I first saw the Porsche 919 in 2014
at a pre-season test session. While the cars now retired
four years later and it's a Le Mans legend.
A Le Mans winning legend. And Porsche it's gonna let me drive it. But before I was allowed anywhere
near the real thing, I had to go to Germany to drive it
in virtual reality. Behind me is the Porsche 919 simulator where the Le Mans winning drivers
practice their craft in this very, very complicated machine. It's like the world's most glamorous
computer game really.
Imagine Toca 2, but costing well over
a million quid. I've heard that a lot of people
get sick in these things so I'm a little bit nervous.
I've not been in one before. Let's give it a go. It feels preposterously fast. I mean, I'm just through third gear
in no time at all. Now you can sit
for most of the main straight at 185, 186 miles an hour. Beautiful Spain laid out ahead of us. Now, this bottom corner. Would you believe it's 6th gear. It certainly isn't for me. This is remarkable. Last time I was here
I was breaking everywhere.
Wing it over the years. Slide. If you try and gas it
with any steering lock on at all I think it's a very expensive…
Oh, that's off. What's "bollocks" in German? That really is not a game.
It's not a sit and have a great fun. You think it's the ultimate game,
it's not. It's confined, there's not a lot of air in there,
even with the fan. I find it quite unpleasant
the way the screen moves. And so the euphoric
I'm about to have a great time going in a big fun computer game thing
I was like about 20 minutes ago, yeah, I'd rather be drinking a pint
of rancid milk right now. And before I left I had a poke
around a very special 919: The Evo version.
A souped-up special that Porsche
was sending on a global roadshow to beat lap times and prove
just how fast this car could have been under looser racing regulations. Well, we're in, and would you believe it,
because if you saw him stood next to me, I fit Mark Webber's seat. It's just getting the leverage
on the wheel because you have to put
quite a bit of energy into the wheel.
The cornering speeds are so high. Its sixth gear through the first… Through turns two and three
is sixth– Well, it's getting up into sixth gear.
It's bonkers, it's flat-out. Last time we went there Neil I think we were braking
going down to third. It's tight in here,
but the packaging is beautiful. Everything's on the steering wheel. Ferrari think they've got lots of buttons
on the 458. No, this has more buttons. Roughly speaking 1,200 horsepower,
880 kilograms. Do the mathematics on that. Eight hundred and eighty kilograms,
1,200 horsepower, four-wheel drive. And it was quicker than a Formula One car
in qualifying spec. So, what is a 919? Well, it's a mid-engined endurance racer
designed to win Le Mans, which it did a few times.
It is the most complex car I've ever seen. Using a turbocharged 2-litre V4
internal combustion engine, powering the rear wheels
with around 500 horsepower and a single electric motor
for the front wheels, with another 500 horsepower too. That's around a thousand horsepower
in this configuration. Four-wheel drive, massive downforce and less than 900 kilograms. It will marmalize anything less
than a Formula One car and is reliable enough to do so
for 24 hours. And probably more. It's a very, very special
and complicated machine and is tended to by a vast team of people. First up, some familiarization laps
on wet tyres and a slightly damp track. Okay, so, this is the 919. Weather's not been brilliant. The most complicated racing car
ever made, I think.
Porsche letting us drive it
here at Aragón. Wow. So, what's it like? Well… Immediately, the controls feel easy, nothing too intimidating about them. Not much feel through the brake pedal.
I'll try and go a bit quicker. A little bit damp here in places. Well immediately it's up to the max. A bit of vibration
so I can't see too much. I'm doing 185 miles an hour. Without the car even thinking about it. The back straight feels like
it goes on forever. What's it like into this big turn
at the bottom? I gather it's a bit quick.
And then just feel the downforce. The boost out the corners. With the hybrid, the electricity
is savage. And then it just goes! Fantastic thing. With all the complication it feels… quite simple to drive. Don't be too aggressive on the way in,
don't get on the throttle too early. It's that initial boost that it's just bloody addictive. Because the car feels a bit different
in every corner. There is a sense that it is doing stuff
that I don't know about. Well, it's more like a… bloody spaceship than a car.
What a thing. The traction it develops and the speed
it wants to carry through the corners. I'm not even scratching the surface here. I can't believe it's doing this
on a wet tyre.
