Porsche's 918 Spyder Power Reinvented in the New 963 GTP Hypercar

Porsche’s 918 Spyder Power Reinvented in the New 963 GTP Hypercar

The last time a V8 powered a Porsche prototype racing car was over two decades ago, in the RS Spyder, which participated in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) LMP2 class. The LMP2 car may have had some growing pains at initially, but overall it was incredibly successful, winning the championship title every year it competed in the series from 2006 to 2008. When Porsche and Penske Motorsport returned to the next-generation Prototype class in both IMSA and WEC, it was only natural for the crew to draw on its prosperous past. The V8 engine of the 963, which will be on display this weekend at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, is a direct descendant of the Porsche V8 that dominated the ALMS and powered the road-going 918 Spyder hypercar.

At IMSA’s last test for the Prototype class in December, Jalopnik spoke with Thomas Laudenbach, VP of Porsche Motorsports. In the mid-2000s, Laudenbach was the head of the engine department for Porsche and Penske Motorsport’s LMP2 efforts. The 3.4-litre V8 that powered the winning vehicles served as the foundation for the new 963’s 4.6-litre twin-turbo V8.


Porsche's 918 Spyder Power Reinvented in the New 963 GTP Hypercar


“Obviously, it had a lesser cubic capacity at the time, but it’s the same construction,” Laudenbach told Jalopnik. However, the 3.4-litre would go through one more transformation before becoming the 963.

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Porsche wanted an engine that could function with the necessary hybrid system used by all GTP hypercar participants for the 2023 IMSA season. Fortunately, the firm had prior experience manufacturing vehicles that combined a hybrid powertrain with a V8. “If you go into a series motivated by cost containment, you think about what we have in-house,” Laudenbach said. “Basically it was simply putting it on the table and saying, why shouldn’t we utilise the 918 Spyder as a basis? ”

The V8 architecture of the LMP2 was used in the 918. However, adjustments were necessary to fulfil pollution restrictions and other legal criteria that varied from racing. The mid-engine plug-in hybrid was powered by a naturally aspirated 4.6-litre V8 generating 608 horsepower, with an extra 286 hp provided by the car’s two electric motors located at the front and back.


Porsche's 918 Spyder Power Reinvented in the New 963 GTP Hypercar


In a field that included Cadillac’s hearty normally aspirated V8 and Acura’s twin-turbocharged V6, Porsche’s twin-turbo V8 split the gap. The choice of a V8 engine came down to what Porsche experts thought would fit best in the standard hypercar. “The engine bears the weight of the back axle,” Laudenbach said. “A structural engine was thus required. Then you had to select how many cylinders you want — and there was no reason to go with six. While a six-cylinder engine would have resulted in less internal friction, Laudenbach said that since the location of the rear wheels (and hence the transaxle) was set, a six-cylinder would need a lengthy spacer to mate with the gearbox.

Laudenbach also mentioned all of the design elements that would be considered on a racing vehicle like this: minimal weight, the centre of gravity, engine compartment space, and even the stress on the pistons. After considering all of the factors, it was agreed that the engine would have to be a V8.

The 918 Spyder has been on the market for more than a decade. That meant a decade of new technology to consider when the engine was being built for contemporary endurance racing. Porsche fitted two turbochargers to improve power output and meet the ACO’s power curve. Turbocharging also allowed the Porsche Penske team to add extra power if the regulations allowed it.

Turbocharging required the cylinder heads’ cold and hot sides to be flipped. The innovative hot-inside-vee configuration aids in engine packing in the 963 while keeping the body aerodynamically streamlined and within specification.

The Porsche Penske Motorsport garage also had to consider the GTP class fuel mix: 60% sustainable gasoline to begin the 2023 season, climbing to 100% sustainable gasoline later on. Laudenbach said that the new fuel necessitated tuning tweaks to the 963’s V8, and that the same will apply when the gasoline composition is altered in the future.

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