Porsche announced Tuesday that it will return to the highest levels of international prototype racing on both sides of the Atlantic in 2023 with a new LMDh car that will campaign for Porsche Motorsport in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the FIA World Endurance Championship. Porsche also released a few teaser drawings to show what that new machine might look like.
The LMDh program—Le Mans Daytona hybrid—will allow manufacturer-backed teams to purchase an approved chassis (based on the existing LMP2 designs) and body and mount their own engines in the car. The engines will be, as they are now, tested on a dynamometer and the horsepower will be limited to a certain level by the sanctioning bodies. This allows, as now, four-cylinder Mazda engines to compete against Cadillac V8s, and now Porsches too. The target is about 680 horsepower.
“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,” said Oliver Blume, Porsche CEO. That's pretty much exactly what organizers of the global LMDh effort were hoping for—lower costs, and more racing. And with Porsche jumping in, other manufacturers are sure to follow.
Why? Racing still matters for road cars, despite all appearances. Let Porsche AG board member Michael Steiner explain:
"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."
Beyond trickle-down R&D, the most attractive part of the LMDh program for OEM motorsport divisions is that for the first time in years, Prototype cars that compete in IMSA, as in the Rolex 24 and the 12 Hours of Sebring, can also compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, by far the most prestigious sports car race for manufacturers in the world.
It’s expected that the current manufacturers that compete in IMSA’s Daytona Protoype international will continue into the LMDh program, but we could also see Peugeot, Jaguar, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and Audi – that’s to just name a few – jumping in to race in the top level of sports car competition.
The LMDh car was announced in January, before the coronavirus pandemic, and John Doonan, IMSA president, said there were at least a dozen manufacturers “at the table” discussing the possibility of racing in the LMDh program. And despite the pandemic, “None of them have left,” Doonan said last week.
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