When Porsche announced the end of their 919 Hybrid program in World Endurance Championship competition at the end of last season, we were a bit despondent for a while. For a handful of years Porsche was building perhaps the best sports car in the world, and we got to see it first hand. The Porsche/Audi/Toyota era will go down as one of the best in racing history, mark my words. These cars did what prototypes are intended to do, taking the most advanced technology and pushing it to the limits of everything thought possible. In typical Porsche fashion, however, the best wasn’t good enough. When they killed off their competition program, they announced the introduction of a 2018 919 Hybrid World Tour, a way for the car to say goodbye to the world, I suppose. We figured it wouldn’t be much more than a few exhibition laps to salute the fans for their support. As it turns out, Porsche has a motive, and a deadly weapon up their sleeve.
Porsche was spotted running this wild machine at Spa over the weekend, but until the press release this morning, everyone assumed the 919 was simply testing. The differences between this Porsche and the 2017 spec racer are myriad, and we were in a tizzy over what it all could mean. The new smoother front fenders without headlights, the blocked off air ducts for aero efficiency, the huge jutting side skirts, and the massive rear wing point toward a single-lap master more than a 24-hour endurance machine. Maybe Porsche was out for blood, hunting down lap records at famed race tracks all over the world.
When we woke up this morning, Porsche had announced that they’d accomplished a new lap record at Spa, dominating Lewis Hamilton’s Formula One pole lap by nearly a full second. In 2017, the 919 Hybrid ran a best time of 1:54.097 in qualifying to take pole for the race. This weekend’s 919 Evo lap was a massive 12.3 seconds faster than that. It ran an impressive 1:41.770 lap of the Spa circuit. This is an incredible effort by the team, and a great way to show off the new technology that they developed for the car. The team was already working on a 2018-spec chassis by the time the program was killed. Instead of shelving the program for good and never talking about it again, Porsche is giving this car another opportunity to do what it does best; drive really, really, really fast.
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1: “This was an absolute fantastic lap – an outstanding drivers’ performance from Neel and the result of great engineering. Today’s track record impressively proves the ultimate performance of the most innovative race car of its time. Our target was to show what the Porsche 919 Hybrid is able to do when we loosen the restrictions that normally come from the regulations.”