Porsche Confirms LMP1 Exit at End of Season; Enters Formula E

Photo: Porsche

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.

50 Comments

  1. David Chaste

    July 28, 2017 at 1:09 am

    Parallel to Formula E, be sure to take a look at DPi. Much better value than the 200 mill for LMP1. 20-30 million a year would be enough for a solid DPi program

    • Guest

      July 28, 2017 at 1:51 am

      Volkswagen Group would most likely enter under Volkswagen or Bentley.

  2. TF110

    July 28, 2017 at 1:44 am

    They didn’t have to spend $200 million in lmp1. They chose to. Toyota don’t even spend half of that and are faster. This decision looks like more VW board cuts and ‘cheap green’ advertising. Great that it’s at a fraction of the cost but also a fraction of the following.

    • Binky

      July 28, 2017 at 3:19 am

      Agreed. Would also add that when factory Mercedes, Audi, BMW, and Porsche teams are directly competing in a single category, budgets will skyrocket in a matter of months rather than years.

    • Zi Zknow Zeverything

      July 28, 2017 at 8:51 am

      Totally agreed!

  3. MrMuffins

    July 28, 2017 at 1:45 am

    At this time, I’m wondering how a turbocharged flat 6 in a Onroak/Oreca/Multimatic/Dallara would work out.

  4. John

    July 28, 2017 at 2:43 am

    I know little of Formula E, except for the fact that they have to switch cars in the middle of a race, and the idiotic “fan boost” thing. I have watched part of a race, which all seem to take place on tight urban street courses. If that is the future of motorsport, then I guess I’ll be looking for other forms of entertainment.

    That said, how much freedom is there in the formula? If they’re running spec cars, and spec powertrains, albeit with different software, then it will appear that participation is driven more by marketing (and not being left out by the rest of the German OEMs) than technical challenge, at least in its current state.

    • Luc

      July 28, 2017 at 3:54 am

      Look at the tracks in Formula E, they look like indoor go kart tracks.
      But they have to use tracks like that, as the cars they would look painfully slow on a proper tracks.

      Big loss for WEC, say what you will. Hopefully they will able to make proper changes which will lead to an increase in quality and quantity. I really like the current LMP2 class on a competitive note but having only one engine?
      Bring in DPi in the WEC, I would be all for it. Call it LPi or whatever, could work for both current LMP2 teams (such as Alpine), OEM’s and/or IMSA teams.
      But do it fast as they have to keep the momentum going.

      • Andy Flinn

        July 28, 2017 at 10:57 am

        The WEC needs to do something with its LMP2 class, too. Unlike the variety in the ELMS (the United Autosports Ligier won the latest round), it is dominated by Oreca. (The Alpine/Nissan in WEC LMP2 is just a rebranded Oreca/Nissan.). One part-time Nissan isn’t going to cut it for long.

        • Andy Flinn

          July 28, 2017 at 11:00 am

          That should read part-time Ligier. And the Alpine/Nissan is an Oreca/Gibson.

    • Anonymous

      July 28, 2017 at 4:01 am

      Formula E has a strategy of opening up parts of the car for development every year, so by season 5 when Mercedes and Porsche enter the cars will no longer be spec.

      The intention is to have the cars do an entire race in season 4 or 5. They chose to make it a street racing series because it was most relevant to road cars.

      I wish they’d gone DPi, (with Joest) but Formula E appears to be the future for most car manufacturers.

      • Kirk

        July 28, 2017 at 7:53 am

        Formula E solely uses street circuits because the cars are painfully slow. If they were to ever use a proper road course fans would then be able to see just how slow they are.

        • Kurt M

          July 28, 2017 at 8:04 am

          Yes, but the sound e-cars make is so stimulating! It makes up for the slowness.

          • tracer

            July 28, 2017 at 11:01 am

            Lol.

        • NaBUru38

          July 28, 2017 at 8:41 am

          They do street races for marketing. They want green cities as partners and casual fans close.

