Porsche officially announced Tuesday (Dec. 15) that they will build a new prototype to the upcoming LMDh specifications. This new prototype, which will race in both the FIA World Endurance Championship and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, will debut at the beginning of the 2023 season, likely in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
“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,” said Oliver Blume, Porsche CEO. “The project is extremely attractive for Porsche. Endurance racing is part of our brand’s DNA.”
Porsche is the second manufacturer to sign up for the new formula and it did not come quickly. At the time that the formula was officially announced in Daytona back in January, Porsche was said to be “intensively investigating” whether to throw their hat into the ring. They join fellow Volkswagen Group brand Audi, which announced their intentions to build an LMDh car two weeks ago. There appears to be no issue within Volkswagen of the two brands fighting each other for supremacy.
Porsche has intermittently run factory prototype programs over the years. Porsche has 19 overall victories at Le Mans with a combination of factory and privateer teams. The most recent of the Porsche factory prototypes was the 919 Hybrid (pictured above). This car raced in the FIA World Endurance Championship from 2014-2017. In that time, the 919s competed in 34 races. They won 17 of them, including three overall victories at Le Mans, and three championships (2015-2017).
In the United States, factory prototype efforts from Porsche are quite a bit more rare. Traditionally, Porsche prototypes were produced and sold to privateers. The vast majority of the Porsche 962s that raced in the United States were officially in the hands of private teams. There was still factory support to go around, though.
More recently, Porsche developed a car for the LMP2 class, the RS Spyder. They teamed up with Team Penske to race two full-time cars in the American Le Mans Series. The car debuted at Laguna Seca at the end of 2005 with longtime Porsche factory drivers Lucas Luhr and Sascha Maassen driving. The two won the LMP2 pole and won their class, finishing a lap down to the overall winners in fifth overall.
Over the next three full years, Team Penske fielded two Porsche RS Spyders full-time in ALMS. Luhr and Maassen shared one car full-time, while Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard were in the second car. Luhr and Maassen won the LMP2 championship with three victories. Bernhard and Dumas won four, including an overall victory at Mid-Ohio, but was a bit less consistent.
2007 saw Team Penske win 11 of 12 races in class and win the title with Bernhard and Dumas. Eight of those wins were overall victories, trouncing the factory Audi R10s in the LMP1 class. 2008 saw the team take four more class victories and overall honors at Sebring en route to a third championship. In 37 races, the RS Spyder earned 23 class victories and 10 overall victories in ALMS.
At Le Mans, the RS Spyder only competed twice (2008 and 2009) with privateer teams. They won the LMP2 class with Van Merksteijn Motorsport in 2008, a team that had Jos Verstappen as part of the team. In 2009, Essex Racing claimed class victory with the RS Spyder as well.