London's early commuters were treated to a rare sight yesterday when Mark Webber greeted them in Porsche’s 919 Hybrid racer.
The 2015 WEC champ drove Porsche’s winning LMP1 vehicle to raise publicity for the new Panamera 4-Hybrid, which closely followed in tow, before it debuts at the Paris Motor Show.
Led by eight police outriders the two followed a 6.4km route from Park Lane, ticking off icons like Parliament Square and Big Ben before finishing Westminster Bridge.
Porsche announced the stunt only a day before, and while the drive kicked off at dawn (6am) – more than an hour before London’s congestion charges begin – we doubt the 919 would qualify for the Ultra Low Emission Discount.
The Hybrid, which dominated 2015’s Le Mans and World Endurance Championship, relied solely on its turbocharged 2.0-litre V4 engine to pootle around city streets.
However, even with 373KW to call on Webber wasn’t given free reign of the throttle, which he told the Daily Mail frustrated both him and the car.
“The car itself put up a bit of a challenge in terms of being able to go that slowly. The 919 Hybrid is built to be a flying machine and take in a lot of air for cooling.
"It is fitted with a downforce package specced for 220mph, so to drive it at between 10-15mph for a long period of time was a little bit of a concern. I was tempted to floor it and get into second gear but I had nowhere to go."
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Webber take to city streets in high-spec race machinery. He wowed audiences when he unleashed a 2004 Williams F1 car on Sydney’s harbour bridge.
Webber will appreciate a proper run in the 919 when Porsche takes to Japan in a couple of weeks for the Fuji Six Hours.