The streets of London resounded to the sound of the Porsche 919 Hybrid Le Mans winner this week, as FIA World Endurance Championship title holder Mark Webber drove the 900bhp racing monster through the heart of the capital on an exciting early-morning promotional run.
Taking in classic locations such as Park Lane, Piccadilly, Charing Cross, the Embankment, Parliament Square and Westminster, the demo was accompanied by a Porsche convoy including the new Panamera 4 E-Hybrid ahead of its official debut at the forthcoming Paris motor show.
Forget the 919 Hybrid’s 210mph top speed; despite eight police outriders forming a rolling road block, the rush-hour traffic meant 10-15mph was more realistic. And such slow progress brought its own issues for the radical all-wheel-drive racing prototype.
Webber, who used only the four-cylinder engine, said afterwards: “The 919 Hybrid put up a bit of a challenge in terms of being able to go that slowly. The car is built to be a flying machine and take in a lot of air for cooling.”
The Australian has driven in several Red Bull Racing Formula 1 street demos before, but explained that this run was a much bigger challenge: “There were a lot of firsts for me. The length of the course was unique [compared to other demos], and it was dark – which we could obviously never do in an F1 car.”
He added that thanks to the darkness, the fact the 919’s windscreen is essentially cut in half by the sunshield required for endurance racing, and his high levels of driving concentration, he couldn’t take in many iconic London landmarks such as the top of Big Ben or much of Trafalgar Square.
“I was keen to miss cyclists, traffic lights, junctions and kerbs. The kerbs were a really nasty height for that car, so I couldn’t risk touching them,” he explained. He also had to concentrate on negotiating tight corners and junctions, and avoiding bottoming out on bumpy road surfaces.
He finished: “To do things like this is great. London is a global city full of international people. There’s always something interesting that pops up in London – and this morning it was us.”