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Porsche’s Le Mans Prototype gets four-cylinder hybrid powertrain to rival Audi R18

Audi isn’t the only carmaker with a hybrid Le Mans Prototype (LMP) race car.

At the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, corporate sibling Porsche will strive for victory with a hybrid of its own.

Competing in the same top LMP1 class as the Audi R18 e-tron quattro and Toyota TS030 Hybrid, the Porsche will feature a four-cylinder, direct-injected gasoline engine and two sources of electrical energy recovery. Unlike the R18, the Porsche LMP stores electricity in an onboard battery pack that sends to a motor, powering the front wheels in short bursts as needed by the driver.

On paper, the Porsche LMP1 seems a bit outgunned by its rivals.

The Audi R18 e-tron quattro has previously raced with a turbo diesel V6 and a single electric motor which, as in the Porsche, powers the front wheels when the driver calls for extra power. The Toyota TS030 uses a gasoline V8 and a single electric motor that sends power to the rear wheels.

Thanks to recently-revised rules governing the LMP1 class, this amount of variability is allowed. If nothing else, it should be interesting to see how these three different powertrains fare over 24 hours of racing.

While the Audi R18 e-tron quattro has a proven track record – it won Le Mans in 2012 and 2013 – Porsche has a Le Mans legacy of its own.

Porsche has won Le Mans more than any other manufacturer, and created classic racers like the 917 – driven by Steve McQueen in the movie Le Mans – to do it. The company is also no stranger to hybrids, as the superlative 918 Spyder attests.

Can this new hybrid put Weissach on the podium once again? Tune in this June when Porsche, Audi, and Toyota hybrids mix it up on the track.