Spa-Francorchamps - Ever wondered what's faster: a Formula One car or a Le Mans LMP1 racer?
Well ponder the point no more, as a Porsche 919 has just smashed the lap record at Belgium's Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
Driven by Switzerland's Neel Jani, the Porsche lapped the legendary circuit in just 1m41.77s on 9 Apri, nearly a second quicker than Lewis Hamilton's Formula One lap record of 1m42.553s when he took pole position for the 2017 Belgian Grand Prix in his Mercedes F1 car. Jani achieved a top speed of 359 km/h and an average speed of 245.61 km/h on his record lap.
So that settles the argument, or does it? Well, Porsche cheated a little by creating an 'unchained' version of the 919 car that has dominated the World Endurance Championship in the past three years and scooped three Le Mans 24-Hour victories.
Now that it's quit the series, Porsche wanted to see what its hybrid-powered racer was really capable of without all WEC's performance-strangling regulations. So the German team tweaked the power and improved the aerodynamics to make the fastest possible version of the 919.
'A dream come true'
Power in the petrol-electric two-litre turbo V4 that powers the rear axle has been raised to 536kW - up from about 372kW in race trim - while the electric motor powering the front wheels makes 328kW. A much larger rear wing with an active drag reduction system - like an F1 car's - give the up-specced Porsche more downforce in the corners and better top speed on the straights.
Porsche has named it the 919 Hybrid Evo and is taking it on a global road trip as a farewell journey before it's placed in a museum.
"It was kind of an engineer’s dream come true for us," said Porsche chief race engineer Stephen Mitas. "We all knew, no matter how successful the 919 Hybrid was, it could never show its full capability. This time we were not limited by regulations but resources. It is a very satisfying feeling that what we’ve done to the car was enough to crack the Formula One record.”
In setting a lap that was a full 12 seconds faster than the standard 919 achieved on its Spa-Francorchamps pole lap in 2017, Jani said: "The 919 Evo is brutally impressive. It is definitely the fastest car I ever drove. The grip level is at a fully new dimension for me. I couldn’t imagine this amount beforehand.
Next, the 919 Evo will do a demo lap on the famous Nordschleife before the start of the 24 Hours Nürburgring race in Germany on 12 May. Drives are also planned for the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK in July, the Festival of Porsche in Brands Hatch in September, and the Porsche Rennsport Reunion at Laguna Seca in California later the same month.