Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser, head of Porsche’s GT programme, has revealed that Porsche is planning for LMP1 drivers Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy to race full-time in next year’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, in the GTLM class.
“It sounds logical, most things we are doing like this is intentional,” he said when asked by the media at Shanghai about Bamber and Tandy’s chances of racing in IMSA in 2018, following their return to GTLM at Petit Le Mans this year. “Yes (they will do a full season). It isn’t final, as the drivers’ calendars are really complex, but this is the direction we are going.”
It would mark a return to IMSA’s GTLM class for Tandy and Bamber, who competed full time with Porsche in IMSA in 2016, before moving back into the LMP1 division full time this year.
This would likely see two drivers move from full-season IMSA seats next year. This year, Laurens Vanthoor, Patrick Pilet and Dirk Werner competed full-time with Porsche in IMSA, the other seats in the #912 Porsche being filled by a combination of Richard Lietz, Kevin Estre, Wolf Henzler and later Gianmaria Bruni.
Walliser, while not revealing who Bamber and Tandy would replace, did state that there would not be a third car for the Stuttgart-based brand in IMSA, or the WEC next year. At Le Mans though, he hinted a at a chance of additional entries.
“There’s no intention to run more than two cars, (in IMSA and WEC). At Le Mans, it’s the decision of the ACO and the committee, there’s nothing quite decided yet.”
All the LMP1 Porsche drivers are set to stay under contract when the 919 Hybrid programme finishes at the end of this year, meaning Brendon Hartley, who is on the verge of a full-time F1 seat, may still have the chance to continue racing in Porsche GT cars in 2018.
“With the calendar it’s not so easy, if there’s a chance then why not? Most of them (Porsche’s LMP1 drivers) have experience in GT cars and are keen on driving,” he continued. “(Hartley) told me he wanted to be a real Porsche driver, and drive an 911, so we sent him to Dubai (for the 24 Hours this year) and he won the race.
“We don’t know what he (Hartley) will do exactly next year, (but if he’s available) that would be cool, if it fits, great, he showed in Dubai he can handle it. It’s not easy for a driver coming from LMP1 to join a small private team. Yes (he could drive if there’s a chance). But we are not through the details, it’s not public what he can do next year.”