It’s funny, but as soon as you hear or read the word “hybrid” you tend to think “green.” As in; saving the planet, reducing CO2, not having much fun behind the wheel etceterra.
Even with F1, you suspect, most observers have tended to regard the idea of a Kinetic Energy Recovery System as some kind of fop to the Eco Warriors; as a necessary evil to keep the beardos at bay – for the time being.
The 911 GT3 Rh that I drove this week changes all that at a stroke – because this is the other side of hybrid technology. The system is installed in this car to make it as fast as possible for endurance racing, and as anyone who knows anything about endurance racing will tell you, pure speed is nothing unless it is accompanied by at least a reasonable degree economy.
What makes the hybrid system in the GT3 Rh so effective is that it not only provides the car with another 160bhp at the press of a button, it also allows it run further on the same amount of fuel as a regular GT3 R during a race. At the Nurburgring 24h this car was able to run for one lap longer between each pit stop compared with the regular GT3 Rs, thanks purely to the extra efficiency of hybrid power-train. And in the end that’s what made it faster overall during the race.
The only reason it did win the event outright was because a valve spring went in the flat six engine less than an hour before the finish, at which point it held the outright lead. What let the GT3 Rh down on its maiden voyage, in other words, was not the hybrid system but one of the most conventional parts of the car; one that has been developed and honed by Porsche for decades ironically.
Interestingly, the flywheel that the GT3 Rh uses to store and then redeploy its electrical power was developed for the car by Williams F1. It’s actually the same flywheel that Williams tried and largely failed to make work in its F1 car last year. Porsche then designed its own system – which takes kinetic energy developed by the brakes, sends this through a pair of generators to the flywheel, and then redeploys it back through the generators which effectively act as motors when they are called to do so – and the result is a much more effective, efficient creation of power.
In the GT3 Rh you can generate power via the brakes almost as fast as you can burn it via the throttle, which means that on a circuit – where most of the time you are either braking at maximum effort or nailing the accelerator to the floor – it works perfectly.
It’s only a mater of time before this system can, and will, be tailored to suit road use. And when it is, the world of high performance driving will never be quite the same again. Bring it on, I say.