Porsche achieves fabulous Nürburgring lap time with hybrid prototype race car
Timo Bernhard lapped the 20.832 kilometre (12.94 miles) Nürburgring Nordschleife race circuit (2018) in 5 minutes and 19.546 seconds! This results in an average speed of 233.8 km/h (145.3 mph) on what is revered by race drivers, engineers and enthusiasts alike as the world’s most difficult track. Driving the Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo, Bernhard beat the previous lap record, set by Stefan Bellof, by 51.58 seconds.
For 35 years and 31 days Bellof’s 6:11.13 minutes record remained uncontested. The German driver from Gießen, who tragically died at Spa-Francorchamps in 1985, counted as arguably the biggest racing talent of his time. He drove his record on May 28 in 1983 at the wheel of a powerful 620 bhp Porsche 956 C during practice for the 1000-kilometre WEC sports car race. Also his average speed was over 200 km/h.
Proud and relieved Timo Bernhard, five-time overall winner of the Nürburgring 24 Hours, two-time outright winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours and reigning World Endurance Champion with the Porsche 919 Hybrid, clambered out of the tight Le Mans prototype cockpit.
“This is a great moment for me and for the entire team – the 919 programme’s icing on the cake,” said Bernhard.
“The Evo was perfectly prepared and I have done my best on this lap. Thanks to the aerodynamic downforce, at sections I never imagined you can stay on full throttle. I’m pretty familiar with the Nordschleife. But today I got to learn it in a new way.”
The 37-year old from Bruchmühlbach-Miesau in the German region of Saarpfalz is a huge admirer of Stefan Bellof. In 2015, on the thirtieth anniversary of Bellof’s fatal accident, Timo raced at the Spa-Francorchamps 6 Hour race of the FIA World Endurance Championship with a helmet carrying the famous black-red-gold design of the 1980s star. “For me Stefan Bellof is and remains a giant”, he emphasises. “Today my respect for his achievement with the technology available back then increased even more.”
Today’s success is the second track record on the Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo tally: On April 9 this year (2018) in Spa, the dramatic evolution of the three-times Le Mans winner lapped faster than a Formula One car with Neel Jani at the wheel. The 34-year old Porsche works driver from Switzerland – Le Mans outright winner and Endurance World Champion of 2016 – set a lap of 1:41,770 minutes on the 7.004 kilometre (4.35 mile) Grand Prix circuit in the Belgian Ardennes mountains. He topped the previous track record, set by Lewis Hamilton in 2017 qualifying, by 0.783 seconds. The British Mercedes driver took pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix in 1:42.553 minutes.
The Evo version of the Porsche 919 Hybrid is based on the car that took outright victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours and won the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Over the winter, it was freed from some restrictions hitherto determined by the regulations. Thus, its hybrid powertrain now develops a system output of 1160 hp. The Evo weighs only 849 kilograms and its modified (and now active) aerodynamics generate over 50 per cent more downforce compared to the WEC model. Top speed at the Nürburgring was 369.4 km/h (229.5 mph).
LMP Team Principal Andreas Seidl commented: “As a race team we constantly search for challenges that push a car, driver and team to operate on the limit. Conquering the ‘Green Hell’ definitely provided such a challenge. Since last winter we were preparing for that task together with our tyre partner Michelin – painstakingly and with a great deal of respect for this track. Today we have shown the full potential of the 919 Evo. Congratulations to Timo for his sensational drive. Being a record winner at the Nürburgring, Timo was the logical choice for the job. Balancing attack and caution at all times was mandatory on this circuit. Safety is the highest priority. In this regard, I also like to thank the Nürburgring team. Porsche cultivates a long and deep relationship with the ‘Ring. Record attempts wouldn’t be possible without the highly professional track support.“
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1, added: “A big thank you goes to our development team in Weissach and the crew on site for the focused and safe operation of this record attempt. It is terrific what our team has achieved in four years in the World Endurance Championship: From 2015 to 2017 three overall wins in Le Mans and three drivers’ and three manufacturers’ world championship titles. This isn’t easy to be reproduced by anyone. The Tribute Tour is our homage on these years. We didn’t want to see the most innovative race car of its time disappearing unceremoniously in to the museum. Thanks to the support from our partners, we were able to develop the Evo version of the Porsche 919 Hybrid for record attempts.”
