With 300,000 in attendance and millions watching the world around, failure in the 24 Hours of Le Mans can be a experience.
When its automobiles began becoming airborne Toyota found Mercedes-Benz years and that year previously.
Why do so many automobile manufacturers and the challenge that’s the world’s oldest race embrace? Where technology and data are developed — because it’s a laboratory which will find its way.
Le Mans has become the focal point for development of technology, from hybrid engines, disc brakes, early technology and, most recently, LED headlight technology.
Porsche, for one, has an extensive history with the Circuit de la Sarthe; you will find even the stunning and infamous Porsche Curves, a part of the track which veteran drivers describe as “not the place to have an off.”
Racing is conducted with its 919 Hybrid prototype car, in the class, and at the LMGTE class, where street cars and race cars share a resemblance.
“The carry-over is an interesting point in Porsche Motorsport because we are developing the GT cars and the race cars at the same division under my leadership, so we look always on carry-over,” states Frank-Steffen Walliser, vice-president of motorsport in Porsche. “A lot of the suspension technology, particularly on the damper, we learn a great deal for the installation of the car … I’d say [to] look at the brand new cars from Porsche in a year and you will find features that are 1:1 from the street car from the race car.”
By having race-car and road-car development develop under one roof, technology transfer is organic.
“The aero men are the same, suspension men are the same, they are doing the road car and doing the race car. It’s the exact same team,” Walliser states.
Road-car technology can find its way. The camera and radar system used by the Porsche team is derived from its street cars.
What does the future hold, and what could be learned from a vehicle that looks far removed from a driver, like the LMP1 919 Hybrid?
“By the end of the decade, Porsche will start its electric e-car,” states Michael Steiner, a part of Porsche’s executive board. “For this we learn a lot from our LMP race car.”