          • N8

            July 28, 2017 at 9:29 am

            Which makes no sense. City dwellers don’t own cars, they take mass transit, bike, take cabs or uber, walk, etc. And even if you happen to happen to have a car in somewhere like Brooklyn, it’s left on the street 3 blocks away, not in a garage next to a charge port.

            As far as I’m concerned, it’s marketing for the sake of marketing. It doesn’t cost much, so WTF, let’s throw our brand logo on the side of the car we didn’t build, promoting a antiquated technology that our road cars have already surpassed and pat ourselves on the back for a new “green initiative”. Marketing department can go home early today.

        • Truth

          July 28, 2017 at 9:24 am

          That is why Formula E bypasses Beau Rivage when they go to Monaco.

          • Luc

            July 28, 2017 at 10:48 am

            I think they can’t make it up the hill!

  5. Mark J

    July 28, 2017 at 4:50 am

    If you are sitting on the VW/Porsche board planning out strategic & marketing investments to sell your brands new electrific platform in 5 years time where is the only series currently available to showcase the tech? Its Formula E, and you race against the very top brands and hopefully beat them. On a budget much smaller than what they spend now.

    Porsche’s LMP met all its objectives. It showed their development might in delivering a world beating turbo charged 4cyl. That aligns well with their current road car powertrains. What do they do next with racing knowing Electric is their next main brand message?…

    Its a sad day and I’ll look back at this period of Sportscars remembering truly impressive machines in happy nostalgia. I’ll never forget my amazement at watching one of these beasts exiting Arnage at night on full power. Like nothing I have seen. So I’m thankful, sad and hopeful ACO and the FIA can plot out a framework that can produce the next golden generation. GT is booming and I’m pumped for IMSA next year too. The ebbs and flows of Sportscar racing.

    • Luc

      July 28, 2017 at 5:48 am

      Well written and true. Coming out of a slow corner the LMP1’s where truly amazing, the sheer acceleration!

    • Truth

      July 28, 2017 at 9:29 am

      What is greater – the demand for electric vehicles or the manufacturers desire to push electric vehicles?

      The electric vehicle thing reminds me a lot of the push by television manufacturers to sell 3D televisions. Sure, it was neat technology, but the customer wasn’t demanding it.

      • Mark J

        July 28, 2017 at 9:53 am

        There is more to it. If we look at the European and in particular Chinese market. Government emissions standards are pushing them to meet more stringent targets. These can really only be met by Electric (currently, but who knows what other powertrains in the future….)

        Second. Shareholders and the markets are pushing for legacy brands to have a future vision. Not just make the cars they have done for the past 100 years. Electric/Autonomy etc. There is so much potential disruption in the automotive market when we look 10 years from now. Tesla being the prime example of disruption and high market valuation. OEM’s need to react.

        I’m not in favour of all the changes going on right now. Especially in racing, but its looking like our future….

        • Mike

          July 28, 2017 at 11:28 am

          > There is more to it. If we look at the European and in particular Chinese market. Government emissions standards are pushing them to meet more stringent targets.

          Of course there’s still that nagging issue about the reality that electric car production is more environmentally harmful than the entire life of emissions saved based on the average lifespan of the modern car.

          But you never hear about that anymore…

          • NASCAR/DPs Suck

            July 28, 2017 at 11:57 am

            Mike, good point and glad you brought up how toxic and wasteful the battery production process can be. Lithium, Cobalt, and many of the rare earth metals that are utilized are mined and could soon be in short supply. Combine this with the effect of electrification on an outdated power grid are reasons I’m not buying into this garbage. We as fans can do our part and avoid FE like the plague until it’s 15 minutes of fame are up. It’s just like women’s basketball-why would I watch if I can observe better players at my local YMCA? Why would I watch a series of cars that I can smoke in my M3 daily driver?

          • Mark J

            July 28, 2017 at 6:52 pm

            Totally agree!