Unchained for the record
The technical regulations from the FIA for the WEC and Le Mans, introduced in 2014, successfully delivered close competition between the conceptually very different class 1 Le Mans hybrid prototypes entered by Audi, Porsche and Toyota.
To prepare the 919 Evo record car, the base was the 2017 world championship car. On top came developments that were prepared for the 2018 WEC but never raced after the withdrawal at the end of 2017. Additionally, several aerodynamic modifications were made.
For the Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo the entire hardware of the power train remained untouched. The 919 is powered by a compact two-litre turbo charged V4-cylinder engine and two energy recovery systems – brake energy from the front axle combined with exhaust energy. The combustion engine drives the rear axle while the electro motor boosts the front axle to accelerate the car with four-wheel drive. At the same time it recuperates energy from the exhaust system that otherwise would pass unused in to the atmosphere. The electrical energy that comes from the front brakes and the exhaust system is temporarily stored in a liquid-cooled lithium ion battery.
The WEC efficiency regulations limited the energy from fuel per lap by using a fuel flow meter. The V4 combustion engine’s output back then was around 500 hp. Freed from these restrictions, equipped with an updated software but running the regular race fuel (E20, containing 20 per cent bio ethanol), the Evo version delivers 720 hp.
Because the amount of energy from the two recovery systems that could be used was limited as well in terms of electric megajoule per lap, the systems stayed far below their potential. With now full boost being available, the e-machine output increased by ten per cent from 400 to 440 hp.
The engineers also unchained the aerodynamics of the 919 Evo from the regulations. The new larger front diffuser now balances the new and very large rear wing, both of which have actively controlled drag reduction systems (DRS). The hydraulically operated systems trim the trailing edge of the front diffuser and opens up the slot between the rear wing main plane and the flap respectively in order to reduce drag. Underneath the Evo the turning vanes and floor have been optimised. Fixed height side skirts increase the aerodynamic performance again as efficiently as possible. In total the aero modifications resulted in 53 per cent higher downforce and an increase in efficiency by 66 per cent (compared to the 2017 Spa WEC qualifying).
To help further expand the performance envelope, the Evo gained a four-wheel brake-by-wire system to provide additional dynamic yaw control. Furthermore, the power steering was adapted for the higher loads and stronger suspension wishbones (front and rear) were designed.
Compared to the car in conventional race trim, the dry weight was reduced by 39 kilograms to 849 kilograms. To achieve this, air-conditioning, windscreen wiper, several sensors, electronic devices from race control, lights systems and the pneumatic jack system were removed. Michelin developed special tyre compounds for the 919 Evo that produces more downforce than a Formula One car.
Technical specifications Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo – (919 Hybrid WEC)
Composite material structure consisting of carbon fibre with an aluminium honeycomb core. The cockpit is closed.
V4 engine (90 degree cylinder bank angle), turbocharged, 4 valves per cylinder, DOHC, 1 Garrett turbocharger, direct petrol injection, fully load-bearing aluminium cylinder crankcase, dry sump lubrication
Max. engine speed: ≈ 9,000/min
Engine management: Bosch MS5
Displacement: 2,000 cm3 (V4 engine)
Combustion engine: 720 hp, rear axle (< 500 PS)
Motor Generator Unit (MGU): 440 hp, front axle (> 400 PS)
KERS with a motor generator unit (MGU) mounted on the front axle; ERS for recuperation of energy from exhaust gases. Energy storage in a liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery with cells from A123 Systems
Rear wheel drive, traction control (ASR), temporary all-wheel drive at the front axle via the electric motor when boosted, hydraulically operated sequential 7-speed racing gearbox
Independent front and rear wheel suspension, push-rod layout with adjustable dampers and Pitch Link System with actively controlled lockout system (no actively controlled lockout system in the 919 WEC version)
4-wheel brake-by-wire system (front-rear brake-by-wire system), monoblock light alloy brake calipers, ventilated carbon fibre brake discs front and rear.
