It’s not every day that someone beats the “unbeatable” all time lap record on the Nurburgring Nordschlife, and it’s no surprise that the car was a Porsche. Back in 1983, racing driver Stefan Bellof set the all time lap record on the Nurburgring during a Grand Prix event. Bellof was driving a then new, Porsche 956 racecar which made about 620 hp from a 2.65 liter twin turbo flat 6 engine. But what made the astonishing 6 minute, 11.13 second lap (the current production car record is 6:40) possible was the 956’s revolutionary aerodynamic profile. Similar to the racecars of today, the wide and low under-body of the 956 created a ground effect (much like having a massive diffuser) which surmounted to unprecedented amounts of downforce and of course, a record breaking lap. The 6:11.13 lap was so fast in fact, it stayed as the Nordschlife’s all time lap record for 35 years; only a racecar of the highest caliber could break this “unbeatable” record, enter the Porsche 919.
The story of the 919 started on June 11, 2012, when the project was first announced by Porsche. They announced that they were going to build a hybrid racecar (unheard of at the time) to compete in the emerging LMP1-H class of racecars. The 919 was going to be Porsche’s first sport-prototype car raced in 2 years since the legendary Porsche RS Spyder was retired in 2010. The 919 was also going to be the first Porsche sports-protoype racecar to race in the highest category of FIA sports car racing since the 911 GT1.
About a year after its announcement, Mark Webber began testing of Porsche’s completed 919 test chassis , and the finished 919 racecar made its official public debut on December 14, 2013. The finished car sported a low displacement, turbocharged 2.0 liter V4 engine which was hatched to a sophisticated, state of the art electric hybrid system that developed warp like acceleration and mind boggling speeds.
The 919 made its racing debut at the 2014 6 Hours of Silverstone race, racing in the 6 MJ subclass of the LMP1-H series and finishing third in its first ever race. Its first season came to a rough end however at the 24 Race of Le Mans, where the No.14 car suffered from a broken anti roll bar and was forced out of the race. The 919 scored 194 points and finished 3rd place in the LMP1-H class, not bad for a first season, but unacceptable from a Porsche.
In 2015 however, the 919 was back in full swing, having been completely redesigned and ready to win which it did, winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans that year along with the 5 races that followed. In the 2015 season, the 919 scored a total of 344 points and scored 1st. The 919 continued to dominate the LMP1 series, winning the next two 24 Hours of Le Mans races and becoming one of Porsche’s most dominant racecars ever until it was officially retired in 2017.
But the 919 wasn’t dead yet, because Porsche had something very special up its sleeve, something VERY fast, something you’ll be able to read about next week in part II of the 919’s story.
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