When Porsche Motorsport announced it was withdrawing from its IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTLM participation, it cast a pall over the class, which has included, along with Porsche, BMW, Ferrari and Corvette Racing. The move forced other manufacturers to evaluate their participation; Ferrari has only been contesting the four Michelin Endurance races for that four-race championship within a championship and BMW is cutting back on its participation with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for the 2021 season.
Porsche may have left GTLM but its reloading its weaponry and attacking the new Le Mans Daytona hybrid class (LMDh) for the 2023 season. The class was intended to debut in 2022 but the novel coronavirus pandemic scotched that.
LMDh will be the premier class for IMSA’s WeatherTech series when it debuts and has caught the eye of many manufacturers that want to participate. That Porsche is jumping in means elevation of the class to star status. Porsche last flexed its muscles in prototype racing from 2014 through 2017, when it competed with the 919 Hybrid. This LMP1 class prototype, racing in the FIA’s World Endurance Championship (WEC) earned three consecutive overall victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, also securing WEC manufacturers’ and drivers’ titles three straight years.
The return of Porsche to IMSA-sanctioned prototype competition marks the first time since 2010 that Porsche has competed at the top ranks of North America’s prototype racing; its Team Penske-entered Porsche RS Spyder LMP2 raced and won in the IMSA-sanctioned American Le Mans Series.
The company’s executive board approved the development in its most recent meeting and Porsche is embarking on a progressive build program that will see it compete in both IMSA and WEC. Porsche did enthusiastically welcome the new regulations when they were announced at the 2020 Rolex 24 at Daytona last January. The LMDh-class cars will weigh about 2,200 pounds and will be powered by a hybrid powertrain with an anticipated output of 680 horsepower.
Road-going Porsche cars are available with three different drive concepts at the present time: fully electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and, of course, internal combustion engines. “We want to represent this trilogy in both the development of our cutting-edge road cars and in motorsport,” noted Michael Steiner, Porsche AG board member for research and development.
“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,” added Oliver Blume, Porsche AG CEO. “The project is extremely attractive for Porsche. Endurance racing is part of our brand’s DNA.”