It’s the age-old question posed by many a motorsports fan: which race series has the fastest car outright? Porsche wants to put that question to bed by embarking on a world tour with a modified version of its 919 Hybrid LMP1 prototype, with the aim of breaking a few lap records on world-famous race tracks. In fact, Zuffenhausen claims it has already done so – and on the legendary Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps at that.

Works driver Neel Jani lapped the seven-kilometre track, which plays host to the Belgian Grand Prix, in a blistering 1 minute 41.770 seconds. That’s 0.783 seconds faster than the previous record – the pole position time set by Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes AMG F1 W08 EQ Power+ during qualifying last year. Jani reached a top speed of 359 km/h and managed an average speed of 245.61 km/h throughout the lap.

The revised race car, christened the 919 Hybrid Evo, was built to explore the potential of the 919 without the regulatory limitations of the World Endurance Championship (WEC) it raced in. Using the 2017 car as base, the Evo version utilises the improvements made for the 2018 season prior to Porsche’s withdrawal from top-level LMP1 racing, as well as several aerodynamic modifications.

While the powertrain hardware has been left well alone, Porsche has removed WEC’s fuel flow and electrical energy restrictions. As a result, power output of the 2.0 litre turbo V4 engine has been boosted from 500 hp to a whopping 750 hp, just from updated software alone. Meanwhile, energy from the two energy recovery systems has been upped from 6.37 to 8.49 megajoules, increasing electric power from 400 hp to 450 hp.

To exploit the added power, the Evo’s bodywork has been revised to increase aerodynamic performance. The enormous rear wing is the most obvious change, but there’s also a larger front splitter to balance it out, and both of them feature active drag reduction systems. These trim the trailing edge of the front splitter and open up the slot between the rear wing’s main plane and lower flap, boosting aerodynamic efficiency.

Elsewhere, the fixed-height side skirts optimise the floor and the turning vanes underneath. All in all, the improvements result in a 53% increase in downforce and a 66% increase in efficiency compared to last year’s car in Spa in qualifying trim. Michelin also supplied new tyre compounds with increased grip while retaining the existing size and safety characteristics.

The Evo also gains a four-wheel brake-by-wire system for additional yaw control, plus stronger suspension wishbones and an upgraded power steering to handle the higher cornering loads. Lastly, Porsche saved 39 kg by jettisoning the air-conditioning, windscreen wiper, sensors, race control devices, lights and the pneumatic jack system required for endurance racing, putting the dry weight at 849 kg.

“We all knew, no matter how successful the 919 Hybrid was, it could never show its full abilities,” said LMP1 chief race engineer Stephen Mitas. “Actually even the Evo version doesn’t fully exploit the technical potential. This time we were not limited by regulations but resources. It is a very satisfying feeling that what we’ve done to the car was enough to crack the Formula One record.”

The Spa lap record is just the start, as the Evo continues on the 919 Tribute Tour. It will also be doing a demo lap on the fearsome Nordschleife circuit before the start of the 24 Hours of Nürburgring on May 12, before attending the Goodwood Festival of Speed from July 12 to 15, the Festival of Porsche at Brands Hatch on September 12 and the Porsche Rennsport Reunion at Laguna Seca from September 26 to 29.

It’s certainly a fitting send off for the 919 Hybrid, which made its debut during the 2014 season and went on to clinch three consecutive wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans from 2015 to 2017, along with three back-to-back drivers’ and constructors’ titles during those same years. Shortly after its last Le Mans win, Porsche announced that it was retiring from LMP1 racing in preparation for a Formula E entry next year.

It’s worth pointing out that while Porsche’s modified LMP1 racer may now have the upper hand over Formula 1 machines, the latter are also subjected to similar performance and aerodynamic restrictions as WEC, and would almost certainly be even faster without them. Even with the regulations in place, this year’s F1 cars are considerably quicker than last year’s, so the lap record might tumble still further at this year’s Belgian GP.