When a company builds a sports car, we have an expectation that the vehicles lives up to its promise of athleticism. Since the beginning of the automobile, racing has been the proving grounds to a car’s go-fast nature.
Porsche has long been a master of displaying their best sports car ingenuity through motorsports. The German company’s record in auto racing has included Formula 1, IndyCar racing and especially sports car racing. The Porsche 911 production sports car became iconic thanks to almost countless wins in the hands of factory and privateer race efforts. In regards to the Porsche 911 racing program, the German automaker has even been known to make a profit in motorsport involvement. The 911 has been the weapon of choice for Porsche’s sports car racing but there have also been other storied examples demonstrating intense focus in winning great events at Le Mans and Sebring. One of are found within the 917 line-up that dominated the early 1970s and unseated the Ford GT40. The closed-cockpit 917 would be followed-up by Porsche by the 956, 962 in the 1980s and the 911 GT1 car in the 1990s. Fifteen years after their last closed-cockpit was retired by the factory, Porsche is writing their next significant chapter in motorsports with the development of their new LMP1 race car.
An in-house, purpose-built effort, Porsche’s new LMP1 prototype sports car was unleashed for its first time on the track. Circulating around the brand’s Research and Development Centre in Weissach, Germany, acclaimed Porsche factory driver Timo Bernard was entrusted with the first laps towards creating a sports car racing contender. The first appearance an LMP1 class vehicle relating to a commitment made two years ago, the race car came to life on June 12th. Conducting only a brief stint lapping the test track, the initial impressions for the new Porsche is positive.
Promised for the 2014 sports car racing season, the Porsche LMP1 car pledges to involve high-tech features that will translate into the company‘s road vehicles. Hybrid technology (already part of the Porsche 918 Spyder) is one of the items mentioned to be part of the 2014 LMP1 car. Described as being “well on schedule” according to the head of the Porsche LMP1 program Fritz Enzinger, he says, “Our newly-formed team has worked with utmost concentration on getting this highly complex vehicle on the track as soon as possible. This allows us a few additional weeks for more testing and further development.” Though a common objective is likely to be speed with the new prototype race car, Enzinger defined efficiency as an important factor to sports car racing success.
Romain Dumas joins Bernard in test driving duties for the prototype sports car creation. Prior to their current test-driving job, Dumas and Bernard competed together with the Audi Sport juggernaut from 2009 to 2011. The pair (in addition to German DTM driver Mike Rockenfeller) captured the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans sharing an Audi R15 TDI plus prototype. “I’m very proud that I was the one to take our baby through its first paces today. Already now the car feels great. I look forward to testing the vehicle in the coming weeks and months with my friend and colleague Romain Dumas.” said Bernard excited to be immediately involved with the Porsche project.
Porsche’s last venture into prototype sports car completion was conducted the RS Spyder. Though the race car was developed for the typically slower LMP2 class, lack of competition in the top LMP1 category against the Audi Sport efforts in the American Le Mans Series provoked rules favourable to winning races overall. The highlight for the Porsche RS Spyder was winning 2008 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
The first 2014 race car is stated to be Porsche’s re-entry into the highest class of sports car racing. Competing directly with the Audi and Toyota prototype sports cars, the new LMP1 car will assert itself on the World Endurance Champion and at the 24 Hours of Le Mans next season.
Information and photo source: Porsche Cars North America