Q&A with Pascal Zurlinden, Director of Performance Engineering at Multimatic Special Vehicle Operations
As the Porsche Penske Motorsport team prepares to race the Porsche 963 in anger for the first time, we spoke to Pascal Zurlinden, Director of Performance Engineering at Multimatic Special Vehicle Operations, about Multimatic’s involvement in this exciting new era of sportscar racing.
Let’s start at the very beginning. What is LMDh?
LMDh stands for Le Mans Daytona hybrid. It is a brand-new type of sportscar that has been created to race in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (IMSA), which includes races such as the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring, and the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), the highlight of which is the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In IMSA it will race in the GTP class and in WEC it will race in the Hypercar class, the top classes of both series.
Each car has a manufacturer defined internal combustion engine – for Porsche it is a 4.6-litre V8 Biturbo – and a spec hybrid system, which is a collaboration between Bosch (motor) and Williams Advanced Engineering (battery system), with a spec gearbox from Xtrac. The styling of the bodywork is manufacturer defined so fans can identify the brands competing. In terms of speed, the LMDh cars will target a 3m 30s racing lap of Le Mans.
What is Multimatic’s involvement in LMDh?
We are one of the four chosen chassis suppliers. Car manufacturers can choose which of the four will create the “spine” of their car and we were honoured to be chosen by Porsche, who have named their car the Porsche 963. As part of the spine, we will also provide Porsche with the latest Multimatic DSSV dampers designed for racing prototypes.
Can anyone other than Porsche race the 963?
Yes, the regulations allow the manufacturers to sell cars to customer teams. In addition to the two factory 963s that will be campaigned in IMSA and two further cars in WEC by Porsche Penske Motorsport, multiple customer teams have also ordered cars.
Why do you think Porsche chose Multimatic?
Our two companies have worked together on a multitude of projects for many years; 919, RSR, Cup and so on. This meant that we were already used to working as a team, which eliminates any risk of losses when you want to reach your goal.
Another key factor could have been that Multimatic has a base in Charlotte, quite close to Porsche Penske Motorsport, which again makes the project efficient.
This partnership with Porsche Motorsport is the culmination of more than 30 years of development of our expertise in the field of engineering and development of competition vehicles.
How did Multimatic go about creating the ‘spine’ of the Porsche 963?
As the LMDh regulations were brand new we had to start with a clean sheet of paper. This is where those 30 years of experience in developing competition vehicles came in. Every dimension, and many of the specifications were completely different to any previous regulations so, led by Julian Sole, our motorsport engineering department started from zero.
Were there any particular challenges?
One of the main challenges was that we had to develop the chassis/car to accommodate different engines; the V8 turbo from Porsche but also any other engine of customers contacting us to use our spine.
Another challenge was the integration of the hybrid system as this was evolving at the same time that we were developing the spine. This was a challenge but we worked as a team with the LMDh hybrid partners Bosch, WAE and Xtrac.
Where are the spines built?
Mostly in-house in the UK, using our carbon facilities, our racing damper facility and our manufacturing facilities. It all then comes together at Multimatic Niche Volume Assembly (MNVA) in Thetford.
What is our ongoing role in this programme?
As “Technology Partner”, our involvement in the Porsche Motorsport LMDh programme will not stop with the delivery of the spines and the parts at Porsche in Weissach. Porsche has asked us to look after its customers with engineering support for performance, drivetrain and systems, but also the parts service at the race tracks. We have a dedicated department, whose personnel will be present at all races in WEC and IMSA. We are proud to be part of the full programme, from the blank sheet of paper to the racing activities.
Are you ready for Daytona?
Following the test programme that we went through in 2022 and also in the last days, we can say that we are as ready as we could possibly be for Daytona.