In 2010, Porsche became the first automaker to campaign a hybrid race car in endurance racing events around the world. Their original 911 GT3 R Hybrid saw competition at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, as well as races in China and in the United States. Lessons learned from these competition outings were used to build a better 911 GT3 R Hybrid race car for 2011. In this case “better” doesn’t mean faster, but it does mean more fuel efficient. Porsche’s goal is to turn the same lap times as last year, but use less gasoline in doing so, and in endurance racing that savings can easily be the difference between winning and losing.
To meet their goals, the 2011 car has shed some 110 pounds, which makes it 20% lighter than last year’s car. Bodywork is more aerodynamic, which decreases drag, improves fuel economy and helps with top speed as well. The flywheel accumulator is similar to the design used last year, but is now encased in a carbon fiber safety cell on the passenger side of the car. The drivetrain remains the same as last year, with electric motors at the front wheels providing up to 200 supplemental horsepower for short bursts of speed (useful when passing opponents out of corners). The flat six engine in the 911 GT3 R Hybrid puts out 470 horsepower, which gives the car a combined rating of up to 670 horsepower. There’s a catch, though: the energy stored within the flywheel accumulator is depleted after only a few seconds of use, so the driver needs to be strategic in his use of the supplemental power.
Porsche will introduce the car at the 2011 24 Hours of Nürburgring race on June 25. Expect to see it run at least one American LeMans series race in the United States, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it run more races than that. More than any other manufacturer, Porsche is proof that racing improves the breed.