Porsche promised a spectacular reveal in Detroit and delivered nothing less with the world debut of its stunning Porsche 918 RSR Concept. A coupe-bodied “motor sports version” of the 918 Spyder Concept unveiled last March in Geneva, the 918 RSR variant marries its closed-form body configuration with hybrid elements from the 911 GT3 R Hybrid with truly phenomenal results.
While technically a “concept,” the automaker plans to use the strikingly beautiful and fully engineered mid-engine two-seater as a “rolling racing laboratory.” Based on the success of its 911 GT3 R Hybrid, which performed so impressively at the annual 24-hour event at the Nürburgring’s Nordschleife circuit as well as during 1000-km races at Road Atlanta and in Zhuhai, China, we expect to see the 918 RSR turn up on the grid -- even if not for points -- at a number of international motorsport competitions during the upcoming year.
As with all modern-day racers, the 918 RSR’s monocoque and bodywork are made from strong and light carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP). Finished in “liquid metal chrome blue" and wearing number 22 -- an homage to the legendary Porsche 917 short-tail coupe that set speed and distance marks at Le Mans in 1971 that stood for 39 years -- the 918 RSR’s aero-tweaked contours, center-lock 19-inch wheels and a host of other optimizing details leave no doubt about its ultimate intent. Even the doors open obliquely upward to facilitate access to its minimalist, built-for-speed cabin which houses a deeply bolstered racing seat, custom racing wheel and display panel on the left side of the center tunnel and the car’s hybrid accumulator unit to the right, where the 918 Spyder's passenger seat would be.
Like the 918 Spyder, the 918 RSR’s gasoline engine is derived from the 3.4-liter direct-injected V8 used in the current Porsche RS Spyder LMP2 race car. Here, it’s tuned to make 563 horsepower at 10,300 rpm instead of the 476 ponies it develops in ALMS spec, power that gets sent to the rear wheels via a paddle-shifted six-speed manual gearbox also culled from the RS Spyder. An electric motor/generator mounted on each front wheel and connected to the GT3 R Hybrid’s on-board accumulator adds an additional 102 horsepower per side, which brings total output of the 918 RSR’s system to 767 horses.
As in the 911 GT3 R Hybrid, the supplemental electric power is created under braking and stored as kinetic energy in the accumulator’s flywheel that rotates at up to 36,000 rpm. When the driver hits a button, the flywheel is electromagnetically braked, converting the rotational energy into electricity that energizes the motors which deliver that extra output for up to eight seconds when the system is fully charged. In addition to this momentary boost to facilitate acceleration or overtaking, the system can be used to selectively vector power to each front wheel to increase agility and steering response when cornering and/or serve as “consumption aid” that can help expand pit stop windows or reduce the amount of fuel needed and thereby let the car run lighter for a longer period of time.
If the Porsche 918 RSR Concept really is the future of green-style racing, we say, bring it on. Still no word on when a production version of the 918 Spyder will show its face, but the Geneva Auto Salon in March now seems to be its likely debut date.