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Porsche Downplays LMP1 Exit Rumors

Porsche LMP1 team principal downplays end-of-year exit rumors…

Photo: Porsche

Porsche LMP1 team principal Andreas Seidl has downplayed reports that the German manufacturer could exit the FIA World Endurance Championship at the end of the year, amid concerns over the car’s competitiveness and increasing questions on LMP1’s long-term future.

German motorsports publication Motorsport Aktuell reported last week that Porsche’s current commitment through the end of the 2018 season may be cut short by a year, citing recent struggles with its 919 Hybrid and the inability to roll out with an all-new car for next year.

A freeze of the current LMP1 regulations, and agreement with Toyota to remain with the same monocoque designs through the end of 2019, has reportedly placed the short-term future of the program in jeopardy,  with multiple industry sources indicating it could be up for re-evaluation this summer.

Despite the latest report, which came from leading journalist Marcus Schurig, who revealed Audi’s premature exit from LMP1 competition two weeks before it was made official, it’s understood a decision has not yet been taken by the German manufacturer.

Porsche’s Seidl reiterated that they are still moving forward with its 2018 plans.

“I hear these rumors from time to time, but I have nothing to comment on,” he told Sportscar365. “All I know is it’s confirmed for 2018. We’re fully into the development of the ’18 car also.”

Seidl said he expects to begin discussion on the “next period” of the project in the second half of this year, once the 2020 LMP1 regulations are defined. 

“That’s the situation right now,” he said. “We wait now for the announcement of the 2020 regulations and I think later in the year we will make a decision about the future.”

Toyota’s increased pace, particularly at the Le Mans Test Day, and expected advantage in this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, reportedly resulted in Porsche holding an emergency meeting to come up with a short-term solution.

It’s understood opting to build an all-new car for next year has been ruled out, from both a financial and timing standpoint, although Seidl said they still have areas that can be improved on its current chassis, which by 2018 will be four year old.

“Even with keeping the basic concept the same, we can still make a huge, huge step each year,” he said.

Should Porsche end up pulling the plug, it could cast serious doubts into the future of the LMP1 class and WEC in general.

Peugeot, which has been in discussions to join the championship in 2020 when new a new set of hybrid-based regulations are expected to be introduced, appears increasingly unlikely to commit due to costs.

The WEC requires at least two manufacturers in the top class per its contract with the FIA, which was recently renewed through 2020.

Representatives from the FIA and ACO, meanwhile, are due to unveil its new set of LMP1 regulations on Friday, despite growing internal concern over the future of at least one of its key players in the class.

Toyota Gazoo Racing team director Rob Leupen said Porsche is a “big help” for them in ensuring tough competition in the class, despite the reduced entry this year amid Audi’s exit.

“Hopefully if they are rumors, they are untrue, and secondly if they are true, we cannot influence it,” Leupen told Sportscar365.

Seidl, meanwhile, said “the most important thing” is to attract additional manufacturers to the class, although as of right now, it appears doubtful, at least with hybrid-based regulations. 

“I have to say with the working groups we have had in the last month under the leadership of the ACO and FIA, I think some good decisions have been made,” he said.

“Still, it has to be seen once everything gets announced what the interest is of additional manufacturers.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

47 Comments

47 Comments

  1. Kyle Busch

    June 14, 2017 at 4:30 am

    Everything’s great.

    • welp

      June 14, 2017 at 3:30 pm

      “no problems here folks, move along”

  2. Luc

    June 14, 2017 at 4:47 am

    So if you can’t win you quit? “We’re fully into the development of the ’18 car also.” Audi was also fully into the development of the ’17 car also.
    Only 2 teams in LMP1 makes it vulnerable.

    Well maybe we will get DPi style cars in the WEC called LMi’s 🙂

    • Diogo

      June 14, 2017 at 5:47 am

      DPi’s are “badge engineered” cars. They make no sense in LMP1, there’s not a lot of technology development (apart from the engine). They are good marketing tools, but not good platforms for technolog of the future. It’s the typical american concept, just like with nascar and trans-am, all the cars are the same, the engines are basically the same (thank god that doesn’t happen in dpi, only good thing about it), they just fit a body a go racing. That would make LMP1 boring. People keep saying 2 brands is bad, but Audi vs Peugeot times were amazing and got us to where we are today, and they were only 2 brands.

      • guest

        June 14, 2017 at 7:54 am

        Sorry, but P1 really is a marketing exercise. The real R&D is happening outside of racing.

