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Porsche Makes A Major Announcement

Will Porsche make a big splash in Formula e in 2019? [photo courtesy Formula e]

Will Porsche make a big splash in Formula e in 2019? [photo courtesy Formula e]

Turk’s Tracks
A Few Loose Lug Nuts from Pit Row

by Gene Turk

Earlier this year, I wrote an article about Formula E racing series and how the series was growing. Well, it looks like Porsche will now be a major player in the Formula E series. Porsche made the announcement just a few weeks ago that is to be competing in the 2019 season. Porsche management stated that their strategy for 2025 includes battery powered sports cars like the Mission E car that is due for production and sales to the public in the near future. But there is a second part to their announcement.

Porsche also released a statement saying that they are pulling out of the LMP1(LeMans Prototype 1) series, but will continue being active in the GT series. Now, what is behind this is that many of the sports car builders believe that they have gone just about as far as they can go with the piston engine. We know that Porsche is an innovator and has had a stellar career in sports car racing and has been successful with many of their race cars. Thus, one can only think that Porsche’s racing division management did not make this decision to go into Formula E on a whim. I have to believe that Porsche is in it to win it.

Although Porsche will end its involvement in LMP1 at the end of the 2017 racing season, it will keep its LMP1 team intact and active as they prepare for their 2019 Formula E debut. In fact, they already have a car under development. This team will be kept busy due to some major rule changes for the Formula E series 2019 season. The biggest changes include the fact that each car builder can now develop their own chassis. The other new rule change is that the manufacturer is now free to design and build their own batteries, motors, control units, etc. What I found the most interesting news from Porsche is that they believe a new battery technology will allow them to complete the full race on a single charge. Then we add the fact that Audi, Jaguar, and Renault are also involved in Formula E. 2018 has to be an interesting year with all of these talented and unique engineers working on all new electric race cars.

The 2019 racing season in Formula E will require a major change in how the teams approach a race. First off, the pit stops can be very fast. It should be just a tire change, no fuel. Worse case would be a minor chassis adjustment. Secondly, tune-ups won’t be done by twisting wrenches or turning screw drivers. It will now be done by plugging in a laptop. Also, engines will no longer need to be torn down for rebuilding after a race. Thus a major cost savings for the teams. As a side note, the electric motors that are presently flying in electric power airplanes have an estimated service life of 250,000 hours-that’s hours, not miles before they need any maintenance done. I can’t help believe that the days of blown engines with a connecting rod going through the oil pan just might be numbered.

Porsche may not be the only one who believes that they have gone as far as they can with the internal combustion engine. An east coast custom motorcycle builder recently made a statement that he has hit a ceiling in any future development of his high horsepower motorcycles. His special custom cycle’s engines produce 155 HP and 165 LB-FT of torque. It says he will only build electric motorcycles from now on. His new bikes will produce 175 HP and a whopping 290 LB–FT of torque. He is now selling his $155,000 motorcycles for a bargain basement price of $150,000 (some big savings!).

What I am finding the most interesting aspect of these announcements is the fact that what is learned on the race track does slowly find its way into the cars that you can buy off the showroom floor.

Historically, battery improvements have been slow with no major break-through within a short period of time. We used the heavy lead acid battery for 100 years in our cars. We have Nicads, then nickle metal hydrate, then lithium polymer and lithium ion. What has happen over time is that the batteries have gotten lighter, the capacity has gone up (amp-hours) the discharge rate (amps) has increased and the charging time has gone down. The future for electric cars sure looks exciting. I wonder who will be the first driver to be given the nickname of Sparky?

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Gene Turk
Gene Turk was born with racing in his blood. At age 8 he started racing Quarter Midgets as member of the Great Milwaukee Quarter Midget club. For five years he raced the #7 car that his father built. He then graduated from the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) with a degree in Industrial Engineering and Internal Combustion Engineering. While in college he obtained his Private Pilot’s License. Along the way he has attended numerous Indy car and stock car races at the Milwaukee Mile during the 60s, 70sand 80s along with area Midget car races. He would also frequently fly to the Brickyard to watch the Indy 500 time trials in the 60s and 70s and more recently attended the 2014 Indy 500. He has also attended numerous sports car and NASCAR races at Elkhart Lake Road America. Finally, Gene has owned many classic cars including his present 1990 Corvette and is a self-described “Gear Head.”