Porsche confirms end to LMP1 programme

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Porsche has today con­firmed that its high­ly suc­cess­ful LMP1 pro­gramme will be com­ing to the end fol­low­ing the 2017 sea­son, with the Ger­man mar­que set to focus its WEC efforts on its GTE Pro pro­gramme with the 911 RSR as well as its com­mit­ment to the IMSA Weath­erTech Sports­car Cham­pi­onship in the US. In addi­tion, Porsche is also set to enter For­mu­la E from 2019 with a ful­ly works team.

The LMP1 team will remain “ful­ly intact”, Porsche say, with works dri­vers such as André Lot­ter­er, Bren­don Hart­ley and Timo Bern­hard stay­ing with the team, pre­sum­ably to spear­head the For­mu­la E effort. “Build­ing up the Le Mans team from scratch was a huge chal­lenge,” said Fritz Enzinger, Vice Pres­i­dent of the Porsche LMP1 team. “Over the years, we have devel­oped an incred­i­bly suc­cess­ful and pro­fes­sion­al team. This will be our basis going for­ward. I am cer­tain that we will main­tain our high lev­el in For­mu­la E. Con­fi­dence is high, and we are excit­ed to get start­ed”.

The deci­sion fol­lows Audi’s with­draw­al from pro­to­type rac­ing at the end of last year and puts the ACO, organ­is­ers and pro­mot­ers of the WEC, and the FIA in a quandary. With only one man­u­fac­ture remain­ing in the top class of the WEC, Toy­ota, the series’ sta­tus as an offi­cial FIA World Cham­pi­onship may be under threat. Under FIA reg­u­la­tions, a series must have at least two man­u­fac­tur­ers to be clas­si­fied as a World Cham­pi­onship.

In a mes­sage of defi­ance and more than a tinge of irri­ta­tion, the WEC lament­ed the loss of Porsche from the LMP1 scene but also promised that the 2018 sea­son would be “quite excep­tion­al”. “The ACO […] regrets this pre­cip­i­tous depar­ture, as it does the abrupt­ness of the deci­sion from one of endurance racing’s most suc­cess­ful and laud­ed man­u­fac­tur­ers,” it said in a state­ment. “This unprece­dent­ed 2018 World Cham­pi­onship will, with­out doubt, excite and enthuse com­peti­tors, part­ners and fans of endurance rac­ing alike.”

The ACO had only recent­ly announced a new rule­set, set to take effect from the 2020 sea­son, with a focus on plug-in hybrid tech­nol­o­gy and elec­tric dri­ve. Toy­ota, the sole remain­ing man­u­fac­tur­er, has been pos­i­tive in the past about con­tin­u­ing its LMP1 pro­gramme, but has always main­tained that there must be com­pe­ti­tion in the cat­e­go­ry. Peu­geot remains a poten­tial LMP1 com­peti­tor, but is believed to be aim­ing for fur­ther cost-cut­ting mea­sures to be imple­ment­ed in the rule­book before com­mit­ting to a return to Le Mans and a maid­en entry in the WEC.

Sources: Porsche News­room and FIA WEC
Images © WEC-Mag­a­zin