The Porsche 919 Evo Recently Shattered the 35 year old record for the fastest lap of the Nurburgring. What is the story behind the record?
Porsche is one of the leading automotive manufacturers on the road or track, bar none. When Porsche chooses to compete in any form of motorsport, one or more of their cars will normally dominate the standings within a short period of time.
Recently Porsche took it to another level with the Porsche 919 Evo to break the fastest lap record at the Nurburgring. Set by Stefan Bellof on May 20, 1983, he piloted a Porsche 956 around the ‘Green Hell’ in a mind-numbing 6:11:13. Keep in mind that this was over 35 years ago using what is now 35 year old technology.
A record that many thought would stand forever, Porsche Works driver Timo Bernhard piloted the Porsche 919 Evo around the Nurburgring in an incredible 5:19:456, a full 51 seconds faster than the record set by Stefan 35 years earlier.
The technology driving the most recent Nurburgring record is cutting edge and so advanced that the guise in which the 919 Evo ran cannot be used in any racing series. Its configuration that day was purpose driven to break the Nurburgring lap record.
The Porsche 919
The vehicle that Porsche started with to break the Nurburgring record was the Porsche 919 Hybrid, a Le Mans Prototype 1 sports car run in the 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 seasons of the FIA World Endurance Championship. The 919 Hybrid was Porsche’s first new prototype since the RS Spyder and the first to compete in Sports car racing’s premier level since the Porsche 911 GT1
Work on the chassis began in mid 2011, inspired by technology built into the Porsche 918 Spyder and the 911 GT3 R Hybrid racing car. It was completed in early 2012.
The Porsche 919 Hybrid LMP1 prototype was powered by a 2.0 liter 90 degree angled, mid-mounted V4 single turbocharged fuel powered unit producing 500 horsepower. It was designed in such a way to bear some of the load of the chassis.
To fully utilize all of the engine’s resources, the 919 LMP1 has two separate hybrid energy recovery systems. When braking, a generator at the front axle converts the 919’s kinetic energy into electrical energy. In a split exhaust system, one turbine drives the turbocharger while another converts surplus energy into electrical energy. Braking energy contributes 60 percent of the total electrical power produced while the remaining 40 percent comes from exhaust power.
Electrical energy is temporarily stored in a lithium-ion battery powering an electric motor. When the driver needs additional power such as when accelerating out of an apex, electrical energy is called up at the touch of a button. Power from the combustion energy is just under 500 horsepower whereas power from the electric motor is just over 400 horsepower for total power output of right around 900 horsepower.
The powertrain of the Porsche 919 Hybrid
The V4 combustion engine drives the rear axle of the 919 whereas the electric motor drives the front axle. The result is a vehicle that rockets out of a corner without any loss of traction through a powertrain that is essentially an all-wheel-drive system. Energy is expended to accelerate out of turns and ‘on-the-straights’ while energy is recuperated while braking.
The hybrid system powering the 919 is not the same one you would find in a road-going vehicle. Whereas a hybrid system for a passenger vehicle would collect and expend energy gradually, the system in the 919 recuperates and expends a great deal of energy, almost instantaneously. As a result, a battery is needed that can recharge and expend energy very quickly.
Converting power into motion is a Porsche seven-speed hydraulically activated sequential gearbox with rear-lock differential. The dry weight of the Porsche 919 Hybrid LMP1 was 1,929 pounds. Dry weight is the vehicle weight without fuel or the driver.
Porsche 919 Hybrid Competition results
In 2014, Porsche took the third position in the World Endurance Championship. In 2015, 2016, and 2017, the 919 took the top spot. At the end of the 2017 season, the 919 Hybrid was retired from competition to allow Porsche to focus on the all-electric, single seater Formula E championship. The company also increased its commitment to its Global GT programs as well.
The Porsche 919 Evo.
In 2018, Porsche set about using the 919 Hybrid for promotional appearances and to break records, specifically the record for the fastest lap at the Nurburgring. In 1983, Stefan Bellof piloted a Porsche 956 around the ‘Green Hell’ in 6:11:13, a record that stood for 35 years.
To break Stefan’s record, Porsche was going to need to make extensive modifications to the LMP1 racer. Essentially an ‘unrestrained’ 919 Hybrid, modifications were made to the powertrain and aerodynamics and lightened to save weight.
For modifications to the powertrain, output of the V4 combustion engine was increased to 710 horsepower while out from the electric motors was increased to 434 horsepower. The energy recovered was increased to 8.49 megajoules. This is energy that is used to drive the electric motors upon acceleration.
Modifications to create the 919 Evo were not just limited to the drivetrain. The 919’s weight was reduced by 86 pounds by removing the headlights, air conditioning, windshield wipers and other electrical devices. Aerodynamic modifications consisted of an enlarged rear wing, a wider front diffuser, and fixed height side skirts. The result was a 53% increase in downforce and a 66% increase in aerodynamic efficiency.
Significance of the Porsche 919 Evo
Porsche built ten Porsche 956s and 962s for the Porsche Works team. They also built 130 for private racing teams that was able to offset some of the tremendous capital and operating costs of their racing program. The technology underlying Porsche Group C efforts at the time was much more simple compared to the racing technology of today. Additionally, the fact that Porsche was able to produce and sell additional copies of the 956 / 962 helped make the program not only a racing success, but a financial and marketing success as well.
In contrast, Porsche built just nine 919s for the Porsche Works factory racing program. Because of the complexity of the hybrid system, it is unlikely to be made available to private racing teams. “The 919 requires too complex of a system of technical requirements to get it set up and started”, says Klaus Bischof, curator of Porsche’s “rolling museum”. Adding “the hybrid system is far too dangerous to release into private hands, and if mishandled, could even kill someone working on the car.
There is little doubt that the 919 served its purpose in more ways than one. It won its class for the World Endurance Championship in three of the four years it ran, it set a Nurburgring lap record and it served as a test bed of technologies that will eventually make their way into future production and road cars.
Porsche’s domination of racing curcuits the World over is impressive, including that of the Nurburgring. Rather than serving as testament to the Porsche 919 Hybrid and Evo, I think that the record serves as testament to the legend of the Porsche 956 and driver, Stefan Bellof. The fact that the technology then was so much simpler and that it took 35 years to break the record, speaks volumes about the driving ability and fearlessness of the Bellof.