Here we are again, it’s been a little over a decade since the announcement of Porsche’s 919 Hybrid LMP1 program which won Le Mans three times and six FIA World Championship titles. That massive project ended on a high note almost five years ago now, so it’s time for a new top-tier international prototype. This time, however, Porsche’s new as-yet-unnamed hybrid prototype race car is going to do a whole lot more than race in one series. This time Porsche is preparing a car for the LMDh regulations to race in the FIA WEC’s Hypercar class as well as IMSA’s GTP class. That means, for the first time in decades, the same car can fight for overall honors at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 24 Hours of Daytona, and the 12 Hours of Sebring!
Porsche is kicking off this new racing program in 2023, pretty much one year from right now, at next January’s Daytona 24. In true Porsche fashion, the car is done and on track logging testing laps to make sure it is both durable and fast. So what do we know about it? Here’s a rundown.
The 2023 Porsche LMDh Race Car
Based on the converged prototype ruleset for FIA WEC and IMSA, Porsche is putting together a car that will be raced both by a factory-supported team and will be eligible for privateer teams to purchase and enter themselves. That ruleset requires manufacturers to choose one of four eligible chassis manufacturers, and Porsche has chosen to work with Multimatic. Interestingly, Volkswagen Group stablemate Audi has also chosen to work with Multimatic, meaning the cars will be quite similar. Lamborghini will also build an LMDh racer in the future, though not until 2024, and will likely use the same platform as Porsche and Audi. This chassis, fully assembled and race ready, has a minimum weight of 1030 kilograms (2270 pounds) per the regulations.
LMDh regulations also mandate that all race cars in the class make use of a common hybrid system powering the rear axle through the gearbox. Every car running under the LMDh ruleset will use an identical Xtrac gearbox with an integrated motor generator unit from Bosch and batteries supplied by Williams Advanced Engineering. This system is limited to only a 50 horsepower boost for a push-to-pass style button on the steering wheel.
The engine in the LMDh prototype must be at least derived from a production car. Porsche has chosen to swipe the 4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 from the Cayenne and Panamera, an engine it will also share with Audi’s LMDh effort. At peak power output the LMDh cars are only allowed to produce about 670 horsepower, which is exactly what the Cayenne Turbo S e-Hybrid produces on dealer showroom floors right now for the low low price of $165,300. Thankfully the LMDh will weigh a bit less than the porky hybrid super Cayenne.
The 2023 Porsche LMDh racing team
The vast majority of Porsche’s development of the LMDh-eligible race prototype will be done by the Team Penske organization in collaboration with factory motorsport engineers and the Multimatic chassis engineers. There doesn’t appear to be any meaningful collaboration with Audi, despite sharing a chassis and engine combination. Obviously Porsche and Penske have worked together in the past, successfully developing and racing 917/10 and 917/30 prototypes in Can Am back in the 1970s, as well as the all-conquering RS Spyder LMP2 racers in the aughts. It stands to reason that this legendary team-up can once again develop a winning car.
It’s likely that Penske will enter and field a pair of LMDh race cars in both IMSA and FIA WEC, while there is potential for at least one other prototype racer privateer in each series. Someone close to the project has indicated to FlatSixes that the Canadian plaid Pfaff outfit will be fielding an LMDh, graduating from GTD Pro this year. I also wouldn’t count out a WeatherTech entered prototype, as the MacNeils certainly want race winning hardware on their mantelpiece. It’s possible that a Porsche customer like Dempsey-Proton would jump up to enter in FIA WEC Hypercar, but personally I’d like to see Porsche partner with a current LMP2 team like United Autosport or G-Drive to secure their Le Mans chances.
We know that Porsche has hired IMSA champions Dane Cameron and Felipe Nasr to develop the LMDh, and the pair will continue on as racers in the new GTP next year. Nasr just helped Porsche win the 24 Hours of Daytona in the fiercely contested GTD Pro class, and is the reigning Prototype class IMSA champion, so look for him to light it up in the new Porsche next season. I’d like to see twice Le Mans winner Earl Bamber in a seat, as he’s still contracted with Porsche, though is currently on loan to Chip Ganassi’s Cadillac DPi program. Laurens Vanthoor is another Porsche driving talent that would make a good prototype entrant. While she isn’t currently racing anything for Porsche, former IndyCar star Simona de Silvestro is the company’s Formula E test driver, and would make an excellent addition to the team.
Meanwhile, over in the Penske garages, the team is entering Cameron, Nasr, and Le Mans legend Emmanuel Collard in an LMP2 for the FIA WEC series this season. Collard has been racing at Le Mans since 1995, and should bring a lot of experience to the young team. It also wouldn’t be unlikely that Penske would fit a couple of its NASCAR or IndyCar drivers into the Porsche LMDh from time to time, especially for the big endurance rounds. I’d love to see Scott McLaughlin or Austin Cindric wheel at Daytona or Le Mans.
There are currently LMDh programs in motion from Audi, Acura, BMW, Cadillac, and Alpine. The class will be balanced with the FIA WEC’s Hypercar, which will see entries from Toyota, Glickenhaus, Peugeot, and Ferrari. Rumor has it that at least two other manufacturers will be jumping into LMDh, with potentially even more to follow. We know Lamborghini is planning an effort for 2024, for example. Alright, so we’ve got a 670-horsepower hybrid carbon-chassis race car driven by some of the most talented racing drivers in the world and put together by one of the most legendary motorsport programs ever to grace the industry. Nobody else stands a chance! Let’s go Porsche!