Alexander Hitzinger, Head of LMP1 development at Porsche, talks about the challenges Porsche faced on its return to the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) and the close cooperation with its technology partner DMG MORI.
Mr Hitzinger, what were the reasons that led Porsche to return to the LMP1 after such a long break?
A. Hitzinger __ Motor sport and the brand Porsche have always been very closely linked, so we see this theme as a flagship of the company in future as well. There are several reasons for our return to the LMP1 class: this is top-level motor sport and Porsche has a very successful history where endurance racing is concerned. We have also always kept close ties to the series and the regulations offer great scope for demonstrating technological innovations such as hybrid technology, for example.
Motor sport has developed greatly over the last few years from the point of view of organisation and technology. What were the biggest challenges you faced in this project and in the development of the Porsche 919 Hybrid?
A. Hitzinger __ The standards in the LMP1 class and the Le-Mans prototype field have risen considerably in the last ten years. The greatest challenge for our return after more than a decade and half was to build up an adequate organisational structure again. In the Development Department our personnel has expanded very quickly, from ten to begin with to now stand at 150 employees. We started from scratch with the development of the Porsche 919 Hybrid, because we had no basic vehicle and therefore no references to build on.
What experiences have you made in this first season on the racing track and with regard to the development of the vehicle?
A. Hitzinger __ We improved continuously from one race to the next in the last season and within the very shortest of times were able to start with an extremely competitive vehicle. In the qualifying rounds Porsche has meanwhile evolved as a standard of its own. We have a very steep learning curve to thank for this growing success, because continuous optimisation of the vehicle and processes is vital in motor sport. The performance of the team deserves special mention here, because we saw most of the racing tracks for the first time in the year 2014 and in this case too had no experience to fall back on. So we learnt a lot on every racing weekend as well as in every test and put this new knowledge to good use very quickly, both on the racing track and in development.
A one-two finish in what is only our second year is an amazing reward for the guts of our engineers regarding the 919 Hybrid’s concept, and the relentless efforts of our 230 team members. I have to thank this brilliant team that has been growing together over the last three and a half years. We knew we were a lot better prepared than last year, but no way could we expect this result. We didn’t benefit from any situations, but were on a winning level in every regard - be it the mechanics in the garage or the engineers doing the strategy.
You rely on the expertise of various suppliers in production. What criteria do you use to select these partners?
A. Hitzinger __ Absolute quality is our top priority, although the expertise of a company in motor sport is also decisive. Because this is a guarantee that a supplier operates at the required high-level of technology and can meet the short delivery times reliably. Costs also play a decisive role, because we have to stay within budget targets.
Before the season 2014 started you presented DMG MORI as a premium partner of the Porsche LMP1 racing team. What distinguishes this cooperation?
A. Hitzinger __ DMG MORI and Porsche are both technologically very innovative. This makes the companies a perfect match and is of course the basic condition for such a partnership. In addition many of our suppliers use DMG MORI machines. This in itself speaks in favour of the quality and precision of the machines as well as a high level of experience with motor sport components. We wish to exploit this know-how within the cooperation and to develop new and efficient manufacturing solutions for our sophisticated components. Such innovations are vital for success, especially where motor sports are concerned.
And you will then produce these components yourself?
A. Hitzinger __ Production will take place at DECKEL MAHO Seebach. DMG MORI has set up a department there dedicated solely to our applications. As we work so closely together we see this more or less as our own production. We ourselves use CNC technology from DMG MORI in Weissach for development work and prototype construction.
What do you expect from the cooperation with DMG MORI for the future and what are the aims with regard to motor sports?
A. Hitzinger __ Further optimization of our processes and the Porsche 919 Hybrid are in focus. By working closely with DMG MORI on our manufacturing techniques, we hope to cultivate a technological and efficiency edge that ultimately transfers to the racetrack. That is where we can continue the positive trend from last year – to secure as many podium finishes as possible.
Porsche Research and Development Centre in Weissach
The development is marked by its speed – less than two years between the decision to return to the top class of the Sports Car World Championship 2011 and the first appearance of the Porsche 919 Hybrid on the company’s own test track on 12th June 2013. In this time the Porsche Research and Development Centre in Weissach was extended to include a new office building and an LMP1 workshop for the Le Mans prototype. The team grew from zero to 230 racing experts, around 150 of whom are engineers. Machines, materials and components were procured – from high-voltage technology to a driving simulator. The most complex racing car Porsche has ever built was produced in record time. The car is the prototype for the future sustainable drive systems of the racing car manufacturer. The new efficiency regulations of the World Endurance Championship, which require a specific amount of energy per lap, were the decisive technological challenge that sparked Porsche’s return. The in-house development and realisation were the logical consequence. At the head of the Porsche team Enzinger (Head of LMP1), Alexander Hitzinger as Technical Director and the Team Manager Andreas Seidl.