Porsche has confirmed that it will pull the plug on its factory LMP1 program at the end of the FIA World Endurance Championship season, one year early from its initial commitment.
The announcement came on Friday following a board-level decision outlining changes to the German manufacturer’s motorsports activities, including plans to enter Formula E in 2019 and an increased focus on GT racing.
Its withdrawal from top-level prototype racing comes as a significant blow to the WEC, which is now left with just Toyota as a registered LMP1 manufacturer for 2018, casting questions over the category’s future.
Having announced its entry into LMP1 competition in 2011, Porsche debuted the first-generation 919 Hybrid in 2014, claiming its first victory in the season-ending Six Hours of Sao Paulo that year.
In all, it has earned 15 wins out of 29 WEC races entered to date, including three consecutive overall victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and back-to-back drivers’ and manufacturers’ World Championships.
Despite the dominant streak of success, its WEC program came under scrutiny at the beginning of this year, understood to be due to the excessive operating budget and long-term outlook of the hybrid-based category.
Porsche’s LMP1 team will remain intact, in preparation for its entry into Formula E, alongside ventures into other racing series for its current crop of factory drivers.
“Building up the Le Mans team from scratch was a huge challenge,” said Porsche LMP1 Vice President Fritz Enzinger. “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.”
Porsche’s decision, coming just nine months after Audi’s LMP1 withdrawal, leaves questions currently unanswered over the future of the top category.
At least two LMP1 manufacturers are required for the WEC to retain World Championship status, according to CEO Gerard Neveu, who along with ACO President Pierre Fillon and FIA President Jean Todt, signed a contract extension through 2020 at Silverstone in April.
The status of Peugeot, the only other potential LMP1 manufacturer the ACO and FIA has been in discussion with, remains unknown, with the French automaker reportedly unlikely to enter the championship in 2020 as initially hoped for.
Toyota, which has an agreement in principle through the end of the 2019 season, could also change its plans, with TMG Vice President Pascal Vasseon admitting that “it would be a problem” should Porsche decide to leave the LMP1 ranks, prior to today’s news.
It’s understood an emergency meeting is being held at TMG this morning to determine the fate of its program, with the WEC yet to release a statement in reaction to Porsche’s exit announcement.
Momentum, meanwhile, continues to build in Formula E, with Porsche now the third different manufacturer to announce plans to enter the all-electric championship in 2019, joining Audi and Mercedes, and BMW set to enter next year.
The realignment of Porsche’s motorsports activities have been attributed to its strategy to develop GT cars and fully electric sports cars for the road, including its Mission E concept car.
“Entering Formula E and achieving success in this category are the logical outcomes of our Mission E project,” said Michael Steiner, Member of the Executive Board of Porsche AG responsible for Research and Development.
“The growing freedom for in-house technology developments makes Formula E attractive to us. Porsche is working with alternative, innovative drive concepts.
“For us, Formula E is the ultimate competitive environment for driving forward the development of high-performance vehicles in areas such as environmental friendliness, efficiency, and sustainability.”
Development of Porsche’s Formula E car has already begun.