Think what's going on underneath me,
all the electricity, the internal combustion engine,
differentials. It's just so much going on. Feel the bloody G-forces there. What a bloody machine! This is the spiritual successor
to the 917. Utterly dominant! Just engineering employed
to crush a racing circuit. It's sensational. I've never driven a racing car
that feels like it's doing more thinking around the lap than me. Learn to ride a bicycle and your father
or your mother's behind you, and the stabilizers are coming off
and they're holding a seat, that's how this car feels it's… However hard you feel you're concentrating and whatever inputs
you're putting into the car it feels like the car's doing more
and being cleverer. The way that it deploys its performance
on the circuit according to what it knows, takes some adjusting to, because you think that you will make
compensations for that, but the car is already doing it. So what you end up doing is going
doubly slowly in places because you could just stay flat
and let the car sort it out.
And on the back straight through…
the final corner onto the back straight I was just lifting because I thought
it's a bit damp here. If you just stay flat it brings the boost in
when you need the boost. I mean, it's so clever…
so clever And what's remarkable is that
through all of this cleverness transpires a really rather lovely,
simple driving experience. You just get in it, turn the wheel,
hit the pedals, it does what you want to do. G-forces are a bit extreme
for an old man like myself. A mind-blowing experience really because
it just drags performance out the circuit. I've done a few laps on slicks,
it's a bit damp, but I'd love to do some more.
If that's my only ever run in a 919,
I'm a happy man. Wow! Just imagine if it was your company
race car. Neel Yani's over there somewhere.
I'd better go and shake his hand. Talk me through this thing then, because
there's so much technology in the car, but you have to harness it
to help you. Yeah, you have to understand
the technology, you have to understand the hybrid,
the particular engine, and then use it to your benefit.
Because if you don't quite understand it
it can quite quickly work against you. So it's worth it to sit down
and usually with the engineers and have a look at the data,
as you just did before just to understand what you can do
as a driver to use it for your benefit. So given your racing background did it
take time to adapt to this type of car? I grew up with that car to be honest, because that car was completely new,
we build it and I was there in the whole
development phase, so basically we grew together
you can say. But we figured out that, you know, because the energy is limited
we can use from the battery a lot, so we want to use it
the most efficient way and that's 100 percent at one goal. The bit that I found really interesting
was how much the car wanted to almost coast through the apex. It felt I could carry incredible speed
off the throttle. Come off the throttle and just turn
the car, it wanted to rotate.
And there's a big amount of grip
down the side of the car. I was just waiting for it to do this
and it just didn't– If I tried that in my GT3 car
I would just spin. Yeah, well, that's a narrow car and we have to hide down
for speed on there. And the level until you can swing the car
really needs a lot.
But that's for me a real racing car,
you know. It's you, the person is linear,
and not the machine. So now with some confidence
and words of wisdom from Neel, it's time to push on
as hard as I dare. Apologies for sounding so knackered, but it was tough to drive and talk
at the same time. Right, I'm on slicks now. Automatically the car feels
much, much more alive. It's so clever,
however hard I feel I'm thinking, I think it's doing more thinking than me
around the circuit. You can feel it managing power, torque. Sailing. Acceleration. When to do things,
when not to do things. Oh, the way it comes out
of that turn, is just one of the best feelings. G-forces are high. I've been driving this thing
for 25 minutes. And I will be knackered. Downforce. The traction.
The mid-corner grip. The way that you can just roll it
into a corner off throttle. How un-Porsche is that? This is a car that likes
a turning throttle into a corner. Who'd have thought it? Somehow they fashioned from all this
complication, they fashioned a car that is intuitive and fun to drive.
Out of this corner now by the way,
I stay flat, and the computer decides when to deploy
the boost. It's all done according to mapping.
So I don't have to worry. The first few laps I did
I was holding off then, because I thought I had
better control the boost. But actually, the car was doing it,
not me! The car was saying
don't be stupid on this corner. I'll give you the boost
when you're ready. And that's the most intense thing
I've done in a racing car. The way that it deploys
all of its power, and performs differently for each corner
is amazing. You have to sort of let go
of what you think should happen. In the history of Porsche racing cars
it's right up there.
962, 956, 917. All of them! My neck is shattered. It's like a workout. How they do it for so long I don't know. With a combination of that little
V4 engine and an electric motor just proves that the hybrid future
could still be pretty bloody exciting. The speed you can carry just by rolling the car off throttle
is incredible. Every time I thought I'd go a bit faster and just roll the car through
the slow corners, it turns so well.
High speed is amazing I was backing off
onto the main straight, but, of course, the engine map
is managing the boost anyway and the electricity anyway
so if you stay flat if does it for you. But I was just trying to build my way in,
you know. Seven laps is not so much
when you're trying to build in. It's the most astonishing motorcar. I've never driven a car that feels like
it's thinking its way around the circuit. Thank you very much for
letting me drive it. Thank you..