Porsche has not been involved in the top flight of the 24 Hours of Le Mans since it pulled out of the sport after its overall win in 2017. Well, that’s about to change, with the German sportscar maker today announcing that it will be chasing its 20th overall Le Mans victory in 2023 in the WEC LMDh category.
By choosing to go forth with the LMDh category, Porsche will be able to compete in the top class of both the WEC’s Le Mans 24 hours, as well as the IMSA Daytona 24 hours and Sebring 24 hours, all with the same car.
The LMDh category – which stands for Le Mans Daytona Hybrid – has been standardised across both the FIA World Endurance Championship and IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, forming the top class of both series from 2022 onwards – the former joining the Hypercar class.
Compared to the Hypercar class that will begin racing in WEC next year, the LMDh category is relatively more cost-efficient. Cars will be built on one of four spec LMP2-based chassis, and the hybrid systems specifications, including the control electronics are also standardised.
LMDh teams are open to freely innovate in the combustion engine and body design areas, as long as they conform to the framework laid out in the regulations.
It’s clear that cost played a huge part in Porsche’s decision to partake in the LMDh category, as Porsche AG CEO Oliver Blume explains: “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. The project is extremely attractive for Porsche. Endurance racing is part of our brand’s DNA.”
Porsche VP of Motorsport, Fritz Enzinger added,” I’d like to thank our board of directors for the immense confidence they have in the motorsport strategy we’ve developed. 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.”
Porsche has found great success in WEC’s top class endurance racing series. In recent years, the hugely-successful Porsche 919 Hybrid competing in the LMP1 class achieved a hat-trick clinching the manufacturers’ and drivers’ championship titles in 2015, 2016 and 2017, as well as winning Le Mans for three consecutive years.
Aside from LMP1, Porsche’s GTE Pro programme was also immensely successful, achieving the GT World Championship title and victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans during the 2018-2019 Super Season.
The news follows hot on the heels of sister brand Audi, who recently also announced a return to top-flight sportscar racing with its own LMDh entry. So far, four carmakers have signed up to the WEC’s new top-flight category, with Toyota and Peugeot commited to the Hypercar spec.
It is unclear at this point in time if the effort will be run as a factory works team, or being sold as cars to customer racing teams. Porsche says more news will follow in due course.