Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber are poised to return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, with Head of Porsche Motorsport Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser admitting it “sounds logical” for the LMP1 stars to be placed in its GT Le Mans class factory effort next year.
Both drivers, who drove full-time with the CORE autosport-run operation in 2015-16, and Tandy also in 2014, are expected to be part of the team’s full-season lineup following a season with the German manufacturer’s soon-to-be-defunct LMP1 program.
Bamber, meanwhile, clinched the Drivers’ World Championship in last weekend’s Six Hours of Shanghai.
Walliser indicated Tandy and Bamber’s appearance in October’s Motul Petit Le Mans, as third drivers with Porsche GT Team, wasn’t by coincidence.
“All things we are doing is by intention,” he said.
“I did not do all the final [allocations] because our driver calendar is really complex. But this is the direction we’re going.”
The pairing are expected to replace Gianmaria Bruni and Laurens Vanthoor, who are reportedly moving to Porsche’s GTE-Pro program in the WEC.
Patrick Pilet and Dirk Werner piloted the other season-long WeatherTech Championship entry this year, having given the mid-engined Porsche 911 RSR its first victory at Lime Rock Park in July.
Race Outings Possible for Other Porsche LMP1 Drivers
Walliser said other LMP1 drivers could be part of its GT lineup as well, but would depend on scheduling and availability.
All six of the current Porsche 919 Hybrid drivers are expected to remain under contract with the German manufacturer next year, leaving options for Neel Jani, Andre Lotterer and Timo Bernhard.
Both Jani and Lotterer will take part in the FIA Formula E Championship, which is likely to make full-season GT programs unlikely.
“With the calendar it’s not so easy,” Walliser said. “If there’s an opportunity, yes why not. Most of them have experience in GT cars and are really keen on driving.”
Brendon Hartley, who made his Formula One debut last month, has been tipped for a full season run in F1 next year, although Walliser said he wouldn’t absolutely rule out the Kiwi taking part in selected GT races for Porsche.
“We are not through the details,” he said. “Obviously we don’t know exactly [his F1 future], it’s not published, what he will do next year. We have some guesses.”
Hartley made his GT debut in January’s 24 Hours of Dubai, winning the race in a Herberth Motorsport-run Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“It fits and he showed at Dubai how he can handle it and do it,” Walliser said. “It’s always a big task. It’s not easy for a driver, especially coming from a LMP1 team, to join a small private team like Herberth.
“To go to Dubai and being the star but knowing he also had to learn the track and car. How he integrated and handled everything, everyone was [pleased].”