Porsche Reveals Le Mans Prototype in First Test “Weeks Earlier than Originally Planned”
The Porsche test track near the picturesque village of Weissach in Germany has seen its share of interesting cars. This month, however, there’s even more excitement than usual as Porsche’s new prototype race car, destined to return the company to the premier class in Le Mans next summer, was rolled out for testing—weeks ahead of schedule, according to the manufacturer. The automaker’s entire board was on hand for the event, which highlights the renewed importance of racing for the Volkswagen subsidiary.
While Porsche has always built race cars, the company went through distinctly different eras. When Ferdinand Piëch, partial owner of the company and now head of the Volkswagen Group’s supervisory board, was Porsche’s chief engineer, he pushed through the ultra-fast 917 race car—a risky move that placed the company on the brink of bankruptcy. But he succeeded. The 917 became one of the greatest and most successful race cars of all time, and it strongly affirmed the mystique surrounding the brand. Contrast that with the era of Wendelin Wiedeking, when Porsche essentially pulled out of factory racing and treated race cars and racing parts as a mere profit center.
But the dark ages under Wiedeking are behind us, and, beginning in 2011, Porsche decided to make factory racing a priority again. This effort is spearheaded by the LMP1 prototype, which will contest next year’s legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans and serve as the brand’s entrant in the World Endurance Championship in 2014.
The new prototype is built around a set of regulations that emphasizes efficiency, says Porsche. “The engineers were able to start with a blank sheet of paper,” says CEO Matthias Müller. Porsche has allotted 200 of its engineers to work on the car, and Müller promises that the experience gathered in development will trickle down into production cars as well.
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The first round of testing at the Weissach track was conducted by race driver Timo Bernhard, who will be joined by Romain Dumas in the next few weeks. We eagerly await further technical details on Porsche’s new race car, and consider us smitten with the reminder that the company has its priorities straight once again.
By Jens Meiners