If you ever wonder how fast a Le Mans-winning prototype race car could really go if you took out all the restrictive appendages mandated by endurance racing regulations, then Porsche just delivered the answer. Using the race-winning 919 Hybrid LMP1, the engineers from Weissach traveled to the famous Spa-Francorchamps racetrack in Belgium and completely unchained the beast by removing any technical restrictions put in place by the FIA. They then placed Porsche works driver Neel Jani behind the wheel and let him loose on the 7km Grand Prix circuit.
When all the dust had settled, the stopwatch showed a time of 1:41.770 minutes for his fastest lap, 0.783 second faster than previous track record holder Lewis Hamilton, who set his time with the Mercedes F1 car while chasing pole position during last year’s Belgian Grand Prix. With a top speed of 359km/h and an average pace of 245.61km/h, the 34-year-old driver from Switzerland managed to get around the 19 bends and back over the line faster than a Formula 1 car, showing just how much potential Le Mans racers really have.
Power output for the record run was 720hp from the 2.0-liter turbocharged V4 petrol engine, supported by 440hp from the two energy-recovery systems. The car uses a generator at the front axle that converts kinetic energy into electrical energy during braking, as well as a split exhaust system that drives the engine’s turbocharger on one side and a turbine to convert surplus energy into electrical energy on the other. That energy is then stored in lithium-ion batteries and can be called upon when needed, with the petrol engine powering the rear wheels and the electric motor propelling the front ones, giving this 919 Evo the most high-tech four-wheel drive system imaginable.
While the actual powertrain hardware remained untouched—with performance gains achieved via software alone—the aerodynamics of the 2017 championship-winning base car received a major overhaul for this record-breaking performance. A larger front diffuser and a dinner table-sized rear wing, both fitted with hydraulically operated active drag control systems, as well as optimized turning vanes under the car and fixed height side skirts, press this LMP1 rocket into the tarmac with 53% more downforce than before. Because power is nothing without control, Porsche also fitted a four-wheel brake-by-wire system and adjusted the power steering so it could cope with the increased load.
The 919 Evo also lost some weight before taking to the track, with the removal of unnecessary luxuries like the air-conditioning, the windshield wipers and the pneumatic jack system—shaving 39kg off the car for a feather-light 849kg net weight. Finally, even the tires were specially developed by Michelin to ensure the compound could withstand forces not normally experienced outside of F1. All of these efforts obviously paid off, and Porsche is now planning to take the record-breaking 919 on a tribute tour that will see it do a demo lap of the Nordschleife before the start of the 24 Hours Nurburgring race in May, as well as an appearance at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and the Festival of Porsche. The final chance to see it in the metal will be at the Porsche Rennsport Reunion in Laguna Seca in September.