      • Andy Flinn

        June 14, 2017 at 3:01 pm

        Diogo, the DPi engines are definitely not the same. They are definitely not “badge engineered” or spec Gibsons, as MANDATED in LMP2 at Le Mans and in the WEC. (Although, IMSA prototype teams VFR, JDC/Miller and PR1 do have the freedom to choose a Riley/Multimatic, Oreca, Ligier or Dallara chassis with the Gibson engine.)

        Also, the DPi bodywork (and even the Caddy wheel design) is not the same as what is MANDATED for all LMP2s by the ACO at Le Mans and in the WEC. Instead, these body designs are created by factory design employees at GM, Mazda and Nissan.

        So DPi is not “badge engineering” any more than when Dallara was contracted to build the chassis for the Group 5 Lancia Beta Montecarlos and the Group C Lancia LC2s.

        Typical uniformed criticism of the DPi format.

        DPis were banned from Le Mans and WEC LMP2 as a lame attempt by the ACO to protect LMP1. The ACO hoped to funnel manufacturer interest into LMP1.

        It was a mistake. It won’t work. And eventually ACO is going to regrey their decision and adopt the DPi concept.

    • JamieR

      June 14, 2017 at 6:31 am

      How stupid to want to quit the moment you stop automatically winning, a bit like Red Bull in F1 a couple of years ago when they weren’t dominating every race for the first time in 5 seasons.

      Either way LMP1-H is clearly not sustainable, and if this apparent influx of privateer LMP1 cars comes to fruition it may make the problem worse.

      Personally I’ve always watched the WEC for the GTE classes anyway.

    • Axl Rose ate my Buick

      June 14, 2017 at 9:23 am

      Just like Volkswagen did in the WRC, the only difference is that they didnt even waited the competition.

  3. John

    June 14, 2017 at 5:03 am

    The one constant in top-level sports car racing is its volatility and cyclical nature. It was evident that this cycle had peaked, and the decline had begun.

    Even without the burden of the Dieselgate settlements, it made little financial sense for VAG to be fielding two teams in the same category. They were only the final nails in the Audi coffin, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Porsche follow.

    If Toyota wins this year, they will have achieved their goal, so what incentive do they have not to take their trophy and go home? Their participation in motorsports isn’t as central to their brand identity as it is for other marques.

    Decisions such as these come from above the heads of people interviewed for this story.

    • Andy Flinn

      June 14, 2017 at 3:07 pm

      John gets it.

      The teams can say one thing. The decision is made by others in the boardroom.

      I remember when reporters interviewed Wolfgang Ulrich at Audi. Everything was fine and moving forward. Obviously, it wasn’t.

      • kv

        June 14, 2017 at 8:42 pm

        The free flywheel hybrid is the cost effective solution,followed by the EVT,ELECTRONIC VARIABLE TRANSAXLE WILL KEEP HYBRIDS ALIVE !

  4. Luna

    June 14, 2017 at 5:31 am

    The end of the LMP1…

  5. morningview66

    June 14, 2017 at 5:46 am

    If Porsche quit, i feel the FIA/ACO have really painted themselves into a corner.

    DPi wouldnt be a bad idea, but then you still have the privateer LMP1’s that have been promised 5 years of stability and looks to be growing for next year.

    Personally if it happens, i would like to see GT regs opened up so you can run hybrids, more power and allow for production car chassis with certain body areas that can be modified (like early 80s group 5). Manufacturers seem to be intersted in running road type cars. If it was possible to get theese as fast as the prototypes it could be good like original GT1.

    • Diogo

      June 14, 2017 at 5:58 am

      Original GT1 was kinda rubbish. It missed the point of GT racing. Modified production car, not “production” prototype cars. Like I said in a comment I made to Luc, i don’t think DPi is the right answer to LMP1 and european racing in general. Usually, brand race in LMP to develop technologies, and DPi doesn’t allow that too much. But agree with the hybrid GT’s, remever the GT3R Hybrid aa few years ago? Did pretty well in some races.

      • GR88

        June 14, 2017 at 6:19 am

        LMP1 is the right answer for European racing. It’s simply a question of reducing the budget requirements for manufacturers. The privateer regs seem to have hit the right note and will see growth. But, with or without Porsche and Toyota, LMP1 needs to be within the budget of far more manufacturers. We’re not talking peanuts, Peugeot and the like are willing to spend €50m+.

  6. GR88

    June 14, 2017 at 6:12 am

    Two points.

