a very successful debut season, it was a surprise to some when Porsche
revealed an extensive update of the RS Spyder LMP2 at the Paris Auto
at the end of 2006. To aerodynamicists the 2006 RS Spyder’s
ungainliness belied its on-track performance, and the updates to the
car are not subtle. The aggressive, lean and purposeful new
reflect substantial rethinking over the 2006 season and indicate
preparation, perhaps directly in response to Acura’s major American Le
Mans Series program, or even Audi's less than subtle prod at the '06
end ALMS banquet...("Why is Audi unchallenged? Ask
Porsche – where
are you with your glorious motor sports history? Why are you
in the top category? Honda-Acura, why not in the premier
Why LMP2? Come and challenge us. If you beat us, we will
Michael Pfadenhauer, head of Porsche’s Aerodynamics Department, joined the company in 2005, well after the Spyder program was underway. Pfadenhauer's contribution to the debut Spyder was limited to a front splitter revision first seen before the 2006 season began. Pfadenhauer came to Porsche from Audi Sport, where he was responsible for the Audi R8’s aerodynamics (starting with the R8R and R8C) and he was also involved with the early development of the R10. The updated 2007 RS Spyder is the first Porsche race car completely under Pfadenhauer’s responsibility.
By today’s standards, Porsche’s in-house scale wind tunnel facilities is antiquated and it is our understanding that the development of the '07 RS Spyder was done using the Fondmetal/Aerolab wind tunnel. Confirmation comes from Fondmental in the form of a list of their clients as posted on their website: "Porsche (American Le Mans Series)". Oddly, when Porsche's North American PR representatives were asked directly if the Fondmetal wind tunnel was used, their answer was "no".
The Porsche RS Spyder program has revealed the rather large changes that Porsche has undergone as a company since the last time they raced at this level. In the intervening 10 years or so since Porsche had a major prototype presence, the company has gone from being a small car company to a large car company. From a motor sports perspective this means they may be somewhat slower to react. Some suggest they may have lost altogether some of the abilities that they once had and now prefer to farm out development once done in-house. The additions of key technical and managerial personnel like Pfadenhauer also seems to indicate the motor sports arm of the company went through a rather significant brain drain over the course of the past 10 years. Pfadenhauer’s recruitment certainly adds “quite an asset to Porsche” to quote a rival. Lest that sound as if Porsche was behind and are now catching up, remember that the RS Spyder designed for the 2006 season was hugely successful. That performance, along with the substantial redesign for the 2007 campaign, demonstrates once again that Porsche remains a goal oriented company, no matter any other changes.
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