Porsche has confirmed that they are to develop an LMDh prototype and that they will enter works cars from 2023 in full season campaigns in both the FIA World Endurance Championship and IMSA’s Weathertech Sportscar Championship as the new rules package sees the potential for the LMDh cars to fight for overall victories with identical vehicles at endurance races around the world for the first time in more than 20 years.
“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. The project is extremely attractive for Porsche. Endurance racing is part of our brand’s DNA,” explains Oliver Blume, CEO at Porsche AG.
The early renders released by Porsche have hints of both the 919 Hybrid and the earlier 911 GT1.
Porsche join Audi in publicly committing to the LMDh platform with Honda now confirmed to be in a formal evaluation phase too and, for the WEC, the LMDh cars set to join Toyota, Peugeot, Glickenhaus and ByKolles cars built to the parallel LMH regulations in a ‘converged top tier in the Championship and at the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The new LMDh category focuses on high cost-efficiency as well as visual brand relevance. The cars are based on an upgraded next generation LMP2 chassis, and the spec for the hybrid system including the control electronics is standardised.
Chassis from four different manufacturers (Dallara, Ligier, Multimatic and Oreca) are available. Each brand is free to select the concept for the combustion engine and the body design within the framework of the regulations.
Early indications are that both Audi and Porsche have already made their initial selections for both chassis supplier and engine, that both VAG brands may well share the same chassis supplier (Multimatic looks to be the strongest bet as a possible partner at present).
Both will opt for sharply different powerplants it seems, DSC sources suggesting that Audi may opt to carry over the Class One 4 cylinder turbo from DTM, Porsche look set to go down the production engine route and may well be targeting the development of the twin-turbo V8 seen principally in the Cayenne SUV.
No public statement has yet been made on a decision over customer versions of the car but that seems certain to be a part of the mix (see below for the link to associated Q&A with Porsche’s head of factory Motorsport Pascal Zurlinden.)
Michael Steiner, Board Member for Research and Development at Porsche AG, adds: “In the medium term, Porsche focuses on three different drive concepts: fully electric vehicles, efficient plug-in hybrids and emotional combustion engines. 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.”
“I’d like to thank our board of directors for the immense confidence they have in the motorsport strategy we’ve developed,” explains Fritz Enzinger, Vice President Motorsport. “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 eighties and nineties. That would give the entire motor racing scene a huge boost.”
Pierre Fillon, President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest: “This eagerly anticipated announcement is excellent news for Endurance racing. By confirming its commitment to Hypercar, the new top class of Endurance, Porsche will return to Le Mans to take on other major manufacturers in the 24 Hours. These recent announcements prove that our regulations, boosted by a historic agreement with the USA, are an attractive proposition.”
Richard Mille, President of the FIA Endurance Commission: “When the idea of revamping FIA World Endurance Championship’s top class was first discussed, the aim was to attract renowned manufacturers to fight for overall victories in endurance racing around the world and at Le Mans. We can now see it happening and having both Le Mans Hypercar as well as LMDh rulesets gives manufacturers the luxury of choosing a concept that best fits their philosophy. The future for endurance racing indeed looks very promising.”
The forthcoming LMDH will be the third hybrid drive Porsche race car concept sent into international competition.
In 2010 and 2011, the Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid raced in selected blue riband events including almost taking an overall win at the Nurburgring 24 Hours and a competitive run too at Petit Le Mans.
Between 2014 and 2017, Porsche’s 919 Hybrid LMP1 achieved hat tricks of Le Mans wins plus FIA WEC manufacturers’ and drivers’ championship titles.
You can read here an accompanying interview with Porsche’s head of factory motorsport Pascal Zurlinden with more details on the LMDH programme as it currently stands. Part Two of that interview will deal with the future of Porsche’s factory and customer GT programmes.