    There is no firm rule needing two manufacturers in the top class. It, along with competing on three continents, is needed to launch a World Championship, but once established, more flexibility allowed. With the (potential) LMP1 privateer field, and manufacturers in GTE, it’s not as clear cut.

    Secondly, Peugeot are in discussions regarding 2020 regulations. No decision can be made until this is settled. Fewer manufacturers tied to hybrid tech would strengthen their case and lower budget alternatives.

  7. Sunset Bend

    June 14, 2017 at 7:52 am

    Burn it down. Get rid of the insane costs of Hybrid regenerative systems. If you must, design the rules around Hybrid fuel efficiency. “Our cars can race for two hours on a load of fuel, blah, blah.” The LMP1 is too far gone with F1 technology that isn’t working to grow the sport. Reboot!

    • Ben

      June 14, 2017 at 7:55 am

      Agreed! I don’t care about the hybrid junk. I want to see a RACE!

  8. J.J.

    June 14, 2017 at 9:03 am

    Agree, the fans come to watch, or go online to follow and watch ‘A Race’..! The extent of the technology is far over the head of the average Fan.
    Bring the Budgets way down and put on a Show..!!!!

  9. BobR

    June 14, 2017 at 9:41 am

    Too many rules in LMP1 class. Time to eliminate and let the LMP1 teams design and race cars that bring the excitement back to the class.

    • JG

      June 14, 2017 at 11:04 am

      Agreed. The current rules (“big honking holes”) have resulted in the ugliest looking prototypes (both lmp1 and lmp2) ever. I’ve definitely lost interest. I’d rather watch historic Group C racing. Those are proper cars.

      • Truth

        June 14, 2017 at 4:33 pm

        Ugliest “prototypes” ever were Daytona Prototypes 2003-2015

  10. Luc

    June 14, 2017 at 10:31 am

    I wonder if it’s a too tough pill to swallow for ACO/FIA/WEC to ditch HY and go back in time. I think they will be very stubborn…

  11. NASCAR/DPs Suck

    June 14, 2017 at 11:21 am

    Wow, if Porsche takes their toys and goes home because they couldn’t keep up with Toyota they will lose a lot of respect. Maybe they can just replace Porsche with Audi and let them come back home where they belong-in the WEC and LM24. Run a gas engine this time and put Dieselgate in the past.

    • ACO sucks

      June 14, 2017 at 12:40 pm

      Didn’t you read the article? They need a new a car (have been needing it), but can’t have it till 2019. Toyota didn’t keep racing their 2015 car in 2016 and this year, they built a new one. Why stay when you won’t be competitive?
      I honestly think it is time for Audi to try F1. It’s an Audi thing to try new things (WRC/Gr.B, Trans-Am/IMSA, DTM, LM/ALMS). There is also hope with the new management. That would mean no other big involvement in motorsports for a VAG brand.

      • NASCAR/DPs Suck

        June 15, 2017 at 4:53 pm

        I did and it doesn’t change my perspective-Porsche should have designed a new tub when they had a chance but chose not to. Figure out a way to be competitive or ask for a rules revision-quitting is the easy way out. Going to FE is the trend now so they’ll just hitch their wagon to that train and ride it until no one cares about motor racing.

        • ACO sucks

          June 17, 2017 at 8:52 am

          I don’t see why you think Porsche doesn’t have the right to quit. They spend big money on this, and they don’t have their own wind tunnel like Toyota. It is normal for Toyota to give all they have to get their first win, while Porsche (and Audi too) don’t have much to prove. Now even Porsche feel they are not getting enough return for their investment
          I’m sure they have asked for revisions, as have Audi, but the ACO is rigid. Blame them, because they messed this up – costs just went too high, cars don’t stay competitive for long, and all the variety that we started with in 2014 is now gone. We have to accept the harsh truth – this LMP1 era is collapsing unto itself. The new F1 management realize there is a problem, but the ACO doesn’t.
          Yes, FE is nothing more than a support series to me too, but at least they get to develop electric propulsion (which many think is the future, which I don’t like either, but no one came to ask me for my opinion), races are held at big city centers so there could be more exposure, and costs are way lower. Hopefully, if they go that way, it would be a short-term involvement, until they do their next big project (maybe even a return to LM/WEC).

          • Axl Rose ate my Buick

            July 17, 2017 at 10:36 am

            FE is not a support series, FE is a marketing gimmick for companys show millenials that they care a little about electric power.

