There were long faces in the pits during Petit Le Mans testing Sunday at Road Atlanta, because on-and-off rain showers drenched the 2.54-mile racing surface. But the "bad" weather provoked nothing but smiles in the Porsche Motorsport pits.
The factory team, in the U.S. preparing a racecar for the first time in the U.S. since 1998, has tested and raced the car in Germany earlier in the year, but always in dry conditions, and Dr. Daniel Armbruster, development systems manager for Porsche Motorsport, welcomed the chance to get performance data in the wet, and thinks the slippery conditions will only help the Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid.
"With the four-wheel-drive characteristics and additional torque vectoring provided by the two electric motors on the front axle, it gives us good traction in rainy conditions," he said.
Former Porsche factory driver Mike Rockenfeller, on loan to Porsche this weekend from the Audi factory, agrees, and said his stint in the rain this morning gave him a glimpse of what the car can do in the rain.
"It's great to be back in a Porsche 911 racecar and be reminded of the traction you get as a driver, but the added four-wheel drive and torque of the Hybrid system will be a big advantage in the wet," said Rockenfeller, who is trying to become the first driver in racing history to win the 24 Hours of Daytona, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and Petit Le Mans all in the same year. "But we are still working on the dry-track setup for the car as well, so I hope we can get some dry laps in today as well," said Rockenfeller.
Dr. Armbruster also noted that track configuration at Road Atlanta really enhances the Porsche Hybrid's strengths.
"For our hybrid system, Road Atlanta is a very fine track, because you have uphill/downhill and lots of curves, so you can drive through a corner and store energy, and then accelerate with the power up the hill," he explained. "We have adapted the software for the characteristics of the track, and we got in lots of testing yesterday, so we are making even more adjustments after we received driver input from Bernhard and Rockenfeller. When the system is optimized, it gives us both additional performance and reduced fuel consumption."
The Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid, which demonstrated the potential of its groundbreaking technology over 22 hours and 15 minutes at this year's Nurburgring 24 hour race and led the overall classification for more than eight hours, exemplifies the philosophy of "Porsche Intelligent Performance." Under braking, the 911 GT3 R Hybrid converts kinetic energy into electrical energy and stores it in a flywheel. During acceleration, this energy is automatically delivered to the front wheels, supporting the combustion engine. This leads to a reduction in fuel consumption and increases the cruising range. Moreover, drivers can manually utilize the stored energy with a boost-paddle on the steering wheel for passing.
ALMS testing resumes Wednesday afternoon, with official practice for Saturday's 1,000-mile Petit Le Mans set to begin on Thursday.