Motorsport | Can a Porsche 911 really be mid-engined?

With a new Porsche 911 RSR announced, EngageSportMode ponders if anything is truly sacred in 2016.

2017 Porsche 911 RSR

It’s fair to say that 2016 has been something of a rollercoaster ride. From Brexit, to Donald Trump, and even Boaty McBoatface this has certainly not been a ‘normal’ year. However, amongst the madness, there’s always certain automotive things you can count on, right? A Mercedes driver will win the Formula 1 World Championship, more SUV models will be announced at every motor show, and a Porsche 911 has a rear-mounted engine.

After the LA Auto Show, only two of the above statements can be counted on to be true. Yes, 2016 has got to the most hallowed of sports cars – the Porsche 911. Admittedly it’s not a 911 road car, but the RSR racer instead. Yet there’s still something slightly unsettling about a 911 not featuring an engine behind the rear axle.

Porsche claims to have taken advantage of Le Mans GT regulations by moving the engine to “be positioned in front of the rear axle” along with various other technical developments. It’s still powered by a naturally aspirated flat-six – none of the that flat-four turbo nonsense here – but surely a rear-engine position is what makes a 911, well… a 911? It’s probably the key defining feature of the 911 model, as a mid-engined Porsche coupé is actually just a Cayman.

Naturally, Porsche would disagree, and point to the fact this isn’t the first time a 911 has been blessed with an engine between the axles. The 911 GT1 race car of the late 1990s was mid-engined, and stretched the connection between road and race car to fairly tenuous limits, in appearance at least. What made the 911 GT1 different though was the fact that GT1 racing was far removed from production-based cars running in the GT2 category, and more analogous to full prototype racers.

1998 Porsche 911 GT1

It’s badged as a 911, and it won Le Mans in 1998.

Weissach is throwing everything at the new 911 RSR to make sure it carries on being a winner, even down to fitting a collision detection system like that used on road cars. Supported by radar, it’s meant to be able to pick out faster LMP1 cars, even in the dead of night. Probably rather handy when navigating the Mulsanne straight at 2am in the rain. Quick-release fasteners mean body panels can be changed quickly, so even if the Collision Avoidance System fails, the RSR shouldn’t lose too much time in the pits being repaired.

2017 Porsche 911 RSR

That rear diffuser is epic. Thank the mid-engined layout for that.

Yet it’s still a little difficult to ignore the placement of that engine, even it does make up to 510hp when derestricted. The GT3 and RSR series are meant to look like the same 911 road cars you could walk into a Porsche showroom and buy. Something like the 919 Hybrid is obviously far removed from a street machine, but the 911 RSR is intended to retain that “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” philosophy. It also does nothing to quell the suspicions that Porsche knows a mid-engined setup is more effective, but perseveres with the 911’s rear-mounted motor almost out of sheer stubbornness as much as tradition.

2017 Porsche 911 RSR

So no, we’re not 100% convinced here at EngageSportMode by the purity of the new 911 RSRTo paraphrase the Manic Street Preachers, if we tolerate this just what will be next? A road-going 911 with a mid-mounted engine? It might sound crazy, but then so did the concept of Donald Trump becoming President of the United States…

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