The F1 may represent the apex of world motorsport, but the World Endurance Championship probably offers more in terms of excitement. Each competing team in the LMP1 class utilizes a different engine structure, pitting naturally-aspirated monsters against hybrids. After winning the Le Mans race last year, Porsche has introduced its more powerful hybrid entrant for the 2017 competition.
Even though it generally looks similar to its predecessor, Porsche states that from 60% to 70% of its 919 Hybrid car has been designed anew for 2017.The monocoque body is the same for both cars, but all other components, from the aerodynamics package to the hybrid boost system, have been redone.
According to Andreas Seidl, the Team Principal, the basic concept of the hybrid car still provides scope to optimize its finer details and improve efficiency further. He adds that while the monocoque body remains unchanged from 2016, the optimization potential of the rest of the car's components was evaluated and the appropriate adjustments were done in many cases.
Newly-introduced technical regulations have removed a bit of the aerodynamic leeway that the teams enjoyed last year. As a result, downforce has been reduced in an attempt to ensure that the cars are slower and safer when negotiating corners. The engineering team at Weissach has created two aero packages for the car-one designed especially for the straights of the Circuit de la Sarthe while the other one is meant for tight, twisted circuits.
A new nose has been designed for both setups, complete with the largest set of headlights around. It appears that the aerodynamics of the previous car were being thrown off-balance as the nose collected used rubber from the surface of the track, and as a result, the shape has been revamped to take care of this buildup over the duration of a race. Sharp-eyed viewers will see the longer, wider and taller wheel-arches up on the front, together with a new ducting on the side of the car.
As you might expect, the new 919 hybrid also comes with a set of powertrain updates. The car is still powered by a turbocharged V4 engine, connected to an energy-gathering hybrid boost setup. The petrol engine generates slightly less than 500 horsepower (or 368 kW) and provides power exclusively to the rear wheels. On the other hand, the lithium-ion battery powers a 400 horsepower (or 294 kW) electric engine on the axle in front.
When braking, the car is able to recover energy, but a small turbine that is fitted in the exhaust system also recharges the battery. The turbine, with the capacity to spin up to 120,000 revolutions per minute, powers a generator that in turn recharges the battery.
The World Endurance Championship, in contrast to the F1, urges teams to push themselves to the limit in regard to in-car electronics. During the current year, Porsche says that its hybrid management systems and traction control have been enhanced to ensure that tires last longer. This is important, bearing in mind that new WEC regulations will leave teams with three fewer sets of tires to work with during a race weekend.
The 2017 919 Hybrid was launched at Monza and will be put on display tomorrow during the WEC Prologue testing.