An Electrifyingly Good Time
Motor Trend|March 2022
Porsche's all-electric concept proves the race cars of the future don't have to suck
By Mac Morrison. Photography by Renz Dimaandal

A week before Porsche let us behind the wheel of its Mission R race car concept, it mandated we partake in “high-voltage” training via video conference with the company’s engineering team in Germany. The gist of the call: green lights good, red lights bad. If the relevant red lights illuminate inside the cockpit, stay in the seat and wait for help. If you’re outside the car and see red glowing from the roof-mounted module, hang back and don’t touch the Mission R. The exception: If the steering wheel display goes full DEFCON red, stop immediately.

That red message on the wheel indicates a disastrous battery pack thermal meltdown, so undo your safety harness, get out, and run away, hopefully before the car is reduced to a spectacular multimillion-dollar fireball. Porsche values the Mission R at something like $10 million because this is a one-off concept, and automaker bean counters tend to assign astronomical figures to such things, just as they do to development mules.

Receiving these instructions reminded me of a time more than a decade ago when I took a back-seat ride in an aerobatic plane as part of a Red Bull Air Race promotion. As a stranger strapped a parachute to my body, the pilot said something like, “This is never going to happen, but if it does and you hear me say, 'Eject!' three times, undo your belts, stand up, jump out, wait five seconds, and pull that ripcord. If you're still in the plane after the third ‘eject,' don't look for me, because I won't be.

Receiving safety protocols is standard procedure whenever you're about to drive a race car for the first time. Taking care to avoid coming out looking like fried jerky, however, is for most people a new experience about as familiar as hearing tips on how to best execute a parachute punch-out at 5,000 feet. Likely sooner than later, though, it will be more common in racing series this side of already-hybridized Formula 1 cars and the all-electric machines campaigned by professional drivers in the Formula E and Extreme E racing categories.

From what Porsche reps told us, you shouldn't quite expect to see a field of Mission R's on racetracks any time soon, if even by decade's end, at least not in this exact form. (More on that in a bit.) The company's first intention with the car was to present a compelling vehicle during September's Munich auto show. You could say, Mission R-complished, if you've desired to see an eye-grabbing example of what electrically propelled GT racing might look like. A team of about 30 people-a mixture from the manufacturer's concepts group, styling department, and motorsports division-turned the concept into a running prototype on a relatively short nine-month timeline.

If you're unfamiliar with GT racing and need a little context here, it's important to know Porsche is the world's most prolific supplier of customer race cars, with 30 different one-make (Porscheonly) series operating around the world, in addition to the customer-run teams that campaign various 911 competition models in every big-time global sports car racing series. In the bigger picture, Stuttgart is working with ExxonMobil on “green” fuel (see Frank Markus' December Technologue” column), and it plans to be carbon neutral by 2030, with 80 percent or more of its production cars by then featuring some type of electric motor. It naturally has at least one eye on where, when, and how it will plot a similarly electrified course within the GT motorsports realm that is so important to its identity. And don't downplay the customer racing business' contribution of more than a few bucks to Porsche's bottom line, making the entire enterprise relevant well beyond brand image and on-track wins.

The Mission R is intended to equal the performance of the 992-series 911 GT3 Cup, the car used in the well-known Porsche Supercup and Carrera Cup series. It features 900-volt fast-charging architecture, an 82.0-kWh battery pack, and modularly integrated front and rear motors with single-speed transmissions featuring straight-cut gears (typical in racing) and mechanical differential locks. The front and rear motors thus provide all-wheel drive and are identical; in Qualifying mode, they produce a total output of 1,073 horsepower, whereas Race mode delivers 671 total horsepower. In Race mode, the front motor produces up to 429 horses, the rear 644. The car is theoretically capable of a best 0-60 time а of 2.5 seconds or less and a top speed of 186-plus mph.

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