  6. Brakes

    July 28, 2017 at 5:20 am

    Porsche,Audi,BMW,Mercedes,Renault… racing in Formula e.Why?
    Marketing,yes but i believe there is more about it.
    They are al linked with Formula 1 be it by racing allready in it or interrested to do that in the future(2021).
    They where at those meetings about the engine formula for 2021.
    I really want to know what they told at that meeting.
    Could it be that the best kept secret wasn’t Mercedes leaving DTM but that F1 will enter the electrical age of motorsport in 2021.
    Let’s put some facts together.
    -renault racing in F1 and FE but Alain Prost is heavily linked with both series.
    -Porsche,Audi, possibly engine supplier for RB,McLaren
    -McLaren delivers the new battery for FE,want to quit their contract with Honda
    It is not enough to know that this will be but i get this strange idea that it could be.

    • thomas

      July 28, 2017 at 8:42 am

      won’t happen. No way Liberty Media would let their purchase be turned into Formula E

  7. DP

    July 28, 2017 at 5:25 am

    Anyone else think that the VAG group is ruining motorsport, one series at a time? Killing off the DTM with stupid regs, spending way too much in the WRC, dominating so other companies lost interest. WEC is finished because of their stupid spending. TCR/GT4 will go the same way, when the RS3/R8 are 1 second quicker and cost €50,000 more. Getting ridiculous, hopefully their excessive spending kills off Formula E too

    • Luc

      July 28, 2017 at 5:51 am

      Well that’s VAG. Veni Vedi Vici. Or more spend out everyone and annihilate. We they come they are welcomed, but afterwards….

      • Andy Flinn

        July 28, 2017 at 11:21 am

        It’s the series’ fault for providing an environment where one manufacturer can dominate. It is their job to ensure competition.

        Take IMSA GTP for example. Between mid-1991 and the end of 1993, while the WSC in Europe was dying and Peugeot was winding down their LMP program at Le Mans, Dan Gurney’s Toyota Eagle GTPs won 21 of 27 races. This included quite a winning streak. In 1994, IMSA GTP was dead.

        Take another example ALMS LMP1. In addition to multiple drivers and manufacturer championships, Audi won overall at Sebring 11 times in the 14 races the contested. This includes 12 LMP1 class victories at Sebring.

        Manufacturers dominate and then leave. This year, Porsche earned three consecutive victories at Le Mans, including the last two that should have gone Toyota.

        At the absurd cost of $200 million a year, what did the WEC think Porsche was going to do?

        After the Audi pullout and Porsche’s Le Mans three-peat the WEC should not have been surprised by this decision.

        • Susafan

          July 28, 2017 at 12:03 pm

          No one forced Audi nor Porsche to spend 200 million bucks.
          Toyota archieved almost the same with 40% of Porsches Budget.

    • KW

      July 28, 2017 at 12:49 pm

      It has been their motorsports strategy since the Paris-Dakar times. They enter a series where they can easily win by spending 10 times the budget of the competitors, use it for marketing, and then disappear – racing locusts. It’s only a pity that Porsche, which is a really worthy company, is now under the same regime. But it’s the job of the series organizers to keep them from winning too easily – so far Stéphane Ratel is doing a good job for this.

  8. VolFanXxX

    July 28, 2017 at 5:50 am

    Dearly Beloved We Are Gathered Here Today To Announce The Death Of The FIA World Endurance Championship’s LMP1-Hybrid Class

    ;-(

  9. N8

    July 28, 2017 at 7:22 am

    Good luck to ’em, but I’ve seen Formula E, didn’t like it, and won’t be returning to see it again. It certainly isn’t targeted to race fans. What demographic is it that these OEM’s think they’re reaching?

    Honestly, if you took the amazing pool of drivers in Formula E, put them in box stock Tesla’s and held events at actual race tracks, THAT would pique my interest. Dated technology in spec POS open wheelers on poorly though out gymkhana courses, I’m sorry, but I just don’t get it. I’d rather watch an oval race.

  10. Gigi

    July 28, 2017 at 7:26 am

    BTW there’s a good new:
    Toyota can finally win in 2018 Le Mans 24h!

    • FlyingLobster27

      July 28, 2017 at 8:33 am

      Gigi, 2017 showed that even if Toyota were the only manufacturer P1 team, and came with three cars, there’s no guarantee they’ll win Le Mans. Toyota did not finish second to Porsche this year, and they weren’t even close.

