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The technical regulations for the 2017 FIA WEC World Endurance Championship introduce further limitations in terms of the dimensions of some body components that affect aerodynamics. In an effort to increase safety, the new measurements reduce the downforce of the LMP1 prototypes, which in turn lowers the vehicle’s cornering speed for safety reasons. Based on the new specifications and developmental findings, the Porsche engineers devised two brand-new aerodynamics packages for the 919 Hybrid – driven, of course, by a desire to compensate for the increased lap times resulting from the regulatory requirements.
In 2016, Porsche delivered three aerodynamics packages for the season, but the new regulations have also imposed limits on numbers. Andreas Seidl: “Limiting teams to two aerodynamics packages per season is a sensible cost-control measure”.
One of the new aerodynamics packages is specifically designed for the high-speed track at Le Mans. To achieve maximum top speeds on the extremely long straight sections, the package design focuses on minimising air resistance. The second aerodynamics package compensates for a higher level of drag with greater downforce for tracks with twists and turns. Track-specific fine-tuning is still permitted, but in general, 2017 will involve a higher level of compromise than was the case with the three aerodynamics packages of the previous year.
A key focus for the engineers was to design the front end of the vehicle to be less aerodynamically sensitive. Seidl continues: “In 2016, the front end of the vehicle was accumulating small amounts of abraded rubber from the track surface. This rubber built up and upset the balance of the vehicle. We analysed this phenomenon and optimised the relevant bodywork components.”
When comparing a front view of this year’s 919 to the previous year’s model, the higher, wider and longer wheel arches immediately catch the eye. To the side, the new channel from the monocoque to the wheel arch is visible, along with the redesigned rear air intakes for the radiators.
“As a result of the aerodynamic losses we will incur due to the new regulations, we are expecting to see a three to four-second increase in lap times at Le Mans,” explains Seidl. “We will have to wait and see how well the various enhancements we have made will compensate for these losses.”