        • ACO sucks

          June 17, 2017 at 8:54 am

          Sorry, forgot to say – Peugeot’s refusal to return to LM and enter the WEC like they were supposed to just says it all. No new manufacturer seems to think it makes sense!

  12. BarnOwlLover

    June 14, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    The problem with John trying to debunk this is:

    1: Siedl’s comments are the same as those that Wolfgang Ullrich at Audi Sport made last year

    2: As we saw with Audi Sport, a commitment on paper isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on, and

    3: Marcus Schurig has developed a track record of being right with his predictions, including Nissan’s problems in LMP1 and the Audi Sport pull out from LMP1.

    Anything can change between now and the end of the season, again as we saw with Audi last year.

    And I know that people talk about dieselgate this and that, but the Audi Sport pull out was IMO (and in the opinions of others) a lot more politically motivated and based on a lack of ROI on a dollars vs benefits basis.

    In 2013, Audi dominated the WEC by winning 6 races and setting fastest race lap in every race they entered (including Sebring, which wasn’t a WEC event). And Audi Sport did so on a budget that was about half of what they spent each year from ’14-16. In that period, Audi won 6 races (two each season), and only once at LM. And spending twice the money a season than they did in 2013.

    Basically, the ACO and everyone have milked these regs for all they had, and now they’ve gone stale. In this cycle things peaked in 2015 or so, and now are winding down and stagnating. And I don’t think that Porsche want to spend $200 million dollars to be second best to Toyota, are are operating on at most half that budget.

    Of course, the ACO are reaping what they sowed with the ERS Incentive and originally going on a three year plan with these regs (only Audi and Toyota having new cars last year and Audi pulling out have pushed back the regs to 2020). The ACO only have themselves to blame if this happens.

    • GR88

      June 14, 2017 at 3:05 pm

      Marcus Schurig’s original article is predominantly about the ACO having two options for LMP1’s future, hybrid or non-hybrid. Or at least competitive non-hybrid options for manufacturers.

      The Porsche story gives a little more context, but doesn’t really change the bigger picture. These regs are for 2020, Porsche, Toyota and others will need to guarantee 2020 entries to convince the ACO to go ahead with hybrids. The proposed alternative involves manufacturers being allowed to build cars to the LMP1-L regulations and DPI.

      Obviously, if DPI cars allowed, they’d be balanced to LMP1 performance level. Ford and Joest are two reportedly interested. IMSA and Ford are said to be selling the idea of a DPI (to replace Ford GT program) on the basis it will be a world formula.

    • AMGMerc

      June 14, 2017 at 3:13 pm

      So obviously your admitting that Toyota has beaten the Germans at there own game on half the budget, yeah I’d say that sits well in the boardroom, at the VAG group. Of course at the end of the day only Porsche have themselves to blame if they are spending that much, and get beaten by a team spending 1/2 less.

      We are dealing with car manufacturers here folks, it’s all about the money, and ROI, no ROI, no money it’s pure economics. LMP 1 is way overpriced, as it currently sits, so as someone else commented the ACO has painted themselves into this corner, and they have another manufacturer sitting on the sidelines waiting to play, but they refuse to give them something to play with, and guess what??? if they can’t play and at least have a half a shot at being successful, why bother?

      • ACO sucks

        June 15, 2017 at 2:15 pm

        VAG don’t have their own wind tunnel. And no one can say what Toyota’s budget really is. At F1 they quickly became the top spenders. So no, Toyota has not beaten them “at their own game”. But maybe they will win LM for the first time this year. I won’t get into the legality issues that Toyota has, and that Toyota has had, in LM/WEC, as well as in other series.

  13. Anonymous

    June 14, 2017 at 2:37 pm

    I don’t get it Porsche, so you stop winning and then you leave?!!

    GROW UP!!!

    VAG “persuaded” Audi Sport to leave LMP1 to give You a clear run to win at Le-Mans. If the car is rubbish, then whose faults that?! You didn’t win every LM24 during the awesome years of Group C and yet you were still there every year without fail.

    Now I realise that a single 919 LMP1-H probably costs more to build than 10 962C’s but selling customer 919’s to closely associated Porsche teams (like it was done in the 80’s) would help offset the costs involved and would improve the teams development of the car. After all the 962C remained competitive for almost a decade.

