For the first time since Porsche's RS Spyder LMP2 effort in the 2000s, the Stuttgart brand will be fielding an endurance sports car racer in top-flight championships on both sides of the Atlantic simultaneously. With new LMDh prototype regulations scheduled to hit in IMSA and the FIA WEC at the same time, for the 2023 season, Porsche will be running efforts in both series at once. The new class incorporates a lower-cost hybrid prototype program, and will be eligible for overall victories at Le Mans, Daytona, and Sebring alike.
By running a customer chassis from one of four approved manufacturers, and specifying a shared electric drive unit, the LMDh class will be significantly less expensive to develop and run than Porsche's previous LMP1 effort, the 919 Hybrid. This new car will tip the scales at around 2200 pounds, and make use of a hybrid powertrain powering only the rear wheels with around 680 horsepower of combined output. The chassis are based on upgraded LMP2 units, but outfitted with brand-specific aerodynamic and stylistic cues. Basically, it'll look like a Porsche.
Michael Steiner, Board Member for Research and Development at Porsche AG: “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,” says 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.”
From 2014 to 2017 Porsche ran the 919 Hybrid in the LMP1 category, winning at Le Mans three times in those four years. It also managed the FIA WEC manufacturers' and drivers' championship titles three years in a row. Porsche hasn't run for overall honors in IMSA competition since 2010 when the RS Spyder took the competition directly to Audi's more powerful but heavier diesel prototypes.
Porsche still has the overall record for wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 24 Hours of Daytona, and the 12 Hours of Sebring with 19, 18, and 18 respectively. The German sports car manufacturer is looking to add to this tally by throwing its hat into the ring from 2023 onward. Currently the LMDh category has support from German countrymate Audi, while another category called Le Mans Hypercar will see overall competition from Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus, Peugeot, and Toyota. While no official announcement has been made yet, current IMSA DPi prototype entries from Cadillac, Acura, and Mazda are likely to convert to LMDh spec in 2023.