Design

Speed Meets Style

Stéphane Lenglin penned the design of the Porsche 963 Le Mans prototype. That’s rather unusual, given the fact that this is a performance-oriented racing car and Lenglin is not an aerodynamic engineer but a designer. But that’s typically Porsche. How so? In our interview, he tells us all about it.

  • Interview
    Marko Knab
  • Photos
    Porsche
What are we looking at here?

What we see here is Porsche’s return to the premier class of endurance racing. It took a few years, but this is probably the best development Porsche Motorsport has made to date. This car also marks the first time since the 911 GT1 in 1998 that Style Porsche and Porsche Motorsport have built a prototype vehicle together. At the same time, it celebrates the twenty-fifth anniversary of the “joint” Le Mans victory.

It’s a very special anniversary for you personally as well, isn’t it?

That’s right. The Porsche double victory was also the first time I ever attended Le Mans. My brother and I were with my father at a friend’s house in Paris, and the race was on TV. Suddenly my father said, “Come on, we’re going there right now.” At first, we thought he was kidding – but he was dead serious. So we impulsively set off for Le Mans at midnight. When we got there, we kids just fell asleep in the grass at the side of the track. [laughs] And now, twenty-five years later, I designed one of the cars competing there. That’s totally surreal.


It’s this purist style and commitment to simplicity. Nobody else has that. Other brands try to pull it off, but what we do here is pure Porsche. And then there’s the attention to detail, the technology, the whole package. Everything that says: that can only be a Porsche!
Stéphane Lenglin
What we have here is design in combination with a focus on pure performance. How do you design a beautiful and equally fast race car?

That indeed was the challenge. As designers, we always play with proportions. And when the specifications came in, it was clear to everyone in the team that we would need a very, very long wheelbase. Above all, however, the form had to comply with the regulations. The first trick for me was to go straight into the detail. For example, we divided the car into three parts – front, center section and rear – and then made it a little shorter and smaller visually using the color design. It just works!

So not just pure functionality?

No, it wasn’t purely function, there’s also quite a bit of form. Still, we had a bit of freedom to work. As I said, it’s the first time in twenty-five years that Porsche has had this special style. We get to do design! That also means that we worked closely together with all the other teams. First there was the sketch, which we sent to the engineers before building the model together. It was like playing ping-pong, always going back and forth.

What is your favorite angle from which to view the vehicle?

From above and the back. When you look at the 963 from the side, it’s very flat and very long. From the front, the car seems really small. But from a slightly higher vantage point, it always looks perfect. We were thinking about the television cameras from the helicopter and the fans in the stands when we did that. You often see the cars from above. We wanted to accentuate that angle.

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About the livery: What do the lines that run across the car tell us? What do they stand for?

These lines were inspired by the past. They’re a reinterpretation of the Salzburg lines. The idea was of course to show how fast the 963 can go. The lines get very wide towards the back and pick up a lot of speed. On the other hand, they also highlight the shape of the car and make it look more aesthetic. 

And what was the greatest challenge?

The greatest challenge was that the car had to be really fast. As a designer, you want to design beautiful things. Here I had to let go a bit and tell myself, “You don’t just design to make things look nice.” Working together with the engineers was an important experience for me in this process because they pointed out when one of my ideas was not the best for performance. That was very interesting for me – and made everything so much more intense.

As a designer, you want to design beautiful things. Here I had to let go a bit and tell myself, “You don’t just design to make things look nice.”
Stéphane Lenglin
What exactly tells us that this is a Porsche?

There are a few details that point to the Porsche DNA. The four-point headlights, for example. We also tried to keep the nose as low as possible. And if you look closely, you’ll find the unmistakable Porsche flyline, despite the fin prescribed by the regulations. 

Can you briefly summarize for us what else constitutes the Porsche design language here?

It’s this purist style and commitment to simplicity. Nobody else has that. Other brands try to pull it off, but what we do here is pure Porsche. And then there’s the attention to detail, the technology, the whole package. Everything that says: that can only be a Porsche!

Marko Knab

Marko Knab

Journalist & Photographer
Life writes the best stories - and Marko Knab tells them in text and picture form. His focus: people & their very own stories and cars, motorsports and travel stories. He already worked for Motorsport-Total.com while completing his Bachelor's degree in German Language, followed by a brief stint at a local daily newspaper and a Master's degree in literature and cultural theory - and ramp.
ramp #61 Love Is in the Air + Porsche LeMans-Special

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Ein blauer Himmel, der Duft des frischen Grases, Sonne und die Wärme des Augenblicks, vor allem Licht. Das Licht der Sonnenstrahlen, erklären die Wissenschaftler, ist der entscheidende Faktor, wenn uns zu Beginn der warmen Jahreszeit ein flotter Gute-Laune-Mix aus Glückshormonen energisch in den Sommer lockt.

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