PRUETT: The mystery of Porsche's final 963 GTP customer team

Porsche Motorsport

PRUETT: The mystery of Porsche's final 963 GTP customer team

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PRUETT: The mystery of Porsche's final 963 GTP customer team

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There are times when chasing a story is as much fun as the answers waiting at the end of the journey, and my favorite one of late involves solving the mystery of IMSA’s 10th GTP entry.

We know the identity of nine GTP cars that are on the way for 2023: Acura Motorsports announced two cars will be split between Meyer Shank Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing; BMW Motorsport has two cars that will be run by BMW Team RLL; Cadillac Racing has two cars coming with one apiece routed to Action Express Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing, and three of the four Porsche 963 have been allocated.

Two cars are dedicated to the Porsche Penske Motorsport and one’s earmarked for the privateer JDC-Miller Motorsports team. But what about that 10th and final piece of the full-time puzzle? It leaves the matter of placing the second privateer Porsche — the fourth 963 in total — the brand said it will supply for IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship as the thread to follow.

So where is the last $2.9 million Porsche prototype headed? Let’s wander through the discovery process.

The rumors circulating during the recent Watkins Glen IMSA race positioned an IndyCar team as the fortunate entity to get the coveted green light from Porsche to purchase the car. With many teams expressing an interest in securing the last customer 963 to take part in the GTP category’s return, an application process was established as high demand was received with the opportunity.

Significant costs are also said to be involved with running a 963. Somewhere in the region of $7-10 million is rumored to be required – shown up front – to cover the acquisition and running costs for a season of GTP. On its own, that would filter out a number of parties as Porsche has made it known that it isn’t interested in selling 963s to collectors; it wants to know that whoever gets the nod has the funding in place to campaign the car without interruption.

Looking at the roster of major IndyCar teams that are both untethered to a GTP manufacturer and have the ability to raise significant budgets, Andretti Autosport and Arrow McLaren SP came to mind.

Zak Brown is hot on the idea of taking McLaren into prototype racing – but probably not as a customer. Carl Bingham/Motorsport Images

Andretti went down the road with Audi before Porsche’s sister brand reversed its course and bailed out of GTP, but it’s believed the team is more likely to align itself with Alpine and its upcoming prototype if anything were to happen for Andretti in the top class of endurance racing somewhere around 2024.

The AMSP side poses another interesting angle. With McLaren Racing owning a majority stake in the team, a grand new shop being built on the outskirts of Indianapolis that would easily house IndyCar and IMSA programs, and its reputation for drawing in more money than any of its rivals, AMSP would be a perfect fit to meet all of Porsche’s criteria.

But then you have the long timeline until the new shop is ready, and the fact that McLaren CEO Zak Brown told us in a recent interview that McLaren’s likelihood of entering GTP as a constructor is “more a question of when than if.”

There’s no guarantee, of course, that AMSP would double as a McLaren factory team, but it seems like a reasonable outcome to consider, so between the lack of space to campaign a 963 at its current base and a future that could see one or more McLaren GTPs being fielded in 2025 or so, aligning with Porsche wouldn’t work next year.

After Andretti and AMSP, there aren’t many IndyCar teams left in contention. Of the 10 full-time entrants, four are already taken with CGR, MSR, RLL and Penske signed to other factories. Dale Coyne Racing doesn’t fit the bill. Ed Carpenter Racing has expressed interest in joining IMSA in the past, but I’ve heard absolutely nothing about plans to acquire a 963.

And although the Juncos Hollinger Racing team has raced in IMSA’s DPi class with Cadillac as recently as 2019, the team has fiercely opposed the notion of focusing its energies outside of IndyCar. That’s nine of the 10 IndyCar teams crossed off the list in the hunt for the 10th GTP entry.

A.J. Foyt Racing’s last race as an IMSA GTP entrant came on April 24 in 1988, but that could be headed for a most unexpected change.

Foyt campaigned a Porsche 962 in the late 1980s. Image via Porsche

RACER has learned the legendary team is indeed close to becoming Porsche’s second IMSA customer for 2023, and if it comes to fruition, it would arrive through and be spearheaded by IndyCar veteran and Foyt oval driver JR Hildebrand. Reached on Monday, a Foyt representative declined to comment on the subject but did suggest calling the Californian who, in turn, also declined to discuss the matter.

When it comes to big names and stature dating back to the late 1950s, it doesn’t get much better than Super Tex. Best known for his four wins at the Indianapolis 500 and record-setting career in open-wheel racing, Foyt’s history in sports cars also reached remarkable heights, with overall wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1967 with Ford and the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1985 in a Porsche 962.

Having competed in sports car events since 1959 and taken part in IMSA events since 1983 in cars owned and entered by others, Foyt purchased a Porsche 962 in 1987, which his team campaigned at Daytona, Miami, Sebring, and West Palm Beach where a pair of fourth-place finishes were secured.

The No. 1 Foyt 962 returned in 1988 for the same four-race program with a run to fourth at Sebring served as the best result before the team’s GTP adventure was shuttered. If we’re talking symmetry and history, I can see how a former Porsche 962 GTP entrant might draw Porsche’s interest to field a Porsche 963 GTP.

And with Hildebrand said to be in the middle of it all to raise the budget and drive, we’d have a smart, fast, and tech-friendly person bringing a dynamic story to IMSA. Those whispers were accurate — it was an IndyCar team — but far from the one I was expecting to find.

Provided all of Porsche’s conditions can be met, seeing a Foyt/Hildebrand 963 on a WeatherTech Championship entry list might be the wildest and coolest thing of all when we go GTP racing next year.

MX-5 CUP | ROUND 9 – ROAD AMERICA

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