New Porsche on track
Future Le Mans contender tests at Weissach. By Gary Watkins
Porsche’s new LMP1 hybrid ran for the first time early in June. Built to challenge Audi and Toyota at Le Mans next season, the Porsche is the first car built to next year’s LMP1 rulebook to hit the track. Long-time factory driver Timo Bernhard put the car through its paces, at the manufacturer’s Weissach test track. Porsche revealed that the test was “several weeks” ahead of schedule, the first roll-out of the car having initially been planned for July.
Project boss Fritz Enzinger, who was formerly head of BMW’s Formula 1 programme, said: “We are well on schedule. Our newly formed team has worked with utmost concentration on getting this highly complex vehicle on the track as soon as possible.
“This allows us a few additional weeks for testing and further development. From 2014, the regulations are primarily based on efficiency and present us with completely new challenges.”
Bernhard said that he was “very proud that I was the one to take our baby through its paces today”. He added: “Already the car feels great. I look forward to testing it again in the coming weeks and months.”
Porsche has yet to reveal technical details of its new P1 hybrid coupe, except that it is a petrol, not diesel, engine which will power it. The car’s name has yet to be announced.
Bernhard and Dumas, who won Le Mans in 2011 while on loan to Porsche’s sister marque Audi, are the only two drivers so far announced for Porsche’s 2014 assault on Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship with an in-house team.
They were confirmed as part of the line-up late last year, but Porsche underlined the fact in April, in response to rumours linking Red Bull Formula 1 driver Mark Webber with the team. Others drivers known to have had serious contact with the German manufacturer include Rebellion Racing LMP1 driver Nick Heidfeld, who worked with Enzinger during his time at Sauber BMW F1, and Swiss Neel Jani.
It is two years since Porsche announced its intention to mount its first bid for outright Le Mans honours since its successful 1998 campaign. The company has busily been gearing up for the programme, which now has a staff of approximately 200.
Caterham steps up P2 plan
British sports car company Caterham is evaluating an entry into the LMP2 prototype division.
Caterham took its first step towards becoming a constructor when it backed one of Greaves Motorsport’s ZytekNissan Z11SNs in this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours. Mike Gascoyne, who is head of the Caterham Group’s Technology and Innovation arm, said that an LMP2 programme made sense for the firm.
“We have the facilities, we have the design team and we have the partners, so it is a natural move for us,” he said.
One of the Greaves Zyteks ran in the Caterham Racing colours at Le Mans, part of a deal for GP2 front-runner Alexander Rossi to drive the car. It is likely that the arrangement with Greaves will continue for the remainder of this year’s European Le Mans Series.
Williams lands battery deal
The technology arm of the Williams Formula 1 team will supply batteries to the new-for-2014 Formula E Championship.
Williams Advanced Engineering, which has also developed the flywheel energy storage system in Audi’s Le Mans 24 Hours-winning R18 e-tron quattro, will design and assemble the batteries for the fully electric Spark SRT 01E one-make single-seater. Williams joins McLaren, which is building the electric drivetrains, as a supplier to the category.
Formula E is due to kick off in September 2014, with a winter series of city-centre races around the world.
Bentley opts for V8
The Bentley continental GT3, the firm’s first racing car since 2003’s Le Mans 24 Hours-winning Speed 8, will be powered by a twin-turbo V8.
Bentley has plumped for the 4-litre powerplant rather than the 6-litre W12 turbo that appeared last year in a running prototype. Motor sport boss Brian Gush said both engines had run on the dyno and that the V8 got the nod because it offered “slight advantages” in terms of weight and economy.
The Continental GT3 is due to hit the track in July. It should race before the end of the year in the hands of development partner M-Sport.
Rebellion gets its own car
The ORECA organisation has been commissioned to build a bespoke LMP1 prototype for the Anglo-Swiss Rebellion Racing team.
The top privateer in last year’s World Endurance Championship and at the Le Mans 24 Hours, Rebellion plans to run two Toyota-powered cars to be known as the Rebellion R-One in next year’s WEC. The team expects the car to exploit the non-hybrid route open to privateers, which allows for an increased fuel allocation under the energy-based formula and a lower weight limit.
Rebellion team manager Bart Hayden, who currently runs Toyota-engined Lola coupes, said: “We did look at other options, but ORECA has proved with its LMP2 programme that it can deliver and service a car!’
The car will be the first ground-up prototype design to be built by ORECA. Its previous LMP1 car and its existing LMP2 design both have their roots in a chassis produced by Courage Competition prior to its takeover by ORECA in 2007. ORECA boss Hugues de Chaunac said: “We are proud because it means we are considered one of the world’s major racing constructors!’
The news comes against the backdrop of a likely upturn in LMP1 interest among privateers. Japanese constructor Dome, British design house Perrinn Limited and the German ADESS group are all seeking buyers for new P1 designs. Honda Performance Development and French team OAK are expected to produce cars, too.