In our exclusive video, sportscar superstar Dane Cameron explains the complex functionality of the new Porsche 963 racing prototype’s steering wheel – which doesn’t just move the front wheels and changes gear but contains all the buttons, levers, and wizardry for the new hybrid energy recovery system that all premier-class IMSA sportscars will race with in 2023.
The 963 is powered by a twin-turbo, 4.6-liter V8 engine that produces 680 horsepower at 10,000 rpm. The electrical hybrid system regenerates a battery under braking by harvesting energy from the rear wheels, and then unleashes extra power through the seven-speed gearbox under acceleration. This means there are a huge number of control systems on the car that can be set and altered from the steering wheel.
“The driver manual that we send out is over 30 pages,” says Porsche Penske Motorsport Chief Jonathan Diuguid. “You can tell when they haven’t read it, because if we make the call and it doesn’t happen on our telemetry in the pits, we have to stop and explain the process again.”
“We have switches that are multi-levels of one rotary knob and colors and deltas and bravos and numbers and letters and alphas. It’s important that they understand it all.”
Cameron, 34, from Newport Beach, California has won the overall IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship twice – once for Corvette, once for Acura – and the GTD class in a BMW. He was headhunted by the new Porsche factory team, which aims to bring top-class glory back to the German marque that has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans a record 19 times overall, and the Daytona 24 Hours outright on 18 occasions.
After explaining the regular gearshift and clutch paddles at the rear of the wheel – including a headlight-flash button and a ‘secret sauce’ paddle to regen the battery – Cameron goes on to explain the front side knobs and switches.
“As you can see it’s incredibly complex with a number of dials, buttons, and thumb-wheels that control a number of different functions,” he says. “We have traction control adjustability, which covers wet, dry, and low-grip conditions, and buttons at the top of the wheel control that software.
“We have brake functions, we have shift lights and warning lights across the top, on the screen we have messages, lap times and gear position, a lot of vital functions – it’s a really nice color display. Via the screen, we work through all the tools that we have so we don’t get lost with what we’re doing.”
Gallery: Porsche 963 LMDh Prototype Daytona Testing
Cameron and his fellow nine factory Porsche drivers have even gone beyond the 30-page manual, which is becoming redundant as it’s changing so often due to updates to the car’s complex systems.
“In the early phases it was all very well controlled,” he says of the manual. “But now they haven’t actually sent us a new version of it for a while now, because it’s been getting updated so quickly! You turn up and think ‘well that button wasn’t there before, now it’s over here!’
“As the first race approaches, things are stabilizing again – you really get the feel for it and dig around, and you learn all the switches that you need and the effects you’re looking for. If you ever 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 the engineers are having to rely on the powertrain systems people for the answers sometimes. It’s taken a while, and there are still a few slots left in the wheel, so we’re not quite sure what will live in there quite yet. But we’ll figure it out soon enough!”
In our second video below, you can watch Klaus Bachler explain the less complex functionality of the new 992-shape Porsche 911 GT R which he will race for Pfaff Motorsports in the GTD Pro class. Even without a hybrid system, Klaus has plenty of buttons and knobs to play with.
You can catch both the 963 and 992-shape GT cars make their competition debut in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona in Florida at the end of January, before they race across America in IMSA SportsCar events and the pan-global FIA World Endurance Championship – including the centennial 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.