    • AMGMerc

      June 14, 2017 at 3:18 pm

      Only issue is back in the 962C days you needed an army of mechanics, and a handful of engineers, with the LMP 1 Beasts of today, you need an army of engineers, and a handful of mechanics. Economics people, it’s all about the money………………….$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ Personally I like the DPi idea, this way the manufacturers only have to worry about the engine. Let the chassis suppliers build the cars, and yes I agree the new breeds of prototypes are indeed ugly, honestly the Toyota is the only 1 that even resembles a proper racing car, and that is from the front.

      • ACO sucks

        June 15, 2017 at 2:17 pm

        I agree! Same with the 2017 R18.

    • Taylor

      June 14, 2017 at 4:46 pm

      There is probably only one team in the world (Joest) that is capable of running a customer 919.

  14. Andy Flinn

    June 14, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    Anonymous, I’m not sure what it was like in Europe during the dying days of the WSC in 1992 when Peugeot was dominating with the only real competition from Toyota. However, I can tell you that once Dan Gurney’s AAR Toyota Eagles started dominating IMSA GTP that year, Porsche (Joest) didn’t stick around for long.

    Porsche scored one victory in 1993 – the last year for IMSA GTP before it went belly up. Nissan and Mazda had already quit. Joest Porsche won the IMSA GTP race at Road America. Of course, the AAR Toyotas were absent in a protest of IMSA regulations.

    • Mike D.

      June 16, 2017 at 10:50 pm

      In fairness, that collapse bred the World Sports Car (WSC) formula and we got the 333SP and R&S Mk III. So it wasn’t like top tier racing died and there was no marque competition.

  15. jason

    June 14, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    If Porsche leaves then I hope Toyota goes too. That will shake things up for sure. Would be pretty darn cool.

    Also I hope that Porsche will step up the GT program. Maybe run 4 cars in 2018.

  16. Prototype Fan

    June 14, 2017 at 4:45 pm

    Nothing is better in racing than when prototype sports cars are in a golden era. Unfortunately, historically in prototype racing there are gaps between golden eras. It appears that a great era may be coming to a close and the most prudent thing to do is have a set of regulations that bridges the gap between now and the next golden era. Having DPi as a lead class would be a nice way to bridge the gap to the future. At least get works/semi-works entries from Cadillac, Mazda, Nissan, Honda, Ford (?), et al. Part of the fun is seeing a diversity of manufacturers and designs in the top class. This could hopefully bridge the gap until such time that hybrid technology or newer technology makes greater financial sense to return in the top prototype class.

  17. Steven

    June 14, 2017 at 5:05 pm

    Porsche leaves, Audi Sport Team Joest comes back? One can only hope. Had a feeling Porsche would do this the moment they feel like the underdog.

    But cost needs to come down. Its nearly a F1 budget and manufacturers just can’t justify that spending for LMP1. Look at how massively Nissan failed.

    Remember back in 2004 and 2005 there were 0 factory LMP1 teams.

  18. BarnOwlLover

    June 14, 2017 at 9:41 pm

    Now John found out that any decision that will effect the Porsche LMP1 program is likely to come before Mexico City in early Sept. Kinda like the Audi Sport program, success at LM or in the manufacturers’ championship is probably key to extending the program to it’s intended 2018 end.

    As mentioned, LMP1 is poor ROI right now, and the MSA article did reveal that Peugeot don’t want to spend anymore than 50 million Euros a year, which is about half of what Toyota might be spending right now.

    Granted, the only way that’ll happen is if LMP1 totally abandons hybrids, or the ACO ditches the 8MJ hybrid being the best way to go and make things like they were originally going to be back in 2013 prior to the ERS incentive.

    Of course now on Muslanne’s Corner’s Facebook page, someone’s hinted that people from Toyota and Porsche are now saying that both could potentially leave soon.

    But the ACO pulled what they’ve pulled since 2009, which is milk short term gains with little regard for long term stability. Hopefully this ordeal, should it happen, teaches them a lesson about running a championship and making it viable for more than a few years. This isn’t F1 and that mentality won’t work for road racing.

  19. !Barton Workman

    June 15, 2017 at 6:51 am

    Let’s face it…

    Porsche never gets involved in any form of motorsport unless they’ve got a decided advantage in the rules.

    Look for the behind the scenes politics to get heated.

    BHW

    • ACO sucks

      June 15, 2017 at 2:21 pm

      Any examples you can provide, or you’re just throwing words around?

  20. segundavia-conta

    June 29, 2017 at 11:33 am

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  21. Axl Rose ate my Buick

    July 17, 2017 at 10:33 am

    Sorry, fellow americans deeply hoping for DPi to be the premier class in Le Mans and ruin everything else, but it wont happen.

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