On December 16, 2020, Porsche announced its commitment to develop an LMDh prototype for racing from January 2023. The prospect of fielding vehicles in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) and the North American IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship proved to be a decisive factor in the decision of the Porsche AG Executive Committee. Less than five months later, Porsche revealed a close partnership with Team Penske. The new Porsche Penske Motorsport international racing team was born. The squad operates from two locations: IMSA is headquartered in Mooresville, North Carolina, home of the US team, while WEC operations are based in Mannheim, Germany. The factory team is about to celebrate its race debut at Daytona after the active testing phase of the new prototype begins in January 2022.
The new Porsche 963 made its official debut at the 24 Hours of Daytona (January 28-29) in Florida, USA. Prior to this, the hybrid had covered more than 33,000 kilometers in testing and in the so-called Daytona Roar. In the final qualifying session, the two construction vehicles came in second (7th) and ninth (6th). The model name alone makes it clear that the Stuttgart sports car manufacturer is after the Porsche 963: the new car of the top supercar (FIA WEC) and GTP (IMSA) delivers around 500 kW (680 PS) in race mode and promises to continue the success story of the Porsche 962 .
The legendary car of the Group C era achieved unprecedented success in 1986 and 1987: in two seasons, the car took overall victories at Le Mans, Sebring and Daytona. Porsche holds the record in all three races, with 18 victories at the American Endurance Classic and 19 overall victories at Le Mans. On the 100th anniversary of the 24 Hours of France in June 2023, there are high hopes for a No. 20 victory. The new Porsche 963 is ready for this season’s great classic.
Chassis: Multimatic-based LMP2 with iconic Porsche branding
The regulations state that all new vehicles of the LMDh category must be based on an LMP2 chassis. There are four potential partners for such a project: Multimatic, Oreca, Dallara and Ligier. After an in-depth evaluation, Porsche decided to cooperate with Multimatic in advance. The largest of the four LMP2 manufacturers, the Toronto, Canada-based automotive technology company also supplies components for the Porsche 911 RSR, Porsche 911 GT3 R and Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. In addition to existing business relationships, the huge production capacity also benefits the Multimatic – a key factor, as the Porsche 963 will also be popular with customers on both sides of the Atlantic in its first year of competition.
The new racing prototype is easily recognizable as a real Porsche. Its design combines modern elements with historical roots. The front is reminiscent of the soft styling of the legendary 956 and 962, while the continuous light strip pays homage to the character of the current 992-generation Ninety-One model series. “The regulations give us a performance window,” explains Christian Eifrig, Porsche 963 Technical Project Manager. “In terms of downforce and lap times, the vehicle has to stay within the stated performance limits set by the regulations. This is the only way the sport’s governing body can use performance balance to balance cars from different manufacturers,” continued Eifrig. The so-called BoP, a graded rating of the different vehicles in the new top class, ensures a level playing field and exciting racing.
Factors such as minimum weight, maximum rpm or energy per drive make vehicles comparable in terms of performance. “Achieving this performance window was very challenging. At the same time, it was about achieving the typical Porsche look. Our difficult task was to find the perfect compromise between efficient aerodynamics and an instantly recognizable design language.” The ACO and FIA governing bodies accept the so-called brand identity, which must also meet a number of other criteria. The Porsche 963 was immediately approved.
V8 turbo engine: modern unit based on the Porsche RS Spyder
While the regulations dictate that hybrid components and transmissions must be cost-effective and standardized components, it leaves a lot of leeway in the choice of combustion engine. In principle, the following apply: the power output is capped at 520 kW (707 PS), and the minimum weight is set at 180 kg including peripherals. At the end of 2020, Stefan Moser, chief engineer responsible for the powertrain of the Porsche 963, and his 18-member team opted for the 4.6-liter engine from the Porsche 918 Spyder.
The hybrid supercar made its debut in early September 2013. Shortly before its debut, it became the first production sports car to complete a lap of the Nürburgring Nordschleife in less than seven minutes. Its powerful V8 engine offers outstanding durability, great stiffness and dry sump lubrication. “The engine has a flat crankshaft with a very short stroke,” explains Moser. “This allowed us to mount it very low, giving us a low center of gravity and providing the optimal connection point for the suspension and gearbox. While the engine isn’t a supporting element of the 918, its fundamental stiffness is relatively high— — which suits us very well, too.”
Powering the Porsche 918 Spyder is an efficient, naturally aspirated engine that does not require turbocharging. In the LMDh prototype, the power unit operates with two turbochargers from Dutch manufacturer Van der Lee, increasing the ambient pressure by just 0.3 bar. The charger unit is mounted at the “hot end”, the 90 degree opening of the V-shaped geometry. “The good news is that the engine retains its essential character as a naturally aspirated unit with quick throttle response. The relatively low boost pressure builds up quickly so there is no so-called turbo lag,” says Flacht Porsche The developers of the racing center revealed. Converting a production engine to be turbocharged is easy: around 80 per cent of the components come from the 918. Some parts required additional reinforcement to make the 963 engine a supporting element. Another advantage of the 4.6-liter engine: In the 918 Spyder, Porsche has designed the V8 engine for use with a hybrid system.
The standardized components of the electric power assist system are supplied by the manufacturers Bosch (motor-generator set, electronics and software) and Williams Advanced Engineering (high-voltage battery). The so-called Motor Generator Unit (MGU) is responsible for power delivery and brake recuperation at the rear axle, interacting directly with the standard gearbox of the Xtrac brand. The MGU is located in the bell housing between the combustion engine and the gearbox.
The entire electrical system of a hybrid vehicle can generate up to 800 volts. The average battery has an energy capacity of 1.35 kWh, which can be mobilized at any time under acceleration. An output of 30 to 50 kW (40 to 68 PS) is available for short periods of time without changing the overall output of the powertrain. When the thrust of the MGU is activated, the power of the internal combustion engine is automatically reduced, up to 8,000 rpm (depending on BoP). Regulations specify exactly the power output.
The 4.6-litre twin-turbocharged V8, bearing Porsche’s internal designation 9RD, traces its lineage back to the RS Spyder. In the hands of former Porsche customer team Penske, the car won every title in the LMP2 class of the American Le Mans Series between 2006 and 2008. At the time, the engine in the distinctive yellow and red prototypes had a displacement of 3.4 liters. However, its design and concept still meet the highest demands of modern motorsport. “The V8 engine can also run on CO2-optimized fuels, or so-called biofuels,” delights Stefan Moser. In this regard, Porsche has played a pioneering role. From the 2021 season, the Porsche Mobil 1 Super Cup will introduce environmentally friendly fuels. Insights gained during the 911 GT3 Cup race contribute to the optimal operation of the new Porsche 963.
Technical benchmark figures Porsche 963
Wheelbase: 3,148 mm
Minimum weight: 1,030 kg
Top speed: >330 km/h
Technical Data 9RD Engine
Design: V8 engine
Displacement: 4,593 cc
Charging: 2 turbochargers
Cylinder row angle: 90 degrees
Bore diameter: 96 mm
Output: > 515 kW (700 hp)
Revolutions per minute: > 8,000