There are few things as exciting as track racing – here are some of the best Porsche racing models to hit the circuit, why they’re considered the best and how they’ve each shaped Porsche’s engineering career.
The Porsche 917
Often said to be, “effectively unbeatable”, the Porsche 917 was the first model to give Porsche its overall wins in the 24-hour Le Mans. It has the heart of the 912 – flat-12 engine of 4.5l; 520bhp 0-60 in 2.3 with a top speed of up to 240mph – however, the highest recorded speed was 224.4mph at Le Mans in 1970. Later on, the 917 was turbocharged and could produce anywhere from 1000-1500 horsepower; securing its place as one of the world’s most powerful racecars. Lightweight with interchangeable rears, the 917 team had thought of everything to set this car apart from all its competitors. On debut in 1969, the handling was considered so unsafe, many drivers refused to even get behind the wheel. By 1970, all the necessary adjustments had been made and it went on to win 9 of 10 races it competed in that year, 8 of 10 in 1971 whilst setting the record speed of 240mph on Mulsanne straight – a record that still stands today.
The Porsche 956/962
Some believe that this wonder is one of the greatest racing cars of all time; the 956 was built to push power and speed to the limit. And they succeeded. The 956 released in 1982 and it’s updated model 962 released in 1984 were able to regularly reach speeds of 235mph. The twin turbo, 2.65l flat six engine was truly a sight to behold. Its smooth chassis was designed to minimize drag while creating downforce to keep it grounded (a common concept of Formula One on the ‘80s). All these forces culminated in the need for excessive brute strength to steer and control; compounded by the lack of power steering at the time. The 956/962 pair dominated the racing scene from 1982-1987. It won the 24-hour Le Mans after leading for the entire 24 hours and was said to have clocked 6: 11.13 seconds around Nürburgring. Some experts believe that 956/962 would still be able to hold its own amongst more modern racing prototypes.
The Porsche 919 Hybrid
After winning the 24-hour Le Mans consecutively for the last three years (2014, 2015 and 2016), one would not be hard pressed to find superior racing attributes for this vehicle. It made its debut in 2014 at Silverstone and has had been updated and improved to remain competitive yearly. The carbon fiber composite chassis with honeycomb aluminum core make it as light as a feather. Powered by a Porsche 2.0l turbocharged V4 engine with a battery-based hybrid system; it’s unique designs allow for energy recovery exhaust and brake heat, resulting in ongoing recovery. It provides about 500bhp forward propulsion from the engine and 400bhp to the front axle from the batteries during recall – making it one of very few temporary four-wheel drive cars. It has been noted to do 0-60mph in 2.1 seconds and reached top speeds exceeding 211mph.
The 2017 Porsche 919 hybrid is lighting many flames in the hearts of LMP-1 enthusiasts. It debuted April 2017 at Silverstone. Some of the tweaks include a redesigned air intake system and a raised splitter to decrease cornering speeds under LMP-1 mandate. It’s revised the battery recall to be able to deliver up to 900bhp in total. It took the victory at the 2017 Le Mans to make Porsches 19th overall win since 1970.
Porsche have proven themselves to be master engineers. Each piece of their racing history is a masterpiece in its own right. We can only wait with bated breath to see what will be revealed next.