The factory drivers in Porsche’s IMSA GT Le Mans program await news of where they will be placed at the conclusion of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.
With the German auto manufacturer set to wind down its championship-winning Porsche GT Team factory effort run by South Carolina’s CORE autosport once the final IMSA race is completed in November, the fates of Lauren Vanthoor and Earl Bamber, and Nick Tandy and Fred Makowiecki, will be a topic of interest.
Coupled with the end of Ford’s factory GTLM effort at the end of 2019, where some of its former drivers continue to search for steady work, and the upcoming split between Acura and Team Penske in DPi, where one or more factory drivers could be on the market, Porsche’s direction with its GTLM aces could either add to the growing list of top-tier talent for hire, or keep the foursome in the family and reallocate their services to customer teams or other Porsche racing projects.
According to Pascal Zurlinden, Porsche’s director of factory motorsport, a decision has not been made on where its GTLM drivers will find themselves in 2021.
“Concerning the drivers, it’s really early in the season,” he told RACER. “As you know, if you look at all the programs we are doing at Porsche, we have a lot of drivers, but we need all of them with all the dates, event clashes we have over the season. I’m sure we will keep a lot of drivers busy, but it’s too early to tell what’s really possible next year.”
Porsche has expressed interest in rejoining IMSA when its new LMDh prototype formula comes online, but even if a formal decision is made to field a factory effort, a gap in the calendar exists. At present, LMDh is slated for introduction in 2022, and if the lingering rumors are true, it could be 2023 before the hybrid prototypes start racing. It leaves more questions than answers for Zurlinden amid the financial fallout from COVID-19 that led Porsche to announce its imminent departure from GTLM.
“It was a hard decision to take to stop the IMSA program at the end of the year,” he said. “Personally, it was also a really sad and difficult decision to take, because if you look at the last seven years, it was quite successful and racing in the United States is always also good fun. The races are really a big fight with the other manufacturers.”