Variable control of wheel torques to optimize the car balance (variable control of torque distribution front to rear)
Wheels and tyres:
Forged magnesium wheel rims from BBS; Michelin Radial tyres, front and rear: 310/710-18
Weight: 849 kg (888 kg including driver ballast)
Length: 5,078 mm (4,650 mm)
Width: 1,900 mm
Height: 1,050 mm
Fuel tank capacity: 62.3 litres
956 on display during the 919 Tribute Tour
The Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo alongside the 956 C on the German Nürburgring Nordschleife was the second stop of the ‘919 Tribute Tour’ (2018).
For 35 years and 31 days, Bellof’s 6:11.13 minutes record remained uncontested. The German driver from Gießen, who tragically died at Spa-Francorchamps in 1985, counted as arguably the biggest racing talent of his time. He drove his record on May 28 in 1983 at the wheel of a powerful 620 bhp Porsche 956 C during practice for the 1000-kilometre WEC sports car race. Also his average speed was over 200 km/h.
Due to construction work, the exact track length was 20.835 kilometres at the time, which resulted in an average speed of more than 200 km/h. The 2,649 cc six-cylinder, twin turbocharged, flat engine in the 956 C produced 620 hp. Bellof’s car was chassis number 007. He was leading the race when he retired in a massive accident in the area called ‘Pflanzgarten’ but walked away unharmed. One year later, in 1984, he won the 1000-kilometre race at the Nürburgring, sharing a Rothmans Porsche 956 C with British driver Derek Bell.
On his way to his 1984 Driver’s World Endurance Championship title, Stefan Bellof once shared a 956 with German Hans-Joachim Stuck. Despite an incident by Stuck that required repairs, the couple won the Imola 1000-kilometre race.
“This race in Italy was of very high importance for me”, 67 year-old Stuck recalls. “The 956 was new to me and Stefan taught me how to drive this ground effect car. I learnt an awful lot from him. When I joined Porsche, I understood why those cars were unbeatable. You had no gearbox issues, the brakes were excellent and thanks to this tremendous downforce, you could enter the corners at very high speed. Literally, the car stuck to the ground. For me it is a world-class opportunity to take the 956 once again around the Nordschleife. Emotionally, this is something hard to top.”
Among Stuck’s many successes belong two Le Mans overall victories in 1986 and 1987, driving the successor to the 956, the 962 C. The Nürburgring 24-Hours he won three times when driving for BMW.
The 956 C that Stuck now takes for a lap around the Nürburgring carries chassis number 005. It is the car Jacky Ickx (BE) and Jochen Mass (DE) shared during the entire 1984 world championship season. For commercial rights reasons the name of tobacco sponsor Rothmans frequently had to be replaced by the word ‘Racing’. This was the case on Bellof’s record lap chassis 007 and is the same at the car that Stuck drives on May 12.
Timo Bernhard: “This lap just before the start of the 24-hour race was a special experience for me. It was an honour to go side by side with Hans-Joachim Stuckaround the Nordschleife with him driving the 956 C and me at the wheel of our 919 Evo. The fans really enjoyed seeing these two legendary racing cars. I could almost feel their excitement in the cockpit. This was a very nice gift for me.”
Hans-Joachim Stuck: “Christmas came kind of early today. It was fun for the fans and fun for us. The barbecues are lit and smoking, it is absolutely unique what the fans set up around the track here. Of course you can have a close look at that when you go so slow as us today. But I have to admit the right foot was really itching. The 956 stills runs like a clockwork.”
