What Is It?
It's been years since Porsche has fielded a factory team at the world-famous 24 Hours of Le Mans sports car race, held each year in June, but that's about to change. The brand used the 2014 Geneva Auto Show to officially reveal the all-new Porsche 919 Hybrid Le Mans prototype car, which will compete in this year's running of the famed race.
So what exactly is the 919 Hybrid? Despite its name, the 919 is a purpose-built race car, not just a derivative of the upcoming Porsche 918 Spyder supercar. It uses an unusual 2.0-liter V4 engine that makes around 500 horsepower and, as suggested by the name, employs a hybrid system that converts energy into electric power when braking.
While Porsche vehicles often compete at Le Mans in the GT class, the 919 Hybrid will run with the prototype cars -- akin to the major leagues compared to the GT class' minor leagues. Though prototype cars run on the track at the same time as GT racers, prototype cars are much faster and use designs not based on street cars. Last year's Le Mans Prototype category, commonly called LMP, featured cars from Audi, Toyota and others.
Will They Ever Sell It?
The 919 Hybrid will never see production, since it's a purpose-built race car. And unlike the Porsche 911 RSR also shown in Geneva, the 919 Hybrid won't be available for private race teams to buy for racing events across the world. Instead, this one will be left to the true professionals in Porsche's factory racing team.
Why It's Important
The Porsche 919 Hybrid is an important car for Porsche because it helps to establish the brand's commitment to racing. While Porsche often mentions its race pedigree and competition history, the automaker doesn't compete in many major racing events such as Formula 1 or, until now, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. As a result, the 919 Hybrid will help keep Porsche enthusiasts excited, even in the face of more wide-ranging road-going vehicles like the upcoming Macan SUV.