Last month Porsche used the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK to formally unveil its newest model. It is not another 911, nor a new SUV; it’s a hybrid sports prototype designed to win on the track here in the US and at Le Mans. You can tell the car has big shoes to fill just by looking at its name: Porsche calls the new race car the 963 because it’s the spiritual successor to the legendary 962 that dominated sports car racing in the 1980s.
Unfortunately, Goodwood took place at the same time as my vacation to Watkins Glen in New York for the IMSA six-hour race, so Ars was unable to see the 963 race in person. But I was able to sit down with a couple of Porsche factory race drivers to find out a bit more about the new car.
Mathieu Jaminet and Matt Campbell are currently competing in the IMSA WeatherTech championship in a GT car: a Porsche 911 GT3R that began life on the same production line as road-going 911s. But next year, the pair will be among the Porsche factory drivers who have been chosen to campaign the fastest and most complex 963 here in the US or in the World Endurance Championship (WEC).
“Of course, it’s different,” Jaminet explained. “It’s quicker, it’s got some power and some downforce, but in the end, I always think it’s easier to step into something. [that is] faster with more downforce and better braking performance and more power than going slower with less grip, less downforce. For drivers, it’s always harder to downgrade than upgrade.”
Unlike the mighty 962 (or the 956 it evolved from), the 963 isn’t entirely Porsche’s doing, as it’s built to adhere to a set of rules known as LMDh (for Le Mans Daytona Hybrid). The core of the car is a carbon fiber chassis or backbone built by the Canadian company Multimatic (LMDh rules require an OEM to partner with one of four approved backbone manufacturers: Multimatic, Dallara, Ligier or Oreca) .
Most of the rest is Porsche’s work, including the engine, a 4.6L twin-turbocharged V8 that is related to the engine in the 918 Spyder road car and earlier RS Spyder race car, as well as the bodywork and electronics. of the car. But all LMDh cars have to use the same standardized gearbox, high-voltage traction battery and hybrid electric motor/generator, supplied by Xtrac, Williams Advanced Engineering and Bosch, respectively.
From inside the cabin, things will be reassuring for those who have been in the hot seat of a 911 GT3R or the fastest 911 RSR (now retired from IMSA and in its last year in WEC).
“One of the really nice things is that the ergonomics and a lot of the systems and features are carrying over from the RSR to this one. The screen and everything is very similar in a lot of ways,” said Campbell. “Of course we have a lot more buttons, switches, toggles and whatnot, but the processes and the way we do things on the system side and the [steering] the wheel is transporting exactly the same thing. We just have so much more to do.”
“Like Matt said, there really is a crossover from GT3R, RSR, to this car, where the dash, the rotaries [multifunction controllers]— everything is based on the same foundation,” added Jaminet. “Also, where we put the radio button…all these things, we try to simplify that it’s always in the same position so that when we jump from car to car, we’re not lost.”
Le Mans 24 Hours organizers are once again trying to slow cars down in the name of safety, so the LMDh rules limit a car’s downforce-to-drag ratio to just 4 to 1. And that’s evident from inside the cabin.
“It’s definitely different from what we know from GT,” said Jaminet. “Even if we have very little experience in LMP2, it is also very different to the LMP2 car. [LMP2 is another category for more standardized, slightly slower sports prototypes from which LMDh evolved.] So I think it’s really a mix between the LMP2 and the GT, and an RSR, shall we say. From the first impression, it didn’t feel like a completely new experience.”