At the 2010 Nurburgring 24 hour race, the Porsche 911-Hybrid got scarily close to winning its first outing. I, for one, didn't expect that performance out of that car. After all the media hype I figured its performance would turn out poorly, like that Jeff Koons Art Car did at Le Mans. But it almost won. It had a dominating lead before a maintenance issue trivialized its phenomenal performance.
This is what is sparking the resurgence in Endurance Racing though: new technologies getting tried first. You know, like racing should be, or like it used to be. First it was Diesel in 2006 at Sebring, Audi taking the inaugural win with that technology. Then Electricity at the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy in 2009, and all electric motorcycle race over the world’s oldest track, the track that tested the first gasoline, diesel, and steam cars at the dawn of automotion. Now 2010 sees the advent of Hybrid race cars – and they almost won it as well. Next year we will see the Peugeot 909 Hybrid racing at Le Mans, and if their win last year was any indication, they could do very well.
But these newnesses are more change in the basic framework of racecars than in the last 100 years. I don't mean to diminish the spectacular advancements made in materials science, safety understanding, technology, space-frame structures, et cetera that racing has provided for so long, but this is a different type of change. This is not incrementally getting faster and faster, lighter and lighter, better and better, stronger and stronger, this is wholly and utterly sinking millions of dollars or euros into completely new ways of thinking, and testing them out on the track. This is what racing should be. This is why racing is exciting today.
Chaparral cars' 2J with the fans for downforce, and the 2F with its insanely large wing; Auto Union's early streamlined bodies mated to huge engines; Lotus' string of Formula 1 cars; Jaguar's disc brakes in '55; pre-war Grand-Prix advancements in crumple zones and aerodynamics – this period of racing outshines all of those awesome moments and advancements. This is, I dare say, some of the best racing, best cars, and coincidentally, the best drivers the world has ever seen: Michael Shumacher, Sebastian Loeb, Valentino Rossi, Thom Kristensen. Forget about adding motor to the front of the word racing, these are the days when things change and are changing. The cars are faster than Class C or Group B ever were, the tracks are more technical and the lines more precise, the breadth of knowledge of the driver is both deeper and wider, the forces on the body and car more severe and sudden, everything is lighter-faster-stronger-better, and it is only going to get better from here. This is, truly, the most exciting time in racing.