Porsche will reconvene its endurance racing battle with sister brand Audi in 2023 when the new LMDh prototype formula makes its debut.
While far from a surprise, the confirmation of Porsche’s return to top-tier prototype competition in LMDh lends another high-profile endorsement to IMSA’s cost-efficient LMP2-based class.
“The new LMDh category allows us to fight for overall victories with a hybrid system at the Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring classics – without breaking the bank,” said Porsche AG CEO Oliver Blume. “The project is extremely attractive for Porsche. Endurance racing is part of our brand’s DNA.”
With recent memories of Audi and Porsche vying for FIA World Endurance Championship titles and 24 Hours of Le Mans victories as recently as 2016, the two brands are expected to field at least two factory-affiliated cars in IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the WEC. Customer cars are also highly likely to appear.
“When we and our partners from the ACO announced our plans for LMDh in January at Daytona, this is exactly what we had in mind,” said IMSA President John Doonan. “Porsche and Audi are two manufacturers synonymous with excellence in international prototype racing, so it’s appropriate that they are among the first to commit to LMDh. We are ecstatic to have these commitments and believe this is the tip of the iceberg for eventual manufacturer participation in LMDh.”
Due to the extremely recent approval for the project, Porsche was unable to confirm a number of key aspects for the program, including chassis supplier, internal combustion engine specifications, and which European and North American teams might run the cars. However, Porsche R&D board member Michael Steiner was able to highlight the place where LMDh fits the brand’s needs for learning through competition.
“In the medium term, Porsche focuses on three different drive concepts: fully electric vehicles, efficient plug-in hybrids and emotional combustion engines,” he said. “We want to represent this trilogy in both the development of our cutting-edge road cars and in motorsport. We use the all-electric drive to contest the FIA Formula E as part of our works commitment, and the highly efficient and emotional combustion unit in GT racing. Now, the LMDh class closes the gap for us.
“There, powerful hybrid drives – like the ones that are mounted in many of our brand’s models – go up against each other. If the regulations eventually allowed the use of synthetic fuels, then that would be an even greater incentive for me in terms of sustainability.”
Fritz Enzinger, Porsche’s VP of Motorsport, joins Doonan in the hope that a wave of LMDh projects will be announced by other manufacturers in the coming months.
“I’d like to thank our board of directors for the immense confidence they have in the motorsport strategy we’ve developed,” he said “We hold a record with our 19 outright wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and we’ve climbed to the top podium step many times at major races in the USA. We can continue this tradition with an LMDh vehicle while at the same time keeping costs reasonable. There has been huge interest from other manufacturers. I hope we can pick up where we left off with the famous clashes against many other marques in the ’80s and ’90s. That would give the entire motor racing scene a huge boost.”