Report: Porsche testing mid-engined 911 race car

911 RSR 2017

Here’s a question with a deceptively simple answer: When is a 911 no longer a 911?

When the engine’s not in the back, of course. Only, Porsche doesn’t seem to think so, if the latest from Auto Motor Und Sport is to be believed.

According to the report, the Stuttgart automaker was recently granted a technical exemption by the FIA to move the engine forward in the upcoming 911 RSR replacement, due to premiere at the 2017 24 Hours of Daytona in January. The GTE and GT3 classes that comprise most of modern GT racing rely on production-based sports cars, and because the 911 is rear-engined in road form, relocating the flat six would require FIA approval.

Interestingly, Auto Motor Und Sport also says Porsche originally planned to use the 918 Spyder as the basis of their new endurance GT, but — surprising no one — squashed that plan after discovering how outrageously expensive retrofitting a million-dollar hypercar for racing would be. (And also how hilarious — can you imagine a 918 running against V12 Vantages, 488s and Corvettes?)

Reading between the lines, several things become clear. First, it seems Porsche is finally ready to embrace the performance benefits and increased competitiveness of a mid-engined race car, at the expense of marketing and tradition. Practically speaking, that’s probably a good move. However, they’ve got no available mid-engined base to work with. The 918 is too expensive, and using the Cayman would be the the death knell of the 911’s throne atop Porsche’s food chain. The pretender will have finally usurped the master, and all the whining from cynics over the past 20, 30, 40 some-odd years would be validated — that Porsche let branding get in the way of building the best sports car they could.

…Or, they could simply rewrite the rules. If the new 911 RSR’s engine is a bit closer to the driver than it was before, it wouldn’t be the first time Porsche has broken tradition. The 911 GT1 series of the late ’90s were practically prototypes bearing zero resemblance, cosmetically or functionally, to their production namesake. They were mid-engined, too.

Should we expect the same from next year’s challenger? It would explain why Porsche has neglected to distribute any promotional shots of the rear.

— By: Adam Ismail