Porsche will return to the top level of endurance racing in 2023, developing an LMDh car for the World Endurance Championship, IMSA and the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The move means that Porsche will join fellow Volkswagen Group brand Audi into the new class of prototypes, where the two manufacturers will compete against each other at Le Mans for the first time since 2016 when Porsche was victorious.
Audi then withdrew from LMP1 and announced its Formula E programme, while a year later Porsche followed suit – although it has remained present in the GT class.
While Audi has recently stated its decision to end its Formula E project following 2021, Porsche is yet to confirm if it will continue into the Gen3 era of the electric championship – but is expected to do so early in the new year.
The WEC is scheduled to run the new LMDh rules from the 2022 season onwards. The IMSA SportsCar Championship will follow suit in 2023 when LMDh will replace its popular DPi class.
LMDh cars are set to be technically balanced with the Hypercar designs from Toyota, Glickenhaus, ByKolles and Peugeot cars, which will race from the 2021 season bar Peugeot, which will debut its 2.6-litre V6 twin-turbocharged engine in 2022.
Porsche has been evaluating the new rules since March.
“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 Porsche AG’s CEO Oliver Blume.
“The project is extremely attractive for Porsche. Endurance racing is part of our brand’s DNA.
“For the first time in more than 20 years, it will be possible to fight for overall victories with identical vehicles at endurance races around the world. Moreover, the new LMDh category focuses on high cost-efficiency.”
The LMDh cars will be based on upgraded LMP2 chassis, with a standardised hybrid system. The chassis will come from four pre-chosen manufacturers: ORECA, Ligier, Dallara and Multimatic.
Porsche, along with all manufacturers committing to LMDh, will be free to select ‘the concept for the combustion engine and the body design within the framework of the regulations’.
Porsche has confirmed its strategy in motorsport will centre on three specific ‘drive concepts’: fully electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and combustion engines.
Michael Steiner, board member for research and development at Porsche AG, said that Porsche wanted to “represent this trilogy in both the development of our cutting-edge road cars and in motorsport”.
He added: “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.
“If the regulations eventually allowed the use of synthetic fuels, then that would be an even greater incentive for me in terms of sustainability.”
Fritz Enzinger, Porsche’s vice president of motorsport, oversaw much of the 919 Hybrid success which yielded a Le Mans hat-trick between 2015-’17.
He echoed Blume’s words by saying that “keeping costs reasonable,” was one of the key drivers in presenting the LMDh project to the Porsche executive board.
“There has been huge interest from other manufacturers,” he said. “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.”