One of the first two auto manufacturers to publicly commit to IMSA’s new hybrid LMDh prototype formula could be the first to start testing with its creation. According to Porsche Factory Motorsport director Pascal Zurlinden, the German brand’s LMDh contender will hit the track late this year and get a head start on its competition debut in January of 2023 at IMSA’s Rolex 24 At Daytona.
“Everything is running by plan,” Zurlinden told RACER. “We still plan to do a rollout by the end of the year, before Christmas. We are also building Porsche Penske Motorsports nearly 18 months before the first time we will go racing in Daytona, so quite a long time. For sure, in 2022, to prepare the 2023 IMSA season, you will be able to see the car doing private testing in the U.S.”
Porsche’s dedication to the new hybrid formula is undeniable. In what should be a hindrance for on-track testing in 2021, IMSA’s 40hp LMDh kinetic energy recovery system from Bosch and Williams Advanced Engineering is not expected to be ready for testing until the first or second quarter of 2022. But as Zurlinden shares, that won’t deter Porsche from mating a temporary KERS unit of its own specification to the upcoming twin-turbo V8-powered Multimatic chassis and stealing the testing march from its rivals.
“For the rollout of new cars, we have a tradition that new cars have always been rolled out at our Weissach facility,” he said of where the Porsche LMDh will turn its first laps. “It’s not confirmed yet, but I wouldn’t see why we would do it differently; I’m convinced it will be done on our home ground at Weissach test track. We plan to run with KERS by the end of the year; not the race version. That is our target.”
Asked about Porsche’s intent to kick off its LMDh program by supporting sales of the new car, Zurlinden suggests its order book is full for 2023. With two factory entries set for IMSA and two for the WEC, rumors of eight total cars being made available for the debut season continue to make the rounds.
“It’s still our plan to have customers from the first year,” he continued. “We have many requests. We have many discussions. But I don’t think there is really any limit of the number of cars over from 2024 onwards. Let’s see what’s possible. And if anyone is interested, you can always contact us.
“You know, Porsche and customer racing has a long history and at times at Le Mans, more than 10 [Porsche] cars were going for the overall win in the top class. So let’s see how many requests we get and how many are real. And then we will make sure everyone can have his chance.”
Asked if Porsche and its factory racing partners at Team Penske will follow the script from their last arrangement from 2005-08, where both sides contributed drivers to the prototype program, Zurlinden was non-committal.
“Many people ask about drivers that I would say it’s too early to say which drivers will be in the program, because we have such a great roster of rivals — really experienced drivers, but also young guns who are really quick and could show off in LMDh,” he said.
“But it’s a Porsche works program and they will be Porsche works drivers. Where they’re coming from — the only goal is to get the best and to win.”
With testing set to commence in late 2021 and then move to the U.S., Porsche could be in a position to unveil its new LMDh in front of the world’s motor racing press at January’s Rolex 24 At Daytona, or March’s 12 Hours of Sebring. Like most aspects of the project, firm answers were fleeting.
“I can’t give you any details yet, because we’re still working on it,” Zurlinden said.