We’d all heard the rumours. We’d all seen the sketches. We all thought it was never going to happen. But tonight Porsche dropped a bombshell and surprised us all as they whipped the covers off their long-speculated, mid-engined 911 RSR race car. Yes. You read right. The engine is now in front of the rear axle, not behind it.
This is a serious break in tradition but one necessary to keep up with the likes of Ferrari, Corvette, Aston Martin and Ford in the hotly-contested World Endurance Championship (WEC). And, most importantly, the 24-Hours of Le Mans that forms part of it. The old 911 RSR was starting to look like a knife in a gunfight. It was starting to fall behind the competition and fast. Reason being that, because of the 911’s rear-engined layout, Porsche couldn’t make the most of the new 2016 WEC GTE class regulations that allowed teams to use larger rear diffusers and splitters.
The only way Porsche could jump on this aerodynamic bandwagon was to move the engine forward and free up some aft space, which could then be dedicated to the cause in question. And this is exactly what they’ve done. The new 911 RSR with its normally aspirated 375-kilowatt, 4.0-litre flat-six motor will start campaigning in 2017 and should, in theory, put the 911 nameplate back at the top of the grid. Aside from its radical engine placement the new 911 RSR also carries other innovative features such as a radar-supported Collision Avoid System that alerts drivers to potentially unseen and rapidly approaching LMP1 cars.
To increase occupant safety in the event of an accident Porsche has installed a rigidly-mounted racing seat permanently fixed to the chassis. In order to accommodate different sized drivers the pedals now offer fore and aft adjustment. Finished off with a six-speed sequential transmission housed in a lightweight magnesium casing as well as gargantuan 31cm-wide rear wheels, the 2017 911 RSR is one trick piece of racing machinery. One we can’t wait to see in action when it debuts in Daytona early next year. – Thomas Falkiner