Mid-week long read: Changing up

6w ago


In a summer when the Porsche 911 RSR is asserting itself around the world, clinching the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles in WEC in June and clocking up a record five back-to-back victories in IMSA, the sight of an all-new car for the 2019/20 season might be a bit much for the rest of the field.

Porsche chose last weekend’s Festival of Speed as the venue for the official unveil of Weissach’s new GT endurance racer, a car that is an impressive 95 per cent new. But it was past experience that paved the way for the new RSR, as Fritz Enzinger, Vice President Porsche Motorsport, explained: “Since 2017 the 911 RSR has yielded us more than 20 class wins in the world championship as well as at long-distance series in North America and Europe. Our job in the development was to make a very good car even better. The engineers at Weissach have perfectly implemented this in every aspect.”

We never rest on our laurels,” continued Pascal Zurlinden, Director GT Factory Motorsport. “We’ve extensively analysed all factory and customer campaigns with the Porsche 911 RSR. Our engineers noticed room for improvement in a number of areas. We have made significant progress in the development of our car for the next three-year homologation period, especially in the complex areas of driveability, efficiency, durability and serviceability. The only components that we’ve kept unchanged from the predecessor are the headlights, brake system, clutch, driver’s seat and parts of the suspension.”

As for the all-important drivetrain, Porsche has stayed faithful to its chosen path. The latest RSR is still powered by a sonorous naturally aspirated six-cylinder engine, but this enlarged boxer, positioned just ahead of the rear axle, now displaces 4194 cc to produce around 515 hp depending on the size of its restrictor. The new unit is the largest ever to be mounted in a works 911, and offers even better driveability over a wider rev-range. Power is still to the rear wheels only, via a weight-optimised and more rigid sequential six-speed gearbox that will offer both faster gear-shift times and increased efficiency.

Another significant change is that the motor’s twin exhaust pipes now exit ahead of the rear wheels on each side. Repositioning the pipes has reduced weight and freed up space for an improved rear diffuser that generates even more downforce over the back axle. Airflow has also been enhanced at the front and the sides of the new RSR, increasing both efficiency and stability significantly. This has the key benefit of improving the efficacy and durability of the tyres.

But the design of the new RSR addresses more than just the physical. Equally vital in long-distance racing is the human factor, in both driveability and serviceability. Following extensive feedback from Porsche’s highly experienced factory drivers, the new car’s cockpit has been reworked with the focus on better usability. The steering wheel has been overhauled, giving the driver total control over the car’s inboard functions without needing to use the centre console.

Active and passive safety has also been improved. The collision warning system now allows drivers an even better overview to detect approaching cars, while an optimised roll cage, the FIA side impact panel in the door and additional impact protection for the legs safeguards our drivers even more should the worst happen.

In the event of reparable damage, the carbon-fibre reinforced plastic body panels can be swapped out even more quickly on the new RSR, improving still further the slick pit stops that have proved so decisive for Porsche over the last few months.

“We’ve been working on the concept of the new 911 RSR since 2017,” said Zurlinden. “The first designs were created using CAD software, and in August 2018 it completed its first kilometres on the factory’s own test track in Weissach.” Over the following months, the factory team conducted numerous tests, with Porsche works drivers taking turns at the wheel while the car’s aerodynamics were fine-tuned in the wind tunnel. “Another milestone was our long-run in March 2019 at Le Castellet,” Zurlinden added, “where we included the works teams from both the WEC and IMSA. We covered more than 6,000 kilometres over 30 hours without any technical hiccups.”

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The new 911 RSR will make its race debut at the WEC season opener at Silverstone on 1 September, a week after the traditional two-day ‘Prologue’ that this year is being held in Barcelona. The GT Team will field two works cars at eight rounds of the 2019/2020 season with Michael Christensen and Kévin Estre in one car while Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz share the other. The new car will be made available to customers teams in GTE-Am for the following season and will appear in IMSA at the start of 2020.

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