Given Porsche's motorsport heritage, the formation of the Porsche Tag Heuer Formula E Team and the introduction of its 99X electric racer is tremendously important; for the brand, for its fans, and for the sport. Furthermore, while Formula E is pitched as an addition to Porsche's motorsport portfolio, a broadening of its scope rather than a replacement, that the WEC campaign has fallen by the wayside hasn't gone unnoticed - this appears a real step change for Porsche Motorsport.
So then, the 99X electric. The naming strategy is very deliberate, says Porsche, tying this most modern of racers back to the iconic '9' sports cars, from 904 to 917. Moreover, a pair of nines were used in the name "to re-emphasise the importance of the Formula E project for Porsche." As a car for Season 6 of Formula E, it's running to the 2019/20 spec of Gen 2 Formula E regs; that means a control chassis and battery, with Porsche able to create its own 'E-Performance Powertrain' components: motor, inverter, gearbox, differential, ECUs and so on, as well as some suspension bits. The car weighs 900kg in total, with 385kg of that accounted for by batteries. Power is 340hp in qualifying mode, 272hp in race mode or 315hp with Attack Mode activated. At its most potent, the 99X electric is capable of 0-62mph in 2.8 seconds and 174mph - yes, like the other Formula E competitors.
The 99X electric's full reveal was broadcast on live-streaming site Twitch via a 'Formula E Unlocked' game and previewed to the world's crusty media last night. The choice of medium is a significant one; a big part of the Formula E push - along with creating more efficient EV powertrains for future cars, of course - is communicating with new audience groups. Twitch, as a platform predominantly aimed at gamers, should be the ideal place to do that, particularly with the typical user being a male aged between 18 and 34.
Those people who got into combustion engined Porsches will have done so a while ago, through more conventional methods, and don't need further convincing of their affection. How better to get a new generation behind Porsche involvement in a motorsport with heavy viewer engagement and video game influence than a live-streamed, immersive reveal? Drivers Neel Jani and Andre Lotterer took part, Twitch users controlling their decisions as the puzzles progressed and the car got closer.
As you can see, the 99X continues the white, red and black theme known from many other Porsches, most recently the 919 Evo that smashed the Nurburgring lap record. And while familiar in design to the rest of the grid due to the controlled elements, these remain much more striking vehicles than the earlier Formula E cars. Look at that rear diffuser!
Porsche makes much of being a rookie in Formula E, that it takes "the heart of a winner to start from zero." As such it has the pretty modest ambition of simply securing a podium in the 99X's debut season. However, with a wealth of motorsport experience in the team (a lot of the WEC squad is now involved), plus experienced drivers, that might quickly come to look overly pessimistic. Testing begins in October ahead of the first race in Saudi Arabia on November 22nd and a 14-race calendar - how much of a turning point for Formula E could this be?