Much of the Porsche 911’s cachet is built on its racing success, so the company has to make sure its flagship sports car keeps winning. Just as the 911 must battle numerous rivals in showrooms, the racing versions have to duke it out with the likes of the Chevrolet Corvette, Ferrari 488, and more in international competition.
So for the 2017 racing season, Porsche will up its game with a new version of the 911 RSR race car. It differs from 911 road cars in one big way: it’s mid-engined. While road-going 911s are rear-engined, Porsche moved the RSR’s engine ahead of the rear axle. This allowed engineers to improve aerodynamics by fitting a massive rear diffuser, which works with a rear spoiler adapted from Porsche’s 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning 919 Hybrid racer.
This isn’t the first time Porsche has radically modified the 911 for racing duty. The 935, one of Porsche’s most successful race cars ever, was ostensibly based on the 911, but shared little more than a basic silhouette with it. The 1990s 911 GT1 was a 911 in name only, but it did score a Le Mans victory for Porsche in 1998.
The RSR’s misplaced engine is a 4.0-liter flat-six that produces 510 horsepower. You can actually get more power than that in a road-going 911 Turbo, but Porsche is limited by the rules of the series it will race the RSR in. Plus, the race car weighs just 2,470 pounds, so it’s not like there’s a lot of bulk to push around. The engine is mated to a six-speed sequential gearbox.
Race cars usually don’t come with many electronic driver aids, but the 911 RSR does feature a radar-based “Collision Avoid System” that warns the driver of approaching traffic. The RSR is designed for endurance racing, where purpose-built prototypes like Porsche’s 919 Hybrid share the track with slower cars based on production models, so the driver may have to get out of the way of those faster cars.
The 2017 Porsche 911 RSR will make its racing debut at the Daytona 24-hour race in January. It will compete in 19 races in 2017, covering the U.S.-based IMSA WeatherTeach SportsCar Championship as well as the FIA World Endurance Championship, which includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.