Image credit: Porsche Motorsport.

For the first time, Porsche has released details and pictures of its World Endurance Championship (WEC) winning 919 Hybrid engine to the public.

In designing the 919 Hybrid Porsche’s decision to use a revolutionary new turbo charged four-cylinder combustion engine to drive the rear axle, an exhaust energy recovery system, the latest lithium-ion battery technology for energy storage to supply power to the front axle, Porsche had set new standards for their WEC LMP1 machines.

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In 2015, which was only the second year of Porsche’s return to prototype competition, the team was rewarded with successes: A one-two result at the Le Mans 24-Hours and the manufacturers’ and drivers’ World Championship titles.

With a capacity of only two litres, the 919 Hybrid’s V4 engine is the most efficient combustion engine Porsche has built to date and as if to emphasise the ‘race it on Sunday, drive it on Monday’ culture the new four-cylinder turbo engine for the Porsche 718 Boxster picks up technology and know-how from this racing power pack. “Right from the beginning we had a brave concept, but it was also the right concept. This is paying off now.” commented Alexander Hitzinger, Technical Director responsible for the 919.

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As with every Porsche, the 919 Hybrid is being developed in Weissach at Porsche’s Research and Development centre and when it comes to the powertrain, Hitzinger’s crew works very closely with the engineers from production cars. “They support us significantly in the areas of combustion development and fuel-mixture generation,” Hitzinger continued.

While last year’s championship winning engine produced over 500bhp alone,  the 2016 LMP1 regulations require a lower amount of energy from the fuel used per lap and have reduced the fuel flow for all the prototypes.

For the Porsche race engine this results in a loss of eight per cent of fuel and, therefore, output which now translates into a figure of ‘somewhat less’ than 500 hp. Together with the electrical energy from the two recovery systems (brake energy from the front axle and exhaust energy), which serve the ‘e-machine’ on the front axle, the Porsche 919 Hybrid’s overall power system is now circa 900 hp.

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These regulations also establish a direct link between the performance of the prototypes and their energy efficiency. Put simply, this means that a large amount of energy from recovery systems may be used. However, this entails a proportional reduction in the permitted amount of fuel per lap.

The WEC gives engineers a great degree of freedom in terms of the hybrid drive concepts that may be employed. The teams can choose between diesel and petrol engines, naturally aspirated or turbocharged engines, various displacements, and one or two energy recovery systems. This set-up puts the focus on innovations that will have a huge impact on future production sports cars – and this was actually the main reason why Porsche decided to return to the world of top level motor racing.

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To see how these changes to the Porsche power plant affect it’s 2016 Hybrid challenger be sure to keep an eye out in late March for our reviews from the WEC’s traditional pre-season Prologue in Paul Ricard, Southern France.

Finally, if you want to get really ‘up close and personal’, the 919 Hybrid’s engine will be on display at race events, exhibitions and, of course, in the Porsche Museum at Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen.