Before officially making the transition to Le Mans 24 Hour racing following his impending retirement from the world of Formula 1, Mark Webber has been out on the track testing the latest model for his new team Porsche.
The popular Australian driver will officially join the Porsche set-up on January 1st 2014, but took the opportunity to take part in the last test session of the year for the endurance racing team.
He will be teaming up alongside fellow drivers and former winners of Le Mans, Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas, as well as Neel Jani.
The final laps of the year were carried out at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve near Portimao, Portugal.
After testing is complete in 2014, Porsche will enter LMP1 prototype race cars in the sports car World Endurance Championship (WEC) in April, before taking its place in the prestigious Le Mans 24 Hours event.
The new model from Porsche has to be highly efficient, as WEC regulations state that manufacturers must run hybrid vehicles in the top class for Le Mans Prototypes (LMP1). Therefore, the Porsche comes with a very efficient, high-performance hybrid drive system.
This includes a four-cylinder petrol engine with direct injection, in addition to two innovative energy recuperation systems. The energy created through this is stored until the driver has a need to use it.
An electric motor is also used in order to provide additional power to the front axle, limiting the amount of fuel that is used.
Speaking after his day of testing in Portimao, Webber said the first day of his involvement in the ambitious Porsche project was both “fascinating” and “intense” and thanked his Red Bull team for giving him permission to go and try out the car.
“This is a major and important step for us all. It allows me to integrate with the team quicker and to contribute to further developing the LMP1 race car. We have a long way to go and it involves a lot of hard work. I have no misconceptions about this,” the 37-year-old added.
Fritz Enzinger, head of Porsche LMP1, also showed his gratitude to the F1 team for granting Webber the opportunity to test the car so early.
The final test in Portugal was intended to test the suspension and tyre developers, with the latter carried out in collaboration with partner Michelin. It has undertaken previous tests on tracks throughout Europe, including Magny-Cours (France), Monza (Italy) and Paul Ricard (France), as well as on the Eurospeedway Lausitz (Germany).
Mr Enzinger went on to say the car has now made significant progress in its development process.
“Every single kilometre was important, providing us with new data that brought the development forward. The whole team has worked extremely hard and I would like to express my sincere thanks for this. Our efforts will continue unabated in 2014. Until the start of the season at Silverstone mid-April there is still a lot to do,” he said.
Early images of the car show it in a swirling, black and white, hypnotic paintwork, with the face of the vehicle demonstrating a 2×2 headlight design at the front of the wheel-arches.
One thing is for certain, it will be difficult for motoring enthusiasts to take their eyes of the car once it hits the track!