London awoke to the sound of LMP1 combustion on Tuesday morning as World Endurance Champion Mark Webber took to the streets in a 2016-spec Porsche 919.
Webber’s tour through the the capital was part of a dawn video shoot for the German marque’s new Panamera 4 E-Hybrid road car.
The run commenced under darkness, with a police entourage helping Webber set off from base camp on Park Lane at around 6 AM.
“It was a brilliant and very unique experience,” said Webber, who races the car with team-mates Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard. “The road surface is obviously very different to what this car usually operates on. The crowning of the roads made things tricky, and the vision was restricted to what was on the road in front so I couldn’t look around too much. That was particularly challenging during the dark run.”
The Australian driver worked his way past numerous London sights, including Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and the Houses of Parliament. After completing his first run in the dark, Webber took the Porsche back to Park Lane during daybreak before heading over to County Hall on Southbank.
In fact, this wasn’t Webber’s first time around London in a racing car. In 2004, teaming up with Jaguar, he joined a number of then-current Formula One drivers for a closed off high-speed demonstration along Regent Street which attracted thousands of spectators.
Although the Porsche 919 Hybrid is capable of producing up to 900 horsepower, on this occasion Webber had to restrict himself to the city’s 30 mph speed limit as the roads were still open to the public. The demonstration was carried out using the Porsche’s 2.0 litre, turbocharged petrol combustion engine as opposed to the eight megajoule hybrid unit used in races.
“Because the roads were open to traffic we had to have the police there” he said. “We also had the filming cars around which was unique.”
“The passers-by were blown away by the car, so that was great to see. You could see the body language of the other road users as they came up to junctions, stopping for a second longer than usual to check what they were seeing. This car is a showstopper wherever it goes.”
Of course, the car that has won the last three rounds of the WEC isn’t road-legal, but Porsche was given special dispensation to fire it up for the one hour shoot. London’s congestion charge wasn’t an issue either, with the run completed before the 7 AM cutoff.
The new Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid will be formally revealed to the public at the Paris Motor Show later this week.