At the recent ModSpace American Le Mans Monterey Race, Porsche rolled in with the 911 GT3 R Hybrid and delivered quite the beating to every car in the GT class as drivers, Romain Dumas and Richard Lietz, finished 10th overall. Not only did Porsche’s gas-electric superstar post the fastest lap, it made just three pit stops in the six hour event, compared to the five everyone else made. Porsche is changing what everyone thinks about hybrids by proving gas-electric technology can haul ass and save gas.
“The start phase was huge fun, because it was relatively easy to overtake the slower competitors,” Dumas said after the race. “But it’s even more fun because we can apply superior tactics thanks to the lower fuel consumption. We are much more flexible and we made the most of this day.” It was the car’s first appearance on the West Coast (and only its second in North America since it debut last year.)
Based on the 911 GT3 R, this hybrid isn’t a traditional hybrid in a sense that it uses a kinetic energy recovery system, and instead of a battery, the energy is stored in the flywheel. The system store 0.2 kWh of energy, which is enough to provide an additional 150 kW (203 horsepower) for an eight second burst. “That doesn’t sound like much, but the system recharges quickly,” said Dieter Steinhauser, head of motorsport R&D. “For performance applications, a battery recharges too slowly.”
The flywheel, mounted where the passenger seat would be, spins up to 40,000 RPM. It powers a pair of 75 kW (101 hp) motors, one per front wheel. The rear wheels are driven by a 4.0-liter flat-six which is good for 470 horsepower.
The 911 GT3 R doesn’t fit into any one of the five classes in American Le Mans, therefore it essentially is an experimental car. Which means, it cannot participate in qualifying and must line up in the back of the grid. The car started in 35th which makes the climb to the 10th spot that much more impressive.
“It’s a shame that we weren’t permitted to join the qualifying, we could have done with the extra practice for finding a good set-up,” Dumas said. “I last drove the car at Road Atlanta. Compared to last year’s version, the 2.0 has made huge progress.” The hybrid system in version 2.0 weighs 120 kg, 50 less than the first generation. The electric flywheel is about 90 percent efficient, and the hybrid delivers a 10 percent improvement in fuel economy over the conventional 911 GT3 R race cars. Porsche also reduced the weight of the car, which comes in at 1,300 kg.
So far the 911 GT3 R Hybrid is just a showcase for Porsche’s Intelligent Performance advanced drivetrains, but a similar system will be available in the gorgeous 918 RSR race car. Porsche hopes to see the American Le Mans Series create a classification for hybrid drivetrains in time for the 2014 season.