KM: That rock wall at the gym is not the same as a stroll on Kilimanjaro.
HK: That’s a little bit of the point. On the other hand, we have to accept that road-car performance today is derived from a completely different technology in certain areas than race-car technology. If you want to do an overall good job, you design a car and test it within its mechanical capabilities, and then you start working on the electronic system, like traction control, stability control, ABS, all these goodies you don’t have on a race car. Then on the race car you work with components that do not suit a road car.
KM: Years ago we had a similar conversation about this, and I asked you why we needed a GT3 Cup car with so much stuff in it. Why not a dumbed-down version with a standard gearbox, no electronics—and your point was that the development for the components in the GT3 Cup do, in fact, find their way into the road cars. There was no way to reverse the scenario, in essence meaning that someone might say, “Well, my 911 road car is so far technologically superior than a 911 race car.” You said that would not play in the market.
HK: Maybe I wasn’t really clear about this. The point is when you look at a road car, say the 918 Spyder with a 6:57 or a GT3 with 7:25 lap time on the Nürburgring, if you go back five years ago nobody would ever imagined that this would be possible. Marc Lieb, who is one of the best drivers of the Nordschleife when it comes to an RSR, and you ask him to compare how it feels to drive with an RSR, for instance, after Brunnchen he will lift at two spots and the rest is full throttle. And when you ask him about the 918, he will tell you that in the same part of the track he fully applies the brakes seven times and then accelerates again. Why ? For the very reason the 918 has significantly more horsepower and significantly less downforce, so these three elements—power to weight ratio, the availability of the torque with the electric motor, downforce and tires, meaning mechanical grip—are relevant elements. On a race car, it is completely different. GT cars have a significantly higher level of downforce than they had five years ago, and this has changed the entire picture. And there is one very important part why we don’t like that: Downforce creates resistance and resistance kills efficiency, and what we all are doing on the road car development is working very hard on improving efficiency.
KM: Would you have liked the GT3 Hamster hybrid project to continue?
HK: Sure, it was a really good car. We learned a lot about software. Also the philosophy and the understanding of how it feels to drive a car like that. For instance, a very single point, from a driver’s point of view, but technically very difficult solution is, you want to have always the same feeling when you apply the brakes, you don’t want to get the feeling of now it is recuperating, now it’s applying the mechanical brakes. And the challenge you are faced when you develop a system like that for a race car is a much bigger challenge, because when you go years back when Panoz had its hybrid car (Sparky), the drivers got crazy because they didn’t feel they could trust the car during braking. And we spent a lot of effort to solve that, of course, in the GT3 R Hybrid, and now we have all the necessary tools that it takes to develop these systems for road cars.
KM: On to the RSR effort for Daytona: Will they be new cars or will you rebuild the current WEC RSRs as development cars for that race ?