Porsche evokes racing history in 918 preview

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One of the most coveted and revered liveries ever to adorn a racing car has returned, as Porsche continues to fuel media interest in its new 918 Spyder supercar.

Martini colours are probably the second most famous in which Porsche has raced and probably the most widely used, featuring not only on the ’71 Le Mans-winning 917 but also a series of 934s, 935s and 936s. As for the car itself, development proceeds apace in advance of its market debut next year. Using an adapted tub from the successful LMP2 RS Spyder, the 918 is powered by a 4.6-litre V8 which, when complemented by the efforts of electric motors on both the front and rear axles, attains a total of 770bhp; enough, says Porsche, to lap the Narburgring’s Nordschleife in 7min 22sec. That’s 4sec faster than Rolf Stommelen’s pole time for the 1980 Narburgring 1000Kms in a 908/3 Turbo. That said, it’s also slower than the 7min 14sec already recorded by the Lexus LFA supercar, let alone Michael Vergers’ unhinged 6min 48sec lap in a road-legal Radical SR8, a time close to those recorded by the slower Group C cars when the category raced there in 1983.

Of course what none of these other cars can do is turn off their internal combustion engines and nonchalantly cruise around on electric power only, allowing Porsche to claim it will do 94mpg and the Daily Mail to claim that makes it greener than a Prius. It might make excellent headline fodder for Daily Mail readers but back in the real world I think Porsche still has some ground to cover with this car — and, no, just because it’s a 770bhp, limited edition supercar from Porsche, its success is not guaranteed. Weissach’s last dabble into the hypercar market resulted in the Carrera GT, which sold slowly despite being based on a stillborn Le Mans project.

I think a lot of it depends on the car’s weight. Estimates vary between a little less than 1500kg and as much as 1700kg. If the latter, the car is going to struggle to match the power-to-weight ratio of the standard production Ferrari F12 reviewed elsewhere in the magazine.

However, at 1500kg the acceleration you feel will be in the Bugatti Veyron’s ballpark and will therefore provide a clear performance advantage over relatively conventional production cars as epitomised by the F12. On its own I don’t think a free tax disc and exemption from the London Congestion Charge is going to be a big enough draw for a car costing nearly £700,000 and still built in the relatively large (918 units) numbers Porsche has suggested.

In the meantime I wonder if full Martini colours will be an optional extra? Or, to descend entirely into the realm of fantasy, perhaps customers could choose from the entire palette of classic Porsche liveries?

You could have Gulf (too obvious, perhaps), Salzburg (too ugly) or even Pink Pig (too surreal). For myself I’d choose Richard Lloyd’s Canon livery every time.