This weekend at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England, Porsche took the wraps off of its new LMDh race car, set to race on both sides of the Atlantic this year in IMSA’s GTP category as well as the FIA WEC’s Hypercar class. Paying homage to the all-conquering 962 of the 1980s and 1990s, the new car has visual cues from that old series of dominant prototypes, and continues the naming convention by adding just one to its title. Porsche has dubbed its new car the 963 Hybrid. Over the past twelve months Porsche has worked diligently with Penske Racing and chassis builder Multimatic to prepare the car for competition when it debuts fully-prepped next January. The 680 horsepower hybrid racer has completed nearly 5,000 miles of testing just in the first half of 2022, and there will be many more tests to go before the car turns a wheel in anger.
Interestingly, the FIA WEC has announced that it will allow teams with cars that are ready to debut this year as part of the world championship races. Porsche and Penske will use the season-ending 8 Hours of Bahrain race in November as a dress rehearsal. Obviously it is possible that Porsche will be competitive right out of the box, and potentially could take the fight directly to Toyota and Alpine for the overall win at that race, but it’s better to temper expectations. Porsche says it is nothing more than an extended test racing weekend, and we’ll have to take them at their word.
During its bouts of testing and competition, Porsche have finally decided on the driver roster for the new 963. In addition to Felipe Nasr and Dane Cameron, who were hired for their prototype prowess last year, Porsche will field cars for its experienced works drivers Kevin Estre, Michael Christensen, Andre Lotterer, Laurens Vanthoor, Matt Campbell, and Mathieu Jaminet. In addition to those eight full-time drivers, Porsche will add at least four more pilots as-yet-unnamed to the roster for the longer endurance races like the 24 Hours of Daytona, Le Mans, 12 Hours of Sebring, and Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. Fred Mackowiecki played an instrumental part in the car’s early development, turning the first laps on the test track, and spending several hours in the simulator.
“After 7,889 test kilometers during the first half of 2022, we’re on a very good path but there is still work to be done before the start of next season,” outlines Thomas Laudenbach, Vice President Motorsport. “Our new Porsche 963 should continue the legacy of legendary models such as the 917, 935, 956, 962 and the 919. I’m positive that we’ll be well-positioned when it comes to technology and we’ve also created the relevant team structures to set us up for wins in the thrilling competition between many manufacturers and different concepts.”
“Over the past few months, our people at Porsche Motorsport and Team Penske have grown into an efficient and committed squad – the Porsche Penske Motorsport Team,” acclaims Urs Kuratle, Director Factory Motorsport LMDh. “We’ll have powerful driver crews in the four factory cars. The collaboration with our long-standing tire partner Michelin and the chassis manufacturer Multimatic works flawlessly. The Porsche 963 should be homologated this autumn. Until then, we want to make further progress with test drives and gain additional insights. We can hardly wait for our first outing.”
As an extension of the current IMSA DPi regulations, 2023 comes with a new set of rules that are eligible to compete in both IMSA and FIA events called LMDh. The new specification for that class requires a chassis built to existing LMP2 regulations, but is allowed to run a bespoke engine and is mandated to run a standard hybrid system and gearbox. In Porsche and Penske’s case, the team has chosen to work with Multimatic for its chassis construction, which is powered by a 4.6-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine. That engine is based on the MR6 V8 first used in the 918 Spyder road-going supercar, which exited production seven years ago. That engine was, itself, based on the racing V8 Porsche used in the successful RS Spyder LMP2 car which raced between 2005 and 2008.
While Porsche and Penske have announced a quartet of 963s to enter competition, the car will also be available for non-factory customer teams to race from the offset. In IMSA competition, the 963 will be campaigned by JDC-Miller Motorsports. There’s no word yet on who will be driving for the team in 2023, but its current lineup includes Richard Westbrook, Tristan Vautier, Loic Duval, and Ben Keating, which is a pretty stellar lineup. The team currently campaigns the #5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac in IMSA competition, and scored the 2021 Sebring 12 hour victory with that car. Also joining the Porsche squad is the defending LMP2 Le Mans 24 hour champions Jota Sport. Jota has been involved in prototype racing for nearly twenty years, and has won at Le Mans an impressive three times. Again, there is no disclosure of who will be driving the Jota Sport Porsche 963, but the team finished 1st and 2nd in the LMP2 class with the talents of Roberto Gonzales, Antonio Felix da Costa, Will Stevens, Oliver Rasmussen, Ed Jones, and Jonathan Aberdein at the wheel. It seems likely at least some of them would return to the team in 2023. Crucially Jota have announced that Hertz is onboard as title sponsor for the team for the next three seasons, and it will be racing the Porsche for all three of them.
John Church, Managing Partner, JDC-Miller MotorSports. “We are very excited about this new partnership with Porsche and the new LMDh Hybrid platform that will run in IMSA’s new GTP prototype category, starting with the 2023 season. To be associated with an iconic brand such as Porsche and their incredible legacy in racing is just very special. A lot of work went into making this happen and we feel strongly that we have found the best possible partner for the future and look forward to adding to the incredible success Porsche has already enjoyed in IMSA.”
Jota co-owner David Clark said: “Racing with Hertz and Singer is a momentous milestone for Jota. We have enjoyed hard-won success at a global level in recent years, particularly at Le Mans. With this new team, we will be in a very strong position to keep our momentum going when sportscar racing truly enters a golden period in 2023.”
When the season starts next year, Porsche will have four cars in IMSA and four cars in the WEC; two factory-entered and two customer-entered cars in each series. Considering the competition it will be facing from Acura, BMW, Cadillac, Toyota, Alpine, Glickenhaus, and others, Porsche will need to push itself hard in the next six months to prepare for this once-in-a-lifetime expansion of global sports car racing. I, for one, can’t wait to see it and to cheer Porsche on for the whole season. Will you be at Daytona in January? I will.