Porsche and Team Penske jointly announced a new factory prototype program as part of the new LMDh formula Tuesday (May 4). The new joint venture, which will be known as Porsche Penske Motorsport, is committed to racing two full-time LMDh cars in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and two full-time LMDh cars in the FIA World Endurance Championship, similar to Ford’s GT program. The team is targeting a debut in the 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona, the first race in which the LMDh formula will be legal in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
“As of 2023, Porsche will compete in the major endurance racing series. Our intention is to support and shape the new era with our LMDh prototypes,” said Dr. Michael Steiner, Porsche board member for Research and Development. “Not only will we be keeping our fingers crossed for the four factory cars we have in total, but also for our customer teams. The new LMDh vehicle will also be entered as a customer car in both series as early as the 2023 season. These partner teams will be given our full support. Whatever insights we gain from our factory effort will also be shared with them.”
For Team Penske, this will mark at least the third occasion in which the team has partnered on a factory effort with Porsche. The first of these was in Can-Am back in the 1970s. Porsche entered a new open-cockpit version of the 917, the 917/10, in Can-Am after maximum engine displacement in the World Sportscar Championship was dropped to three liters for 1972, making the 917 ineligible. The new 917/10 was driven by George Follmer and Mark Donohue. Follmer won the Can-Am title in 1972 after Donohue was hurt. In 1973, Team Penske raced the heavily revised 917/30 with Donohue at the wheel and Sunoco sponsorship. This car was capable of 1100 horsepower during races. In qualifying with the boost ticked up, 1500 horsepower or more could be on tap. As you would expect, this was a dominant car, winning all but two races and giving Donohue the title.
The oil crisis of 1973-1974 and new fuel mileage regulations effectively prevented the car from racing beyond 1973. In 1975, Team Penske took the 917/30 to Talladega for speed trials. Donohue ended up turning a lap at 221.160 mph, which set a closed-course record.
The second Porsche team-up with Team Penske was the factory RS Spyder prototype program that raced in the American Le Mans Series’ LMP2 class from 2005-2008. The team claimed 11 overall victories, defeating the quicker LMP1 cars of the time, in addition to 24 LMP2 class victories and three LMP2 championship. The overall victories came on street course, permanent road courses in sprint races and endurance events such as the 12 Hours of Sebring.
“This is a proud day for our entire Penske organization,” Roger Penske stated. “We have represented Porsche on the track or in our businesses for more than six decades. The heritage and success we have enjoyed together is unparalleled throughout our history. I can’t wait to get started as we build a global racing program with Porsche that will compete for wins and championships well into the future.:
Once the team is up and going, the IMSA wing of the team will be based in Mooresville, N.C. within Team Penske’s existing facility. This shop has already fielded prototypes in the past, most recently with the Acura Team Penske DPi program that came to an end last year. In Europe, Porsche and Team Penske will set up a separate facility to cover the team’s operations in the WEC.
The announcement indicates that the partnership between Team Penske and Porsche will last “a number of years.” No exact length was indicated. As noted above, Porsche has intentions to sell customer versions of their LMDh car. That car is still theoretical at the moment. LMDh cars are supposed to be based around the next generation of LMP2 cars, which are scheduled to debut in 2022. None of the four 2022-spec LMP2 chassis have debuted to this point. The car depicted in the picture above is an artist’s rendering.