Exotic Cars

Porsche goes endurance racing with...wait, is that a mid-engine 911 RSR?!

Totally rebuilt from the ground up with a tradition-breaking, mid-engine layout, the Porsche 911 RSR hits the track with the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Daytona in its sights.

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Josh Miller/CNET

This may look like yet another 991 series Porsche 911 hotted up to go racing, but beneath the familiar sheet metal almost everything about this, the Porsche 911 RSR endurance racer, has been redesigned from scratch. However, the most mental and fundamental change for this 911 is that its engine is mounted amidships.

Porsche designed and built two examples of the 911 RSR to compete in the FIA World Endurance Championship and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, which famously include the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Daytona 24 Hours races, respectively.

The RSR's 4.0-liter, water-cooled flat-six engine makes up to 510 horsepower -- depending on the restrictor a race series may require -- and has been relocated ahead of the rear axle to improve weight balance for racing, bucking the model's long tradition of hanging the engine off the rear end and making this a mid-engine 911 race car. That may seem like a small thing but, for 911 fanatics, this is crazy!

Sending that power to the meaty rear wheels is a sequential 6-speed Porsche GT racing transmission with paddle shifters that the automaker developed specifically for long-distance racing.

In the handling department, we see a double-wishbone suspension at the front and a multi-link suspension at the rear -- road-going 911s feature a MacPherson and multi-link setup -- which are further augmented by adjustable vibration dampers and sword-type anti-roll bars. (Yeah, even I had to Google that last one.) Tucked behind the wheels are front six and rear four-piston aluminum racing calipers grabbing massive steel discs. Brake cooling ducts keep the stoppers from simply going up in flames under the rigors of racing.

In addition to better balancing the weight within the 911's longer wheelbase, shifting the engine forward allowed Porsche's engineers to enlarge the rear-diffuser and install a massive rear wing inspired by the hybrid-powered 919 LMP1 car.

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Josh Miller/CNET

A new Collision Avoidance System -- nope, not even Porsche's race cars can outrun the proliferation of tech -- uses forward-looking radar to detect and alert the driver to slower race traffic ahead, even when racing in the dark, wee hours of an endurance race.

The Porsche 911 RSR will compete in 19 races in 2017 starting with the Daytona 24 Hours. We'll be keeping our eyes peeled for when it hits the track, and cross fingers and toes that we'll one day see a mid-engined 911 on the streets.