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Porsche’s Secret Formula One Engine

Despite the brand’s long history in motorsports, Porsche’s relationship with Grand Prix racing has been full of fits and starts. The 718RSK originally competed in Formula 2 before moving to Formula 1 in 1961, where the slightly elderly car didn’t prove competitive. The 804 got the brand its sole championship race victory as a constructor with Dan Gurney at the wheel in 1962.

From there things stayed quiet for nearly two decades. Porsche focused on sports and GT racing, and ignored the world of open wheel cars entirely. Porsche returned in 1983 as an engine builder in partnership with TAG, and powered two constructor and three driver championships in the mid-1980s. With the rule changes of the early 1990s, the brand appeared very briefly in 1991 with an overweight V12, and failed to even qualify for more than half the races in 1991.

Where Porsche left top-tier endurance racing at the top of the heap and on their own terms, they left F1 in 1991 with their tail between their legs. While Porsche recently announced their return to (more-or-less) open-wheel racing with Formula E, the all-electric championship wasn’t their only prospective race series. According to Motorsport.com’s interview with Fritz Enzinger, plans were in the works for a Porsche Formula 1 entry:

“In 2017 there were signals from Formula 1 that the regulations were to be changed and that energy recovery from the exhaust gases [the MGU-H] was no longer required,” [Enzinger] said.

“As of 2017, Porsche was a member of the FIA Manufacturers Commission and was involved in the discussions about the future drive strategy in Formula 1 from 2021 and represented at the meetings.

“On the one hand we took part in these working groups. On the other hand the guys developed a six-cylinder for the WEC in parallel. Of course, we thought about what would have to change if the engine were to be used in Formula 1. Such things can be done in two ways.”

Though a move to FE, where Audi was also present, was an « obvious idea », Enzinger said the six-cylinder engine concept was still pursued because an F1 engine without the MGU-H would « also be interesting for a super sports car ».

« At the end of 2017, we received a concrete order from our parent company to further develop a highly efficient six-cylinder engine, despite its LMP1 withdrawal, » he said.

« Not only on paper, but actually as hardware and with the idea that this engine will be put to the test in 2019. That was the order from the board to us. »

Enzinger said its six-cylinder engine « is complete and running on the test bench » as a team of « 20 to 25 technicians » use it « for analyses and further orders with regard to series relevance. »

Porsche’s entry was set to coincide with a 2021 rule change for the series, though given the recent changes in Formula 1, Porsche’s future entry in top-tier Grand Prix racing seems to be somewhere between unlikely and impossible.

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Mark Webber Lends His Two Cents on What It’s Like To Drive The First Porsche 917

As part of the grand celebration of the 917’s 50th birthday, several major names were given the chance to parade some of the most iconic variants of the car at Goodwood’s 77th Members’ Meeting last month. One of those names was the affable and straight-talking Aussie who’s done quite well at the top of the racing ladder for the last two decades: Mr. Mark Webber.

Barely fitting his lanky frame inside the cramped cabin of chassis #001, Webber explains how ergonomics weren’t the top priority for the 917’s engineers. An awkwardly placed wheel at a canted angle and a roof that forces the 6’2″ Webber into the seat don’t make for a comfortable jaunt around Goodwood, but he’s pleased nonetheless.

Webber livened up Goodwood’s 77th Members’ Meeting with his famously cheeky sense of humor.

Getting to sample a car with so much history is worth a little discomfort—even a few compressed discs. Prior to the event, 917-001 underwent a full restoration to the exact specification in which it left Zuffenhausen in 1969, bound for its international debut at the Geneva Motor Show. Having been thoroughly reworked, we can only imagine what it was like to campaign one of these cars at Le Mans; what it was like to drive one in the lashing rain for hours on end.

917-001 is finished in Porsche’s traditional racing white with the green nose that adorned all 25 of the 1969 homologation cars.

When asked if he’d liked to have raced one in its heyday, we get an answer that seems quite diplomatic from the typically blunt wisecracker. While he admits to wanting to, he implies the danger inherent in driving such a car—a car with the driver’s feet well ahead of the front axle. Webber’s seen some wild accidents in his 30 years of racing, and sensibly, he feels some trepidation at the thought of racing such a wild animal. It’s hard to blame him.