      • Luc

        July 28, 2017 at 10:50 am

        Well I think ByKolles think they are going to win now. They thought they had a genuine change to win at LM, or so they said. Well well…

      • Gigi

        July 28, 2017 at 11:12 am

        Hard but true…
        You are sadly right.
        If we want remain hilarious lets think about Lotterer: he lost 2 jobs in 9 months!

    • Andy Flinn

      July 28, 2017 at 11:26 am

      Per Le Mans rules, wouldn’t the Toyota still have to finish? So there’s still no guarantee the curse will be lifted at Le Mans.

  11. Larry

    July 28, 2017 at 8:46 am

    Glad to see them exit P1. They whole hybrid thing needs to go.

    Not glad to see them going to Formula E. Tried to watch it. Boring as hell.

    Enough of the phony “green” crap from the FIA. It’s just feel good nonsense.

    As a Porsche owner, I want them to continue in GTE/GTLM/GT3/GTD/GT4/etc. I would like to seem them in DPi, but as long as the rules favor the Caddiracs, why bother.

  12. Zi Zknow Zeverything

    July 28, 2017 at 8:54 am

    F*ck Formula E! Idiotic marketing scheme. But, more than this f*ck Audi, Mercedes and Porsche for leaving true motorsports to race it.

  13. Sir Skidsalot

    July 28, 2017 at 9:31 am

    Glad LMP1 Hybrid is going away, but Formula E is the dumbest, most boring thing I’ve ever seen.

  14. jason

    July 28, 2017 at 10:03 am

    If this is going to help increase the profile of GT racing. Then I’ll be happy. Maybe Porsche should consider doing what Ford does at Le Mans and double up their flee in GTE Pro

  15. Zone

    July 28, 2017 at 10:12 am

    Some of the ugliest cars on the planet and yes including the DPi in imsa.

    • pop

      July 28, 2017 at 1:11 pm

      YES

  16. Gabriel Medina, The Other

    July 28, 2017 at 10:19 am

    Dont know what is the saddest, the fact, or people who love endurance racing that are glad about this because of DPi, GTs or because hates (?!) hybrids. Such a stupid mindset.

    • jason

      July 28, 2017 at 11:06 am

      150 million euro’s a year is not feasible. LMP1 got out of control to an extreme. So a shakeup is not a bad thing. Part of the fun of sportscar racing.

      Porsche is very much a player still in GTLM/GTE Pro/GT3 for many years to come I’m sure. Remember the LMP1 withdraw is from the Porsche research and development division. Not the motorsport division. The head of Porsche motorsport division hung out in the Porsche GT team garage at Le Mans

  17. tracer

    July 28, 2017 at 11:50 am

    Back when LMP1-H was good, it was great. However, the Nissan debacle and long slow death of the category that followed has detracted from the show the last two seasons. I hate to see Audi and Porsche leave prototype racing, but believe the hybrid era of sportscar racing needs to come to an end sooner than later. The recent revolution of governing bodies and manufacturers focusing on the wants and needs of sportscar racers is the only way forward for a sustainable future.

    I will mourn the death of LMP1-H, but will balance that with celebrating the path ahead in LMP2-DPi/LMP3 and GT3/GT4.

  18. Steven

    July 28, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    Hopefully this finally wakes up the ACO a little bit and take a new look into the 2020 regulations. I think hybrid power should be kept, but brought back down to a level to 2-4 MJ’s at most or a KERS type system that could have some modern day relevancy.

    As far as the WEC, They were always gonna struggle because they are under the FIA, the FIA will never let anything gain in popularity which could take away fans from their “golden child” of F1 (though the “halo” thing might be the last straw for many fans).

    Personally, a ILMC style championship should make a comeback as the scheduling would only help IMSA, ELMS, and AsiaLMS. But the FIA needs to be dropped from sportscar racing if that can ever happen again.

  19. sunset bend

    July 29, 2017 at 7:42 am

    Formula E > WEC. Sad.

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