A Glimpse of the Future: The Porsche 911 RSR

Sam Kessler (Online Editor)
Porsche's latest Le Mans challenger illustrates the evolution of the famous 911

The 911 has changed a great deal in the last 50-odd years. Oh it’s still easily recognisable in all its forms, that beautifully slowing roof and elegant silhouette an obvious evolution of the original. Technically however, the new models are a world away, with each iteration of the 911 bringing with it a host of new features and engineering advances.

Admittedly it’s less noticeable in the standard road cars. For them, design is just as important as their technical specifications; most daily drivers would rather have a good-looking, comfortable car than something built solely for performance. When it comes to competition however, it’s an entirely different story.

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When you’re looking to dominate your rivals, every second counts. Every precise measurement, every frame of digital telemetry makes a real-world difference to performance with the slightest error liable to snatch away an important victory. It’s here that Porsche really push their engineering boundaries and those of the 911, here that their latest innovations take root. In no race is that more obvious than Le Mans.

Bentley might base a good deal of their heritage on Le Mans and the Ford GT may have dominated at the last competition, but few marques have been as successful at endurance racing as Porsche. In 2015, they achieved a resounding one-two victory at the 24h race, a winning streak that continued pretty much across the endurance board. This year Porsche are looking to recreate that feat with the latest, extreme version of the iconic 911, the 911 RSR.

The lenient requirements of Le Mans mean that entries have a good deal of room to play with the concept of their cars, which the RSR makes full use of in the 911’s biggest evolution to date. Nearly every part of the car has been redesigned from the ground-up – a necessary advancement given the ambitious 140 hours of racing it will be put through in 2017.

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Powered by the cutting-edge, 510 horsepower boxer engine – modern, light and normally-aspirated. It sounds like Porsche would have opted for something a little more extreme, but the in-built versatility of the engine means that they have far more options to play with the broad Le Mans categories.

It’s not just a new engine however; the suspension, body structure, aerodynamic concept and transmission have all been completely redesigned. It goes without saying that it’s a pretty extreme overhaul, but it’s one that followed in the design philosophy that Porsche has always followed. If it ain’t broke, still see if you can fix it.

The new layout has meant that the engineers could include some other advancements, not least of which is a large rear diffuser. This, combined with a spoiler taken from the LMP1-specification 919 Hybrid allows an unprecedented level of downforce. It means that at low speeds the driver might struggle, but once the 911 gets up to speed there’s no corner it can’t take with apparent ease.

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From the driver’s perspective however those low-speed struggles are more than offset by the host of new assistance systems. A radar-supported state-of-the-art collision system means that even in the dark of night racing is easier than ever while the redesigned safety cage allowed by the new chassis means that, should the worst happen, the driver will be protected.

For now, the RSR is still in development, currently going from track to track racking up hours and miles upon miles of testing. That calibration means that its final performance is still all but impossible to gauge. Even so, it seems that Porsche may be on to another winning when Le Mans rolls around again.

As for what this means for the average driver... well, aside from the 911 RSR eventually being made available, you can expect many of those advancements to make their way to the standard road cars. It probably won’t be next year, it might not even be a couple years from now, but the RSR is a glimpse at the future of the 911 as a whole; and what a future it is.

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