Before its racing premiere, the new Porsche 963 met a legendary predecessor in Daytona. We have the photos and information from the joint exit of the modern LMDh prototype with the Porsche 917K.
The tension in the Porsche warehouse is slowly increasing. After more than a year of practical development, during which the test drivers have covered more than 24,500 kilometers on routes in Europe and the USA, things are now getting serious for the new 963 LMDh racer. At the weekend (January 28th) the race debut is finally coming up in the soup bowl of Daytona. At the premiere, it goes directly over the full 24-hour distance.
Those responsible at Porsche hope that the new prototype can build on the success of its legendary predecessors as soon as possible. After all, the sports department of the car manufacturer from Zuffenhausen can already boast 19 victories in Le Mans. The Porsche 917K was responsible for the first success in the long-distance classic in 1970.
One of these legendary vehicles met in Daytona with the latest generation of prototypes for a joint ride. The modern LMDh racer was driven by works driver Dane Cameron, while the old 917 was driven by none other than Hurley Haywood. The 74-year-old American clinched three overall Le Mans victories for Porsche and triumphed five times at Daytona.
Whole books could be written about the pilot, who was born in Chicago and now lives in Florida. But at the meeting of the generations in Daytona, it was all about comparing the technology. And here the differences became clear already when starting the engines. The old 917 with its naturally aspirated V12 engine (bench angle 180 degrees) makes the earth tremble as soon as it warms up.
Sound duel wins the 917
The unit designed by the legendary engine guru Hans Mezger brought modern high-tech materials to the racetrack at the time: the cylinders (with chrome-plated running surface) and the pistons were made of an aluminum alloy, the connecting rods of titanium. The crankcase was cast from magnesium alloy.
Compared to the high technology of the 70s, the drive of its successor looks like something out of a science fiction film. A look under the hood of the 963 reveals a double-charged V8 engine with a displacement of 4.6 liters. The modern powerhouse still bears the genes of the 3.4 liter V8 unit from the RS Spyder, which competed in Le Mans in 2008 and 2009.
The old motor not only got more displacement for its use in the LMDh racer, but also an electric support. This means that the hybrid prototype has a system output of almost 700 hp. For comparison: the old twelve-cylinder in the 917K in the five-liter version from 1970 “only” delivered 600 hp to the rear axle.
Electronic gimmicks to increase efficiency didn't play a role back then. There are also differences in petrol.The new 963 burns 100 percent synthetic fuel. The question of who has the edge in the sound duel, on the other hand, is quickly decided. The high-revving naturally aspirated V12 makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand a little higher at full load.
The old one outperforms the new one when it comes to weight. The 917K weighed a mere 820 kilograms. For the first generation of the new LMDh racers, on the other hand, the regulations stipulate that the vehicles must weigh at least 1,030 kilograms. Part of the extra weight is of course due to the heavier drive with the hybrid components.
Electronics help 963 pilots
The current prototype generation has also grown significantly in size. The "K" for short tail in the name of the 917K already reveals that savings were made at the rear end. The classic is only 4.12 meters long. The 963 has almost a whole meter more to offer. In general, it's not that bad. The cars here have only grown two centimeters in the last 50 years.
When it comes to the driving experience, we have to trust the judgment of the expert. Hurley Haywood is happy that he still lived in the old days: "I couldn't drive such a new car, with all that the driver has to consider. The cars are controlled entirely by electronics. I still had foot controls traction and regulates braking power."
There are also big differences between old and new when it comes to physical stress. "Back then I had to train properly to move the steering wheel against the resistance. Today the cars all have power steering. Switching is now done on the steering wheel and the electronics ensure that the speeds are right," the sprightly racing pensioner talks shop.
Haywood has fond memories of the pure driving experience, which is somewhat lost today: "Back then, I was able to concentrate fully on the car and the track without any outside interference. Today, the engineer is constantly reporting from the pits and asking for changes on the system. These are done via the steering wheel with complicated switches and knobs. This is space technology. Luckily we didn't have to mess with anything like that."
Finally, the Porsche legend does have one thing in common with his younger works driver colleagues: "It's a new world today, but one thing always remains the same: a racing driver never loses the desire to be the best." In the gallery we show you the pictures of the spectacular comparison drive in Daytona.