This is not your grandfather’s woody. It’s a 425-horsepower, flat-six Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR, with MR meaning that it has additional go-fast mods by Porsche’s Nürburgring-based speed shop of choice, Manthey Racing. It’s also the only car competing at the Nürburgring 24 Hours this weekend with its entire body kit made out of sustainable materials like flax and balsa wood.
This is the first time a Porsche will race with a body kit made completely out of natural-fiber composites, which function much like the carbon-fiber composites we’re used to seeing on race cars, only most of the raw materials are used come from renewable sources. Like a carbon-fiber composite body kit, these replace the metal and plastic parts that come on the production 718 Cayman.
This isn’t the first time Porsche’s made 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport panels out of natural-fiber composites. They started using the renewable composite mix in early 2019 on the doors and the rear wing. Yet on the aptly-numbered No. 420 Four Motors Bioconcept-Car, they’ve expanded the use of natural-fiber composites to the front spoiler, front and rear lids, front and rear aprons, diffuser and mudguards.
Porsche says they can manufacture these natural-fiber composites for cheaper than traditional carbon fiber composites, and use less energy in the process. It’s very similar to carbon fiber in weight and stiffness, making it a great alternative for all the non-structural parts of a car. Porsche also claims that these natural-fiber composite components dampen vibrations better and in the worst-case scenario, splinter into larger pieces that aren’t as sharp, and thus, not as much of a hazard to oncoming traffic.
Also, have we mentioned that it looks cool? We’re glad the Four Motors team is leaving much it uncovered for its livery this weekend.
Porsche, the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Fraunhofer WKI and Bcomp teamed up to create the new body kit in 2016 using farmed flax fiber that doesn’t (bad pun incoming) eat into the food supply.
Lightweight balsa wood is used for the core of the composite doors, wherein the wood is sandwiched by the composite material in a resin transfer molding process just like the one used to create carbon fiber components. The rear wing is a bit different, where epoxy resin goes into the layers of composite and the whole piece is baked in an autoclave. The orientation and thickness of the fibers themselves help determine how the parts will respond to different loads on the car. Some of the other vacuum-infused components that are made of natural-fiber reinforced plastic use the proprietary Bcomp “powerRibs” technology for stiffness, for example.
The Four Motors team partnered with Project 1 Motorsport to race this farm-friendly 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR this weekend and we’ve got to say, a full 24-hour race on a notoriously difficult race track with plenty of close walls is about as perfect of a test outing as it gets for body panels.
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