FIA World Endurance Championship gets re-jigged controls for reliable operation at racing pace

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Porsche 919 Hybrid (4)

For the 2016 season of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), the buttons and switches on the steering wheel were re-positioned in co-operation with the drivers, to facilitate reliable operation at racing pace – in Le Mans top speeds are up to 340 km/h. Some control elements had to go on the dash-board because there is no more room on the steering wheel.

There is a large display in the centre of the steering wheel, which shows the driver a multitude of information. This includes the speed, what gear is engaged, the currently selected motor management, and the charge status of the lithium ion battery, i.e. how much electrical energy is available to be called up to drive the front axle. The electric motor on the front axle supplements the turbo charged 2-litre, 4-cylinder combustion engine, which drives the rear wheels.

Porsche 919 Hybrid (1)

  • The most frequently used buttons are positioned along the top outside edge, so they are easy to reach with the thumb. The blue button at the top right is almost always in use – it is the headlight flasher, used by the fast prototypes to warn the slower vehicles in the WEC field before they are lapped. When pushed once, it causes the headlights to flash three times.
  • The red button at the top left is also very frequently used. It is used to demand electrical power from the battery, the so-called “boost”. The drivers can boost to pass, but must be clever about rationing the power.
  • The rotary switches left and right below the display (TC/CON and TC R) are for pre-setting the traction control. To fine tune for various engine and hybrid set-tings, the drivers use the buttons on the top two levels, TF- and TF+ in light yellow, MI- and MI+ in blue.
  • From the green buttons, the left one operates the radio (RAD) and the one on the right hand side is the OK button for the driver to confirm he performed the setting changes requested from him via the pit radio.
  • The orange buttons on the next level below operate the drink bottle (left, DRINK) and on the right hand side the sailing mode (SAIL), which is a fuel saving driving mode with no acceleration from the combustion engine.
  • The golden colored button PIT on the left hand side engages the speed limiter for the pit lane (60 km/h). Its equivalent on the right hand side is labelled FCY and is the speed limiter for neutralization periods, as when there is a “Full Course Yellow” all cars have to go at 80 km/h.
  • In the centre of the lowest level sits the on/off switch for the combustion engine (Start/Kill). The two remaining controllers halfway up the steering wheel define the amount of energy when boosting (B – golden and on the left) and offer the strategy choice for the combustion engine (S – blue and on the right).
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