In our exclusive video, sports car superstar Dane Cameron explains the complex functionality of the new Porsche 963 racing prototype steering wheel – which doesn’t just turn the front wheels and change gears but contains all the buttons, levers and magic for a new hybrid energy recovery system that will be used by all. premier class IMSA sports car in 2023.
The 963 is powered by a 4.6 liter twin-turbo V8 engine that produces 680 horsepower at 10,000 rpm. The electric hybrid system regenerates the battery under braking by harvesting energy from the rear wheels, and then releasing extra power through a seven-speed gearbox when accelerating. This means that there are a large number of control systems in the car that can be adjusted and changed from the steering wheel.
“The driver’s guide we sent was more than 30 pages long,” said Porsche Penske Motorsport Head Jonathan Diugud. “You can tell when they haven’t read it, because if we make a call and it doesn’t happen to our telemetry in the pits, we have to stop and explain the process again.”
“We have a multi-level switch from a single dial and color, delta, bravo, numbers, letters and alpha. It is important for them to understand everything.”
Cameron, 34, of Newport Beach, California has won the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship twice overall – once for Corvette, once for Acura – and in the GTD class with BMW. He’s being hounded by a new Porsche factory team, aiming to restore top-class glory to the German marque which has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans a record 19 times overall, and the outright 24 Hours of Daytona on 18 occasions.
After explaining the regular gearshift and clutch paddles on the back of the wheel – including the headlight flash button and the ‘secret sauce’ paddle for regenerating the battery – Cameron continues by explaining the front side knobs and switches.
“As you can see it is very complex with a number of dials, buttons and a thumb wheel controlling a number of different functions,” he says. “We have traction control adjustments, which cover wet, dry and low grip conditions, and a button on the top of the wheel controls that software.
“We have the brake function, we have the shift light and the warning light up top, on the screen we have messages, lap time and gear position, a lot of vital functions – very nice color display. Through screens, we work with all the tools we have so we don’t get lost with what we’re doing.”
Cameron and nine Porsche factory drivers have even gone beyond the 30-page manual, which has become redundant due to frequent changes due to updates to the car’s complex systems.
“In the early phases everything was very well controlled,” he said of the manual. “But now they haven’t really sent us a new version in a while, because it’s been updated so quickly! You show up and think ‘well that button wasn’t there before, now it’s here!’
“As the first race draws near, things stabilize again – you really feel it and dig deep, and you learn all the switches you need and the effects you’re looking for. If you get lost you can always ask your engineer on the radio for guidance, ‘which switch do I go to?’ but it’s all part of the learning process.
“Even engineers sometimes have to rely on the powertrain systems guys for the answers. It took a while, and there are still a few slots left in the wheel, so we’re not sure what will be there yet. But we will find out soon enough!”
In our second video below, you can watch Klaus Bachler explaining the less complicated functionality of the new form Porsche 911 GT R 992 that he will race for Pfaff Motorsports in the GTD Pro class. Even without the hybrid system, Klaus has plenty of buttons and knobs to fiddle with.
You can watch the GT cars form the 963 and 992 make their competition debut at The 24 Hour Rolex in Daytona in Florida in late January, before they race across America IMSA SportsCar events and the pan-global FIA World Endurance Championships – including the centennial 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.