Porsche has a long and storied history racing within the prototype ranks at the fabled Le Mans 24 Hours and world championship level.
From its infamous 962 Group C monster that dominated the category during the 1980s all the way up to its 919 Hybrid machine that won Le Mans three times on the trot, the brand has always revelled in long-distance competition.
Porsche’s latest top-class creation is built to the GTP/LMDh rule set that makes up the current top-line global prototype baseline alongside the Hypercar class that sees vehicles eligible for racing in the WEC and the North American IMSA series, including events like Le Mans and the 24 Hours of Daytona.
Dubbed the 963, it has been recently added to iRacing as part of the 2023 Season 4 update; let’s take you through the ins and outs of the vehicle so that you can get the most out of it.
Introducing the Porsche 963 GTP
Porsche elected to make its return to top-level sportscar competition six years after it retired its 919 Hybrid WEC program due to the cost-effectiveness of the new GTP/LMDh regulations. The new ruleset has also allowed the marque to sell customer cars to teams on either side of the Atlantic, such as JDC Miller Motorsports, whose livery you can run officially on iRacing alongside the #6 and #7 factory-entered Porsche 963s.
The Porsche 963 GTP made its debut in the 2023 Daytona 24 Hours, though a tricky outing where it showed speed but lacked reliability meant the two Penske-run machines picked up finishes of seventh and eighth.
Things would soon improve though as drivers Nick Tandy and Mathieu Jaminet would secure the 963’s first win at Long Beach. This was then followed by another win for the sister machine, piloted by Matt Campbell and Felipe Nasr, which secured victory at Road America later in the year, whilst Tandy and Jamient returned to the top step of the podium during the penultimate round of the IMSA season at Indianapolis, setting up a title showdown at Road Atlanta.
Porsche has taken a while to optimise the 963 in the real world, but it has become a front-running car in IMSA, giving iRacers yet another reason to fall in love with Stuttgart’s latest and greatest.
In iRacing, the 963 is eligible to run in two different A-license IMSA Sportscar championship series that run over 35 minutes for the fixed set-up version and 45 minutes for the open set-up equivalent, both featuring a mandatory pit-stop. Both run alternately at quarter-to-the-hour.
The Basic Car Setup
As a result of its aerodynamic package that provides a significant amount of downforce, the Porsche 963 GTP is pretty stable out of the box in the medium and high-speed bends. It does however possess more natural understeer than some of its class rivals such as the Acura ARX-06 and the BMW M Hybrid V8.
This characteristic is especially prevalent in slow corners, even compared to the normal understeer and relative sluggishness you expect at low speed from a car built to perform primarily at high speed. Reducing this effect can be achieved by adjusting the anti-roll bar blades to a lower number at the front to aid mid-corner turn-in.
- Caution must be taken that you don’t go too far and potentially negatively affect the high-speed stability of the 963 GTP, so adjusting brake bias may be a safer option for a quick fix.
- Alternatively, the optimal solution to getting the 963 GTP working effectively from the beginning without any tweaking is to use one of Coach Dave Academy’s carefully crafted setups.
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Aerodynamics and Bodywork
The 963’s aerodynamics are, without doubt, the star of the show when you pilot the car. The vehicle is thus able to carry huge amounts of pace through high and medium-speed bends – even compared to its GTP rivals such as the Cadillac V-Series.R – and much of the time this is where you’ll need the car to perform in a multi-class situation.
Playing around with the front splitter and rear spoiler values is the optimal way to change the 963’s balance more to your liking when navigating the higher-speed corners, with the aerodynamic balance allowing you to create either more or less rotation.
All you need to remember is that the higher the percentage aero balance the more rotation you create, while the lower the percentage the lower the rotation. The former value allows you to get the car turned quicker and thus carry more corner speed, while the latter can provide you with a more stable machine.
Steering and Cornering
While the specially designed aero package gives the 963 great ability in the high-speed sections of a race track, this ultimately means that the vehicle is not very well optimised in slow bends. The 963 – often like its GTP rivals – feels relatively cumbersome in corners that need to be taken any lower than third gear.
- Compared to its fellow GTP cars, getting the 963 down to its correct turn-in speed is particularly important due to its tendency to understeer on corner entry, thus placing more load on the front tyres and subsequently meaning lock-ups are more likely.
- Braking in a straight line is the most effective way to get the car stopped before pitching the 963 into the corner apex.
- Patience then is a virtue before asking for the power to accelerate from the bend as a result of the heavy-feeling nose.
Power Delivery And Braking
The Porsche 963 GTP features traction control to help you keep in check the combined might of Porsche’s twin-turbo V8 and the standardised Bosch and Williams Advanced Engineering-designed hybrid propulsion system, the two elements working together to produce around 670 bhp.
Braking though is where things get more complicated as the 963 doesn’t possess any kind of ABS system, meaning that your foot on the brake pedal is solely responsible for getting the car stopped before the corner without turning your front tyres into hexagons.
- Running the TC at around level five or six can give good results due to the aggressive way the vehicle puts the power down with a twin-turbo configuration combined with hybrid power – this mix can spike power when you least expect it exiting corners.
- A lack of ABS can make corner entry tricky – the car has a tendency to lock up its front tyres when asking too much on the brakes.
- Moving the brake bias backwards can help with reducing front locking, though the braking technique is more important here due to no ABS. Being lighter on the pedal when the effect of downforce is less prevalent will make braking easier – one of Coach Dave Academy’s Lap Guides will help you get the most performance out of the Porsche 963 in all areas of the circuit.
The distinctive-looking Porsche 963 GTP is a great addition to iRacing’s GTP roster and thoroughly deserves attention due to its unique driving feel relative to its rivals.
Its twin-turbo V8 feels punchy out of corners even compared to the BMW M Hybrid V8 which features a similar engine configuration, the difference due to the Porsche’s rev range being slightly smaller as it tops out at 8000rpm vs. the BMW’s 8200 rpm.
The more understeery nature of the 963 at slow speed may not be to everybody’s preference, but depending on your driving style, this machine could be the key to IMSA greatness. Should you want to achieve this greatness faster than your rivals, why not bolt on one of Coach Dave Academy’s set-ups for the 963 in order to give yourself the edge out on the track.