Porsche 919 Hybrid—the Grand Finale in Bahrain
Next Saturday will see an end to one of motorsports’ greatest eras. An era in which Porsche’s 919 Hybrid decimated the competition in FIA’s World Endurance Championship, the LMP1 category. It started back in 2013 when a new team was created for research and development in Weissach. Since 1971, this place has been the birthplace of all Porsche models—from the initial idea to the finished design.
It is here where craftsmen and craftswomen build winning cars to pay homage to Ferry Porsche’s philosophy of motorsports as the ultimate challenge and development cycle. A difficult test but a learning period in 2014 saw positive results, with four pole positions and the first race win. But from 2015 to date, the team has been phenomenally successful—three consecutive Le Mans outright victories plus three successive manufacturers world championship titles, and Porsche 919 Hybrid drivers winning the drivers’ world championship title on three occasions!
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1, remembers: “Back then we developed from zero a highly complex hybrid race car on a Formula One level. The early days were extremely demanding, especially as we had to set up the infrastructure, including new buildings, at the same time, plus assembling a team of 260 excellent people. The timing was really tight and the 2014 Le Mans race came way too early for us. But since then, we have managed maximum success. I’m incredibly proud of this team and I hope that we can conclude the era of the Porsche 919 Hybrid with a good race in Bahrain.”
The Porsche 919 Hybrid produces a staggering 900 HP (662 kW) that comes from a compact two-litre turbo charged V4-cylinder (nearly 500 HP/368 kW) engine and two different energy recovery systems—brake energy from the front axle combined with exhaust energy.
Now here’s the interesting part: the combustion engine drives the rear axle while the electro motor boosts the front axle with an output of more than 400 HP (294 kW). This way, the 919 accelerates with four-wheel drive and at the same time recuperates energy again from the exhaust system that otherwise would pass unused into the atmosphere. The electrical energy that comes from the front brakes and the exhaust system is temporarily stored in a liquid-cooled lithium ion battery.
What Porsche learned from the 919 programme for future road-going hybrid and electric cars is immeasurable. The race in Bahrain on November 18 will be the final six-hour race the Porsche 919 Hybrid competes in.
Here’s what the team principal and drivers had to say before bidding farewell: –
Team Principal Andreas Seidl: “I feel a big relief the pressure of defending the manufacturers’ and drivers’ world championship titles is resolved before our last race. The emotions of the farewell under the stress of the title battle would have been extremely hard for the team. In Toyota this year, we are facing a competitor who developed an all-new car for 2016. We, instead, kept developing our existing car. That we still won Le Mans as well as both championship titles, is thanks to outstanding driver performances, many detailed improvements and the operational strength of our team. Now we have to get ourselves together and focus on this last race. We want to leave the stage not only as world champions but also with a performance that is satisfying for all of us. Six hours of reliability and faultless work are big challenges of men and machine. Safety has the highest priority. Only after the chequered flag can we allow our reflective feelings to break through.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid car number 1:
Neel Jani (33, Switzerland): “The last race in the Porsche 919 Hybrid’s history will certainly be very special. The end of an era is the prefix for this weekend. At the same time for our car number 1 driver crew, a strong race result is the priority. We will give everything to send off the 919 nicely in to retirement. The circuit should suit us with the high downforce aerodynamic package. It’s an abrasive track for the tyres. It will probably be hot during the day but we drive into the cooler night and therefore have to manage our tyre strategy accordingly.”
André Lotterer (35, Germany): “The entire team will experience a very emotional weekend in Bahrain. I had similar feelings with Audi last year. But I think this time it will be different for the entire paddock because an era of great competition between extremely cool hybrid sports cars is ending. I will try to enjoy every second and take all the memories with me. I want to contribute with a strong performance for a nice farewell. The Bahrain track layout is not one of my favourites, but I still like driving there. The weather usually is nice in the desert. It is a challenging race for the tyres but I think the 919 is a fast, solid car and we have the potential to win there.”
Nick Tandy (33, Great Britain): “I prefer not to think about the farewell yet. The Bahrain race is very interesting anyway because we are racing from day into night. It is normally very hot for the car, the drivers and especially the tyres. It is a challenging race to finish the season at. I haven’t been there since 2015 but I was on the podium back then when I came second in the LMP2 class. So this year’s target is to make it onto the LMP1 podium.”
Drivers Porsche 919 Hybrid car number 2:
Earl Bamber (27, New Zealand): “Two Le Mans wins and now the world championship—there is a lot I can thank Porsche for. It was very special for me to join the Porsche LMP1 programme back in 2015. It was one of my first ever tasks as a Porsche works driver when Fritz and Andreas and everyone in the team believed in taking a Carrera Cup driver to Le Mans. That was amazing. I was back in the GT programme in 2016 and then becoming one of the main LMP drivers has been a fantastic year in which I was learning a lot. Stopping now feels difficult because I feel every race weekend we are getting better and better and there is still a lot more performance and a lot more than we can show. The race weekend in Bahrain will be challenging and we will give it our best. It will be very, very special to see two cars in the museum forever having my name on the side. The Porsche 919 Hybrid will always bring back special memories.”
Timo Bernhard (36, Germany): “It is great that we could take both titles in Shanghai. Now we are relieved to give it a go in Bahrain and to fully enjoy our last weekend with the Porsche 919 Hybrid. In other words: we will get the maximum out of it without the pressure of the championship battle. In any case, it will be a weekend full of emotions. For me, many memories from the first days of the programme pop up. These were intense experiences at the beginning. Not easy. When the last stint of the 919 is over, a lot more feelings will come up. These four—or five years if you include development—were just such cool times and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss a single moment. I’m heading very positively to Bahrain, although I know it will not be easy to suppress such thoughts during a very tough six-hour race.”
Brendon Hartley (28, New Zealand): “Going to Bahrain will be emotional for all of us. Especially as we arrive as World Champions with less pressure now. I have so many incredible memories and experiences with the 919 Hybrid, teammates, and all the boys and girls from the Porsche LMP Team. We shared something very special together. After developing the Porsche 919 for more than four years, it’s an absolute dream to drive so we will all be enjoying every last lap with this awesome machine. On one side there will be a lot of sadness, but on the other hand we will be giving everything to give this project the ultimate sendoff it deserves.”