Porsche 919 Flexible Bodywork Pushes the Rules

Testing for the 2014 24 Heures du Mans/Le Mans 24 Hours took place yesterday at Circuit de la Sarthe. While the Porsche team said it was happy with progress on the LMP1 hybrid – 90 laps completed in the morning session and 103 laps in the afternoon – both prototypes suffered small engine/overheating fires while stationary in the garage, and there were rumbles of discontent in the paddock concerning Porsche 919 flexible bodywork.

Porsche 919 Le Mans Hybrid 1

Sam Collins from Racecar Engineering magazine broke the body story on Saturday, following the pre-testing photo session held at the circuit. Sam’s photos show Audi engineers taking more than a passing interest in the 919’s rear bodywork, which at the time was missing a piece right at the back, allegedly pushing it outside the bodywork rules.

For the Sunday test, the missing component was present, and the appearance seemed to satisfy the regulations. But, as other teams had intimated on Saturday evening, photos were found that apparently showed the 919 bodywork deflecting at speed. This reduces drag and is not allowed in the rules – just as in F1.

Porsche 919 LMP1 Hybrid 1

“During the official pre-event photo session, the updated 919 was seen for the first time by rival teams and it was noted that a significant portion of its engine cover and rear bodywork flexed with a gentle finger push,” Sam reported. “This seems to be in breach of article 3.4 of the technical regulations which states that ‘movable bodywork parts/elements are forbidden when the car is in motion’.”

Collins’ intriguing piece – please read his complete report here – goes on to share these pictures: one of the 919 LMP1 at rest, and the other showing Porsche’s Le Mans prototype at speed. The rear bodywork is seen to be deflecting downwards at speed, relative to the static breather pipe. Audi and Toyota are said to have requested clarification of the legality of Porsche’s design.

Copyright Racecar Engineering 1

Copyright Racecar Engineering 2

I’m sure Porsche is not alone in testing the boundaries and no doubt rules are rules, so Weissach will make any changes required. But, as a motorsport diehard and Porsche engineering fan, I am always happy to see envelopes being pushed in the quest for performance. Porsche 911 RSR engine power has long been restricted by the governing body, damaging our race-winning chances more than once, so why not stretch rules to the max on this LMP1 car?

As Brundle always says of F1: if you’re not giving pressure in motorsport, you’re taking it. Let’s apply a bit of pressure to the regs and see what happens. I’m sure you will have feedback to offer: it will be interesting to see how it works out for Stuttgart.

Thanks to Sam for letting me share this. Racecar Engineering is a great magazine, and you can also catch Sam as an energetic pit lane commentator on the excellent Radio Le Mans Internet service.

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