Extreme athletes of two eras: 919 and 917
The 919 Hybrid and the 917 dominated the races of their time. From 2015 through 2017, the hybrid racing car won the Le Mans 24-hour race three times in a row as well as the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC for manufacturers and drivers in the respective years. It was the 917 that secured Porsche its first two – of what has become a total of 19 – outright Le Mans victories back in 1970 and 1971, and helped the marque win the manufacturers’ title in the World Sportscar Championship the same years. In both cases, for the 919 and the 917, technical regulations influenced the decision to withdraw from the respective World Championships. The situations, however, were different: For the 919 further hybrid innovations, which would have been relevant for road going cars, were ruled out. Back in 1972, the 917 domination was so stifling that motorsport authorities banned its five-litre twelve-cylinder engine.
However, instead of heading straight to the museum, both cars experienced strong developments for a second career.
A genetic predisposition also played a role in the origin of the Evo. Once before, in 1973, Porsche turned a victorious vehicle inside out: the 917 became the 917/30. The 917 had racked up fifteen endurance victories by the time it wasn’t allowed to take part in the world championship any longer, and its first evolution happened to continue racing in oversees. North America had become the brand’s largest individual market, and the Canadian-American Challenge Cup, or CanAm for short, became an attractive racing series.
In order to be able to compete against the dominant McLarens and their 800 hp V8 engines from Chevrolet, the V12 normally-aspirated engine of the 917 was not enough. Performance improvement by turbocharging was still largely uncharted territory – but one that Porsche now explored.
Among the pioneers was American Mark Donohue, a successful racing driver and engineer, 34 years old at the time. In 1972 the approximately 1,000 hp 917/10 TC Spyder (TC stands for turbocharged; Spyder refers to the now-open cockpit) won six CanAm races and the title. As competition upgraded for the 1973 season, Porsche presented its answer: the 917/30.
Donohue’s ideas for improvement didn’t even leave the wheelbase untouched, lengthening it from 2,310 to 2,500 millimetres. An elongated front and a significant extension of the rear wing were also added – aerodynamic measures with which Porsche had not yet had much experience. At Le Mans, aerodynamic drag had to be reduced as much as possible to increase top speed on the long straights. Now downforce was the order of the day to transfer the monumental engine power to the road surface. The V12 now provided the 800-kilogramme Spyder with 1,100 hp and the response behaviour of the turbo was tricky.
Meanwhile enlarged to 5.4 litres, the engine released its power late and with tremendous force. Porsche applied several detailed solutions to get to grips with the turbo lag. Sitting in
the spartan cockpit, Donohue could now turn a boost controller to domesticate the V12’s manifold pressure. For the race start he’d turn up the pressure to reduce it later to save the engine and fuel. The V12 was a thirsty one, which was why the gasoline tank of the 917/30 could hold up to 440 litres!
In 1973 Mark Donohue won six out of eight races in the CanAm series and took home the championship title. Then once again regulation changes meant the superior race car was suspended. But on August 9 in 1975, the 917/30 gave one last brilliant performance: on the 4.27-kilometre Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama (USA), Donohue’s average speed of 355.78 km/h (maximum speed 382 km/h) set a world record that stood for eleven years. Thanks to charge-air intercoolers, used here for the first time, the V12 achieved 1,230 hp.
The 917 wasn’t designed for the steep oval and neither was the 919 Hybrid made for the Nordschleife. The parallels stretch from world premier to world record: both cars were presented at the Geneva Motor Show, the only two occasions where Porsche placed a racing car at the centre of its brand profile. Both were the known as the most innovative racing cars of their time and the creation of both took a considerable dose of courage. This applies to Ferdinand Piëch’s determination to build the 25 examples needed for the homologation of the 917 in 1969 – despite financial risks – as well as to the 2014 decision of the Porsche Executive Board to return to Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship with a technologically highly advanced hybrid vehicle.