It's a sustainable and efficient solution
Porsche has a storied history when it comes to endurance racing, something that we highlighted recently when the German automaker took some classic race cars back to Le Mans. It also has a keen interest in the Nurburgring 24-hour race and has entered its 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR racecar at this year's event.
Since early last year, Porsche and Manthey Racing have been experimenting with natural-fiber composite materials on its racecar, producing the doors and rear wing out of this natural mix of fibers. Now, the two companies are pushing the material further, crafting even more body parts out of this revolutionary composite.
For this year's race car, "the front and rear aprons, the front spoiler, front and rear lids as well as the mudguards and diffuser including the aerodynamic fins are also made of this regenerative material." This replaces metal and plastic injection molded components and has similar weight and stiffness properties to carbon fiber composites.
What really makes this a good idea is that it costs less to produce and, crucially, takes less energy to make. Flax fibers are farmed with the assistance of various corporate and government enterprises to ensure that food crops are unaffected. Now race team Project 1 is testing the components in a grueling endurance race.
The doors feature light balsa wood as their cores and a sandwich construction process very similar to that of carbon. As you'd expect, no chances are being taken with this new technology and only non-structural components are being made from the stuff. Fortunately, this new material is well-suited to these areas. Much like carbon, components are designed to splinter into large and safe pieces rather than small, sharp shards. Furthermore, they do a great job of damping vibrations. If all goes well, Manthey-Racing will likely start offering this new body kit to customers. Who knows? Maybe one day we'll all build lightweight cars from natural materials.