-engined 2017 RSR is quite a different animal from the rear-engined 911 format we all know. These new racers have shown great promise in the Daytona and Sebring races in the USA earlier this year, but they will be soundly tested in the WEC arena this year. The WEC Prologue at Monza this last weekend will have been a good benchmark for the engineers, because they all know by how much the opposition is holding back, as to how their cars compare.
While it is not feasible to expect any detailed announcements about the cars, the Prologue was run along the lines of a competitive test weekend. This enabled the new team members to get acquainted with Porsche systems and work ethic, as well as getting to know each other. The variable weather conditions and day/night running allowed for some valuable test data. The GTE squad will take this with them to the first race at Silverstone, and as we all know, Northamptonshire in April can throw anything at you weather-wise. Over the weekend, the #91 car covered 1292km while the #92 car completed 1280km, providing valuable feedback to the engineers.
A summary of the Porsche GTE PRO and AM times for each session is below:
|Sun. AM Session 4||Sun. PM
The Porsche GT Team works driver line-up for the Le Mans 24 Hours has now been announced: Patrick Pilet (France) will support Richard Lietz (Austria) and Frédéric Makowiecki (France) as the third driver in the #91 Porsche 911 RSR. Dirk Werner (Germany) will share driving duties with Michael Christensen (Denmark) and Kévin Estre (France) in the #92 car.
The WEC season kicks off over the weekend of 14-16 April with the 6 Hours of Silverstone, and Porsche Road & Race will be there to bring you up to date coverage of all the action.
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by Virtual Motorpix/John Mountney