After leading the 2011 24 Hours of Nürburgring race for eight hours last year, the Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid was forced to retire after its combustion engine's valve spring failed less than two hours before the race's conclusion. This year, the team returned with a revised hybrid system that weighs about 20 percent less and delivers about 40 more horsepower. It proved very competitive, as the GT3 R Hybrid 2.0 won the VLN race at this circuit just three weeks ago.
As a result, and with just over a week before the famed 24-hour Nürburgring event, organizers chose to slap an air intake restrictor on the combustion engine, knocking it down to 448 horsepower (last year's engine was rated 480). Calculated over one lap, the 911 GT3 R Hybrid 2.0 now delivers a lower system output than last year's vehicle with a combustion engine, says Porsche.
The team and drivers are understandably frustrated with this last-minute ruling. Not only does it reduce top speed on the straights, but it forces to drivers to push the the hybrid powertrain much harder just to stay competitive. With the handicap, the GT3 R Hybrid qualified 18th. "This further reduction in performance by the organizers is incomprehensible to us," says Porsche Head of Motorsport, Hartmut Kristen. "There are no data from the two test races as part of the 2011 Nürburgring Long Distance Championship that would provide the basis for such a grading."
The 39th edition of the Nürburgring 24 hour race starts on Saturday June at 4:00 PM CET (10:00 AM EDT).
Stuttgart/Atlanta – June 19 - A strong contingent of Porsche teams will enter the 24 hour race on the Nürburgring this weekend, Saturday and Sunday June 25 - 26.
Like last year, Porsche AG as well as various customer teams field 33 vehicles featuring the characteristic six-cylinder boxer engine at the 39th running of the long distance classic in Germany's Eifel region. All eight Porsche works drivers will contest Germany's greatest motorsport event at which Porsche has celebrated four overall victories in the last five years.
After an impressive 24 hour debut last year where it held the lead for eight hours witnessed by over 200,000 ardent spectators and grabbed headlines worldwide, the Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid returns to the Nordschleife this year with the starting number 9. The vehicle, however, has been substantially reined in by the organizers. After the latest reclassification, the combustion engine now delivers only 448 hp. Calculated over one lap, the further-developed 911 GT3 R Hybrid (Version 2.0) now delivers a lower system output than last year's vehicle with a combustion engine.
"This further reduction in performance by the organizers is incomprehensible to us," says Porsche Head of Motorsport, Hartmut Kristen. "There are no data from the two test races as part of the 2011 Nürburgring Long Distance Championship that would provide the basis for such a grading. Our goal was and is to achieve similar lap times to other GT3 class vehicles, but with better efficiency. We feel this goal is the right one long term and very much regret that some officials in motorsport can't or won't yet come on board with this approach."
Sharing the cockpit of the Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid 2.0 are Porsche factory pilots Joerg Bergmeister (Germany), Richard Lietz (Austria), Patrick Long (USA) and Marco Holzer (Germany), who were all deeply involved in the vehicle development. The efficiency of the innovative race car from Weissach was improved through targeted optimization of the hybrid components. The general hybrid layout of the Version 2.0 was adopted from its predecessor. The output of both electric motors in the portal axle increased from 60 to 75 kilowatts each. They supplement the four-litre six-cylinder boxer engine which now only delivers 448 hp after the repeated power reduction. For seconds at a time, pilots now have about 200 hp more at their disposal, which is equivalent to ca. 32 hp of additional conventional power per Nordschleife lap. Depending on the programming, this electrical power is automatically activated through use of the throttle pedal. Moreover, hybrid pilots can manually call up this extra power, for instance when overtaking.
"We'll go all out to continue on from last year's strong performance with the 911 GT3 R Hybrid. It won't be easy against the strong opposition who have taken major steps forward, particularly since our car has been disproportionately handicapped," says Joerg Bergmeister. The Porsche works driver is looking forward to the Nordschleife: "It's one of the world's most beautiful race tracks. It's incredibly demanding but it's incredible fun as well. Every lap is a challenge."
This year, the winning Manthey Racing squad fields two Porsche 911 - a GT3 R and a GT3 RSR - sporting a prominent yellow-green design. Manning both vehicles is the winning Porsche works driver quartet, Timo Bernhard (Germany), Romain Dumas (France), Marc Lieb (Germany) as well as Manthey pilot Lucas Luhr (Switzerland), who have notched up over 50 major international titles between them.
Every year, Timo Bernhard is thrilled anew by the unique atmosphere of the non-stop motorsport party. "Driving on the Nordschleife is always an experience," says the Porsche works driver and Le Mans winner, who has contributed to all four Porsche overall victories here between 2006 and 2009. "Although you're constantly challenged as a driver and there is no chance to catch your breath over the long laps, you still don't want to climb out of the car."
Another Porsche factory pilot, Wolf Henzler (Germany), competes for the Falken Motorsport team. His teammates in the #44 Porsche 911 GT3 R are Martin Ragginger (Austria), Peter Dumbreck (Great Britain) and Sebastian Asch (Germany). Also hoping for a top result is the Haribo Manthey Racing (No. 8) line-up of Richard Westbrook (Great Britain), Christian Menzel (Germany), Mike Stursberg (Germany) and Hans Guido Riegel (Germany). With the all-German crew of Georg Weiss, Oliver Kainz, Michael Jacobs and Jochen Krumbach, the Wochenspiegel Team Manthey has proven Nordschleife specialists at the wheel of the #26 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. Manthey Racing's Porsche 911 GT3 R (No. 10) is manned by another strong squad with Marc Gindorf (Monaco), Wolfgang Kohler (Germany) and Peter Scharmach (New Zealand).
The 39th edition of the Nürburgring 24 hour race starts on Saturday June at 4:00 PM CET (10:00 AM EDT) .