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Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid

Unique racing 911 points to the future of road-going Porsches.

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For Porsche Motorsport the unique GT3R Hybrid is a racing laboratory, built to test ideas and develop world-leading technology. The team believe it is at least a year ahead of other manufacturers in terms of KERS technology, and there’s no question that the lessons learned with this programme will influence future Porsche road cars. With this fledgling technology already delivering significantly increased efficiency, performance and excitement, this remarkable and addictive car proves a cleaner, greener future should hold no fears for Porsche fans.

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Think ‘hybrid’ and the chances are you immediately think of the worthy, but decidedly unexciting Toyota Prius. Well now you can think again, thanks to Porsche Motorsport’s heart-pounding 911 GT3 R Hybrid.

Built to compete in May’s gruelling Nürburgring 24-hour race (an event it came within just a few hours of winning outright), the GT3 R Hybrid is a pure racing car that doubles as a rolling laboratory for Porsche’s engineering boffins.

Built around a 480bhp GT3-spec 911 racer, the GT3 R Hybrid has an extra 160bhp kick in the pants, thanks to a pair of electric motors that drive the front wheels on-demand.

The motors are powered by a KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) similar to that featured in Formula 1 last season.

Put simply, the 911’s KERS uses a generator mounted between the front wheels to gather energy (a bit like a dynamo on a bicycle) that would otherwise be wasted during braking. Because today’s battery technology isn’t able to absorb such high levels of charge as quickly as the KERS system can generate it, this braking energy is instead used to spin a flywheel - made from aluminium and carbon fibre - at speeds of up to 40,000rpm. Once up to speed, when you pull the paddle this stored kinetic energy is used to generate electrical energy, which is then used to power the motors that drive the front wheels. Simple. Sort of.

It takes an incredibly complex and sophisticated system to harness such simple physics, but the upshot you have a 30 per cent power boost at your fingertips, for bursts of up to 8sec.

Driving the car in a private test at the Eurospeedway near Berlin in Germany we discover just what this feels like. It takes a few laps for the KERS system to become fully charged (you hear it whirring away menacingly from the passenger side of the cockpit), but once the dashboard indicator is lit the small metal paddle delivers a tremendous and immediate surge of acceleration.

As the GT3 R is powered by a howling 4-litre, 480bhp flat-six petrol engine, it’s hardly sluggish to begin with, but when you pull on the magic paddle it’s as though you’re being hurled along by some unseen hand.

It takes a lap or two to find the confidence to unleash the extra go in anything other than a straight line, but when you do the added power and torque is deployed seamlessly. Indeed far from upsetting the GT3 R Hybrid’s handling it can actually aid it, thanks to the supplementary propulsion being transmitted through the front wheels. The only downside is the weight of the KERS hardware, which totals 150kg.

Nevertheless pulling that paddle is an addictive sensation, and one that would most certainly bring a new dimension to a high-performance road car. We might just find out when Porsche launches it’s spectacular 918 Spyder hybrid supercar late this year…

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