Road America: Thursday Notebook
This weekend’s Generac 500 presented by Time Warner Cable will mark the second race that both Penske Racing Porsche RS Spyders will compete with a new 3.4-liter direct fuel injection engine. The development by Porsche Motorsport has moved away from a standard port fuel injected motor and toward a more powerful and more efficient powerplant in the LMP2 car for the American Le Mans Series.
|Direct fuel injection Porsche engine|
The project can be traced back to 2004, more than a year before the racing debut of the RS Spyder at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The decision to transition to DFI technology came in November after extensive simulations, dyno tests and studies showed further competitive advantages even after Penske posted eight LMP2 victories and 11 class pole positions in 2007.
Ironically enough in a Series that stresses the development of technology that passes from the track to the production showrooms, Porsche’s road car department simultaneously started work toward DFI with the motorsport branch for track use. The Porsche Cayenne has been equipped with DFI since 2007 with the Porsche 911 production car slated to receive the upgrade for 2009.
“There is an automotive link between the motorsports and road car departments,” said Thomas Lauderbach, Porsche’s Head of Motorsport Powertrain. “Motorsport can affect road car development. We can learn from them and they can learn from us.”
Based on power and efficiency data collected at this year’s running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans (where two Porsche RS Spyders placed 1-2 in the Michelin Energy Endurance Challenge), Porsche data showed that DFI technology improved torque by 4 percent and power by 5 percent. At the same time, fuel consumption decreased by 5 percent.
THEIR FIRST TIME: Thursday saw the first meaningful seat time for Audi’s Marcel Fässler and James Rossiter for Andretti Green Racing. Both are driving in their first American Le Mans Series race this weekend.
Rossiter joined AGR and Acura after a stint as an F1 test drive for both BAR-Honda and Super Aguri (coincidentally, the same team for which seatmate Franck Montagny tested and competed). Fässler is in his first race as an Audi factory driver and boasts experience and victories in touring cars, single seaters and sports cars, including an Audi FSI-powered Lola in Europe last year for Swiss Spirit.
“I wouldn’t say that it was a low-level project but this is at another level,” said Fässler, who drove a Corvette C6.R at the 24 Hours of Spa last weekend. “The torque in the R10 TDI is a huge difference and it’s very difficult to go fast in this car. The biggest issue is the transition from a GT car to a prototype. It’s a completely different type of driving, plus the fact that I have not had much experience with the Audi.”
Rossiter saw both the Road America circuit and the seat of a prototype for the first time Thursday. One of the biggest adjustments?
“You are offset in this car compared to an open-wheel car, which is definitely different,” Rossiter said. “You have to learn how wide the car is on one side and how narrow it is on another. But it handles very similarly to an open-wheel car, which is very impressive. The traffic during the session was interesting, as well. The variety of speeds at one time is something I am not used to.”
FAST LANE: It comes as no surprise that Road America ranks as the fastest circuit on the American Le Mans Series schedule. In fact, three of the five fastest qualifying times recorded in Series history have come at Road America.
Allan McNish posted the fastest qualifying lap of them all at Road America last year, a 135.353 mph pass in an Audi R10 TDI.
|Flying Lizard Porsche|
“It’s very fast and very technical,” said Flying Lizard Motorsports’ Jörg Bergmeister, a four-time winner at Road America in GT2. “In terms of setup, I expect that we’ll run a pretty stiff car here; it's a fairly smooth track with lots of fast corners. The setup is definitely more for high speed than at Mid-Ohio, which is a slower-speed track.”