With 300,000 in attendance and millions more watching around the world, failure in the 24 Hours of Le Mans can be a public experience.

Toyota found that last year and Mercedes-Benz years earlier, when its automobiles started becoming airborne.

Why do so many automobile manufacturers adopt the risk-reward challenge that’s the world’s oldest endurance race? Because it’s a special laboratory — where technology and data are developed which will find its way to street cars.

Le Mans has become the focal point for development of automotive technologies, from ancient road-paving technology, disk brakes, hybrid engines and, most recently, LED headlight technology.

Porsche, for one, has an extensive history with the Circuit de la Sarthe; you will find the notorious and breathtaking Porsche Curves, a section of the track that veteran drivers describe as “not the place to have an off{}”

Racing is conducted in either the top-tier LMP1 class, with its 919 Hybrid sports prototype car, and at the LMGTE course, where race cars and street cars share a much closer resemblance.

“The carry-over is a fascinating point in Porsche Motorsport because we are creating the GT cars and the race cars at the same section under my direction, so we look always on carry-over,” states Frank-Steffen Walliser, vice-president of motorsport in Porsche. “A lot of this suspension technologies, particularly on the damper, we know 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 road-car and race-car development grow under a single roof, technology transfer is organic.

“The aero men are exactly 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.

Additionally, road-car technology can find its way into the racetrack. The camera and radar system used by the Porsche team this season is derived from its street cars.

So what does the future hold, and what could be learned from an automobile that looks so far removed from a daily driver, like the LMP1 919 Hybrid?

“By the end of the decade, Porsche will establish its complete electric e-car,” states Michael Steiner, a part of Porsche’s executive board. “For this, we learn a great deal from our LMP race car.”

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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