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Mark Webber Scares Tennis Pro in a Carrera 4S Cabriolet

In addition to being Porsche’s most famous brand ambassador, Mark Webber is a genuinely warm-hearted bloke. Never staid, tight-lipped, or solemn, the affable Aussie has natural charm that is only bettered by his superhuman driving ability. Those two qualities come in quite handy when guiding a tennis star around a testing circuit in a very quick 911.

As part of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix supporting program, Webber gave Elina Svitolina a few lessons in the prize for this year’s WTA tournament’s main prize: a 991 Carrera 4S Cabriolet. With Porsche’s Development Center Weissach as the playground, these two could enjoy the dynamics of the renowned chassis and ferocious acceleration of the 3.8-liter turbo motor, which propelled them to 62 in just 3.8 seconds.

Svitolina discovering her natural driving ability.

The mere mention of Webber’s gets fans excited, but seeing him test the limits of this car with a (likely) uninitiated passenger sitting alongside is quality amusement. The man who’s been at the top for so long never seems to lose his passion for racing, he always wears a smile, and he never fails to entertain.

Webber and Svitolina share a laugh before another hot lap.

What I wouldn’t give to have Mark Webber as a personal driving instructor for the day. That’s a very cool opportunity.

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Mark Webber Shows a Tennis Legend the Quick Way Around Silverstone in a GT3 RS

With 11-time Grand Slam champion Rod Laver sitting shotgun, Mark Webber showcases his textbook-smooth driving, his dry wit, and his affability. These qualities help convey some of the sensations that a professional racing driver experiences on a regular basis, and some of the exhilaration that makes someone want to strap themselves into a 500-horsepower supercar. It’s enough to put a mile-wide smile on Laver’s face.

Always a cool customer, the octogenarian tennis legend listens calmly as Webber relays the basics of road course racing and demonstrates the absurd stick and speed of the GT3 RS. Webber’s smooth style converts Laver’s initial expressions of shock and awe into joy. There’s a special mixture of comfort and concern that anyone riding in a thoroughbred sports car with a world-class driver gets to experience.

Though this conversation is occasionally drowned out from the roar of the 4.0-liter engine, the two have obvious rapport. Their sincere, broad smiles demonstrate they’re both on something of the same wavelength while negotiating the technical Porsche Experience Center at Silverstone, despite the obvious difference in experience. Chalk some of that up to a wonderful teacher—and a pupil whose mind is still open to new experiences despite spending eight decades on this earth.

The two Aussie sporting legends beam before leaving the pits.

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Nico Rosberg Slides a 918 Around Silverstone

« It’s not a road car, it’s a race car. »

You might think that a Formula One World Drivers Champion would find a hypercar a little on the tame side. Perhaps that’s a little hyperbolic, but there’s no denying that a successful career spent in the world’s fastest racing cars must render a full-weight passenger car, on road-legal tires no less, a few rungs down the excitement ladder than most mere mortals would feel.

Which is why his sincere reaction—I’m not aware of any sponsorship deals Rosberg has with the marque—to the 918 is so captivating. The response, the steering feel, and the power delivery all impress the 2016 champion, but the launch really knocks his socks off. If the hybrid acceleration and four-wheel drive enable a fully occupied, 3,600-lb sports car to leave the line like Rosberg’s former F1 steed could, that’s about as high praise as any hypercar can receive.

The look in the German’s face as he launches says it all.

The communicative, rigid chassis clearly impresses the champ, as demonstrated by the opening quote. Within one lap, Rosberg is hucking the 918 into the corner and bending it through the mid-section, braking late, and even dropping wheels in the grass. It’s all quite dramatic; however, the corner exit is always straightforward, easy, and almost clinical. It’s a wonderful demonstration of the playfulness of the car as well as the efficient drivetrain which deploys all that incredible power without much fuss. Who better than Rosberg, a very economical and cerebral driver, than to show off its merits? The two go together perfectly.

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