Roger Penske is one of the true American Motorsport Heroes, and he has a very lengthy connection with Porsche in motorsport as well as in road car sales. Penske has personally piloted 550s, RS60s, and RSKs to victory, helmed one of the most talked about sports car programs in history with Donohue, Follmer, and the raucous 917 Can Am cars, and most recently, became a dominant force in the American Le Mans series, fighting factory Audi, Acura, and Peugeot prototypes with the iconic yellow and red RS Spyder LMP2 cars.
Recent rumors have placed Penske back in the Porsche catbird seat to take on the new LMP1 program, set to hit the track in early 2014. Most interestingly, however, is the mention by industry insider, Mike Fuller, that Penske's plans place their new LMP headquarters smack in the heart of Porsche country, Germany. With the recent removal of the LMP1 category from the United SportsCar Racing series for 2014, and an operation in process in Germany, it appears as though Penske Racing might be taking the helm of a Porsche LMP in the World Endurance Championship at some point in the future.
Roger himself has made mention in recent years that the only thing left to check off on his "to-do list" is to commandeer a victory at Le Mans. This program could mean that Penske's mental pen is poised and ready to check that one off the list. The new generation of Porsche LMP has been seen testing in a particularly interesting eye-distracting livery, and thus far has seemed to impress those involved with the program. With the strength of Porsche motorsport engineering and the might and experience of Penske Racing combined, Roger's La Sarthe goal could soon come to fruition.
Left without a sports car program since 2009, Penske has recently moved the IndyCar program from 3 full season cars to a 2 full season team with an additional car prepared for selected races. This move certainly leaves some staff free to work on other projects. While not independently confirmed, Fuller claims that Penske is currently soliciting current employees to move to the new German facility full time in a bid for future dominance. As of now, it is unknown as to whether Penske will be running as a de-facto factory supported team, similar to how the 991 RSR program is currently run through the Manthey Racing team, or if Penske will be supplied with cars by Porsche and running as a semi-privateer. If we had to guess, given the Porsche is unlikely to give up control of their LMP1 prototype, we would have to go with the latter. Time will tell.
UPDATE: Since we originally published this news, Penske Racing's President Tim Cindric told John Dagys in an exclusive interview that, "We're not positioned to do a Porsche program for next year." Which makes sense to us, as Porsche is unlikely to want to give up control of their program in it's first year. However, the story doesn't touch on 2015 and/or a semi-private team...
In other related news, it has been announced that in the next handful of years, the Japanese Grand Touring Car (JGTC), the Deutche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft (DTM), and a yet unnamed American touring car series will all be migrating to the same specification of car, quite similar to the current DTM specification. Penske has been noted as saying that he is also interested in running a team in the American iteration of this specification when it materializes in the latter half of this decade. This new Penske Germany facility would be the perfect springboard for fielding an exploratory mission into the DTM, giving Penske a further leg up in experience over their competitors.
This may be a bit of a stretch, but perhaps a successful Porsche LMP program with Penske could lead to a Penske-lead assault on DTM with a next-generation Panamera-based racer. Call me crazy, but it just may work!
Other Porsche Blog Posts You Will Enjoy
It’s Official! Mark Webber to Drive for Porsche at Le Mans in 2014
Porsche Announces the Next Driver to Participate in Their 2014 LMP1 Le Mans Program
How the New Porsche LMP1 Built for Le Mans in 2014 is Influencing the 2013 Race
Pictures and Info on Porsche’s new LMP1 Sports Prototype