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Porsche 918 Spyder Race Track: A leaner green machine

Porsche 918 Spyder Prototype SideThe Porsche 918 Spyder will be an impressive car. Combining the performance of a supercar with the efficiency of a hybrid, it should prove that speed can be green. In case 780 combined horsepower isn’t enough, Porsche is preparing a more hardcore model. The 918 Spyder Race Track will lose some of the regular 918’s creature comforts in the name of better performance.

According to Autocar, the Race Track package will strip 66 pounds off the stock 918, which is expected to weigh just under 3,750 pounds. The 918 Spyder Race Track should weigh in around 3,684 lbs, which is pretty good for a car with two powertrains (a gasoline V8 and two electric motors), and a heavy 6.8 kWh lithium-ion battery pack.

Porsche fans might have heard this before, since Stuttgart has done the stripped-out track special thing with other models. The Boxster Spyder lacked door handles, a folding roof, and the sun visor over the instruments. Air conditioning and radio were both options. Porsche put the hardtop Cayman on a similar diet to create the Cayman R.

Both the Boxster Spyder and Cayman R had aluminum doors and other components, but since the 918 Spyder is already made from lightweight carbon fiber, that will be unnecessary. However, 918 buyers will be able to show off all that carbon fiber, because exterior paint will be optional on the 918 Spyder Race Track.

With its previous lightened models, Porsche charged more, even though the cars had fabric straps instead of door handles. Will it do the same with the 918 Spyder Race Track? A regular 918 already costs $845,000, so it will take a dedicated enthusiast to shell out even more for the stripped-down Race Track.

Even without the Race Track package, the 918 should be enough supercar for most people. Its 4.6-liter V8 and two electric motors combine to produce 780 horsepower and 552 pound-feet of torque. It is expected to sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds, and go over 200 mph.

What makes those numbers even more impressive is that the 918 is a plug-in hybrid. That means this Ferrari rival will return 78 mpg, by Porsche’s reckoning. We’ll have to wait until production begins on September 18, 2013 (get it!) to verify those numbers.

If the stock 918 Spyder turns out to be as good as Porsche claims, will a hardcore model like the Race Track be necessary? There probably will be a difference between the two, but it will be subjective. The 918 Spyder Race Track may not be much faster in a straight line, but it will probably be more fun to drive on, well, a race track. With less mass, going around corners will be a lot easier.

The 918 Spyder represents a new era for performance cars, but the 918 Spyder Race Track will show that not everything changes. There will still be diehard gearheads willing to forgo luxury for a better driving experience. It’s nice to see Porsche looking to those fans with this special model.