From simple steering wheel to multifunctional control centre in just 20 years
Top-class motor racing as the driving force behind technical developments – following this maxim, Porsche has taken on the enormous challenges of racing series around the world for decades.
“The extreme demands we face on the racetrack very quickly highlight any weak points and encourage engineers to look for new and better solutions,” said Ferdinand “Ferry” Porsche, who with the development of the legendary 356 No. 1 Roadster laid the foundation for the Porsche brand in 1948. The huge stresses of motor racing demand solutions that eventually flow into the development of road-going vehicles.
One component that emphasises the ongoing developments in motor racing more than most others is the steering wheel.
Modern-day steering: Like a TV remote control in the living room
In 1999 I contested the Carrera Cup as a Porsche Junior. Back then, the steering wheel had no buttons, no radio, no paddle shifters, no pit speed limiter. We had to drive along the pit lane with an eye on the speedometer, says brand ambassador Timo Bernhard (Germany) of those earlier years.
In 2001, the Cup-Porsche received a radio button on the steering wheel, with the number of control functions in the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR fielded in the American Le Mans Series growing to six by 2004. At that time, the switches and buttons were installed in a modified, commercially available motor racing steering wheel.
Ergonomics: Victory at your fingertips
In the process, the developers must take into account that some functions have to be activated via designated combinations – comparable to the Ctrl+Alt+Del commands on a personal computer.
“I experienced the hard way how important it is to have the correct layout and optimal user-friendliness under racing conditions,” recalls works driver Romain Dumas about a specific moment back in 2012.
Data flow between steering wheel and onboard electronics: via just one wire
It goes so fast because we have the chance to provide input during the development. As Porsche works drivers we’re mostly involved in endurance racing. Not only does it have to be intuitive to operate, but it also has to flow with as little physical exertion as possible. That’s always the goal when working on a new steering wheel layout. Customer sport racing also requires a great deal of thought and effort, for instance with the Porsche 911 GT3 R. The steering wheel must be easy to use for factory drivers and hobby racers alike, and it is essential to find acceptable compromises during the development.
Apr 01, 2020 at 00:06