We take a look at some modern machines that will,we hope, one day be remembered as classics, world-beaters, or just totally bonkers. By Rob Ladbrook
Technology in motorsport is evolving all the time, and can either be a huge draw or a sizable turn-off depending on your stance on what the ideal racing car should be. Regardless, it’s hard to find a modern car that hits as many sweet spots as Porsche’s 919 Hybrid LMP1. This car represents the cutting edge in racing car technology in the modern era, and it’s tough to see that changing in the immediate future. Yet there’s also something gloriously retro about it at the same time.
The history books will record the 2015 version (the third iteration) of the 919 Hybrid as a true game-changer. The car was the first machine to enter the World Endurance Championship’s top eight-megajoule hybrid class, meaning its hybrid power virtually matched that of its fossil fuel grunt pound for pound.
At the heart of the car is a revolutionary two-litre V4 turbocharged engine, coupled to twin hybrid systems – the first being an F1-style heat recovery hybrid system mounted on the turbine, and the second the more traditional KERS braking system.
The entire combination of internal combustion engine and dual hybrid was capable of creating over 1200bhp, with Porsche’s tiny engine at one point tuned to kick out up to 600bhp before fuel flow was cut for 2016 to control the speed of the cars.
Having a high-revving turbocharged petrol engine also brought noise. The 919 was never a disappointment to fans at Le Mans, its distinctive high-pitched engine note and screaming hybrid gave it a great soundtrack – something that was never really enjoyed by Audi Sport with its super-quiet TDI LMP range. And anybody who watched it in full-flight couldn’t help but be in awe of the sheer speed of it.
It also looked great, being by far the prettiest of the 2015 crop of LMP1 cars, and for British fans it will be remembered as the car that took Nick Tandy to a stunning debut Le Mans 24 Hours win alongside Nico Hulkenberg and Earl Bamber.
It was also the car that returned Porsche to the top step at La Sarthe after a 17-year absence, and has since extended the Stuttgart brand’s all-time winning record at the French endurance classic to 18.
Glance at its World Endurance Championship results and you’ll see it won every race bar two, and delivered a world title to Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard.
The blend of fearsome power, aggressive looks (sadly tainted with a rather dull livery, let’s see it in Martini stripes please Porsche…) and stunning engineering levels made the 919 a real winner.
Tandy said of the car: “I’ve never felt power like it in a car, the only way of describing the feel of it when the boost comes in is it’s like being shot out of a cannon. It’s totally savage on acceleration, but there are so many electrical systems looking after you that it’s somehow also manageable to drive over long stints.”
Not only did the 919 Hybrid represent the ultimate in cutting-edge racing technology, it also used the potential of it to full effect. It will go down as one of Porsche’s finest sportscars, and we’ll be buying scale models of it and reading technology books about it for years to come. For a brand that boasts machines like the 917, 956 and 911 GT1, that’s quite an accolade.