Steiner on Porsche LMP1 Exit: “We Would Have Liked More Competition”

Photo: Porsche

Porsche could have remained in the LMP1 class had there been more competition in the top ranks of the FIA World Endurance Championship, according to its R&D chief Dr. Michael Steiner.

Steiner, a member of the Executive Board for Research & Development at Porsche AG, who was an influential figure in the German manufacturer’s decision to end its LMP1 involvement at the end of this season, however, has not ruled out a future return to top-level prototype racing.

In an exclusive interview with Sportscar365, Steiner (pictured above, left) explained the current two-manufacturer race made the technology-heavy LMP1 program no longer desirable for Porsche.

“It was not a decision against LMP1,” Steiner told Sportscar365. “We enjoyed it very much; this was maybe the most advanced regulations you could have in motorsports. It was really demanding. But we decided not to compete in parallel in Formula E and LMP1.

“Besides, more and more teams did not commit to come or did not enter, like Nissan, and Audi leaving. If you look at Nürburgring [last month], it’s still good racing but more-or-less four cars competing.

“We would have liked to have more competition.”

With the future of LMP1 hybrid uncertain, with Peugeot reportedly unlikely to commit to the FIA and ACO’s proposed 2020 regulations, which call for fast-charging hybrid plug-ins and stretches of all-electric driving, Steiner said the WEC needs to find a way to make prototype racing more attractive.

Whether that would be with reduced costs and/or the elimination of hybrid technology remains to be seen.

“They should look to make it attractive enough [so] that there will be more competition,” Steiner said. “The current regulations need a lot of effort. That could hinder new competitors to jump in.

“Maybe they could also be a more open discussion on what could be attractive regulations. I don’t want to say that has to be with or without hybrid.”

Steiner said the “standardization” of components, such as hybrid powertrains, could also be an option moving forward.

“[Hybrid] is important, it is expensive but if you standardize it more, it could also be, costs-wise, more attractive,” he said.

While Porsche is set to shift its focus to Formula E, with a planned entry beginning in 2019, as well as an increased focus on GT racing, Steiner admitted the manufacturer could one day find itself back in prototype racing, although not providing any potential timeline.

Porsche’s entry into the WEC in 2014 came after a 16-year hiatus from top-level sports car racing competition. 

“This should not be a goodbye forever,” Steiner said. “Never say never. In Le Mans we will [still] compete in GT cars and maybe some day we will come back in the top class.

“For us Le Mans is not only great history, it’s racing by heart.”

15 Comments

  1. Parker

    August 8, 2017 at 9:25 am

    Great interview.

    Would Porsche have any interest in a DPi concept? When they were in Grand-Am they did compete in a “prototype” class using the chassis from another constructor. Does Porsche feel like they need to be both the chassis constructor and engine manufacturer in prototypes?

    • Andy Flinn

      August 8, 2017 at 10:10 am

      Before they won the Rolex 24 twice (2009 and 2010) with Riley chassis, Porsche started in GA DP with Brumos and Fabcar in 2003. Fabcar had a previous relationship with Porsche. In the ’80s, Fabcar was licensed by Porsche to construct Porsche 962s for IMSA Camel GTP competition.

    • Anonymous

      August 8, 2017 at 1:13 pm

      I believe Porsche would have if (and it’s a big IF) Joest had approached them earlier in the year!
      But that would have needed Porsche to ditch its LMP-1 program even earlier. But theycouldn’t because they didn’t know how competitive (or otherwise) they were in the WEC.

      If they had won at Silverstone or Spa, I suspect Porsche would have stayed in the WEC at least to the end of next year.

  2. Mike S.

    August 8, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    Mission: Future Departure

  3. vanillachinilla

    August 8, 2017 at 3:12 pm

    Am I the only one who thinks this could be a good thing? LMP1 – L is due for a resurgence and im STOKED for that. The glory days of LMP1-H may never be matched, but I’m glad there are still so many teams willing to make the step up and do P1 again, I have a good feeling about this and I think it will make the international model more cohesive with IMSA and such -eventually maybe seeing non hybrid LMP1 -esk cars in IMSA again. The WEC was cool, but it robbed the ELMS & IMSA of the top tier racing it used to have. I think sportscar racing just works better with the regional model. Have Le Mans be like a stand alone world championship

    • Doug P

      August 8, 2017 at 8:00 pm

      You aren’t the only one. This scenario played out in IMSA several times in the past. And it always evolves from a spending/dominant manufacturer that, with a suitable delay in response by others, kills the class.

      I for one won’t ever follow any of the manufacturers to Formula E. Sound, and by that I mean not selectric slot car type sounds, is the soul of racing and a good percentage of its attraction. I’m hoping Formula E languishes in crowd attraction. The groupies will eventually wander away for the next shiny thing, and the treaded tires electric sounding cars won’t have anything to offer the mainstream.

  4. J

    August 8, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    Make LMP1 Great Again!

  5. Mike S.

    August 8, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    Just worried that the world of E will replace all racing noise sooner rather than later. Not because of this decision but in general. When is the driverless series starting? That will be a series as well one day.

  6. John

    August 8, 2017 at 8:30 pm

    Typical manufacturer behavior.

    Enter series.
    Shape/influence rules.
    No costs spared to win.
    Lose interest/budget.
    Withdraw.

    Even Porsche does it.

    The ACO doesn’t deserve all the blame just as the FIA didn’t force the F1 teams to adopt the “power units” that everyone except Mercedes despises.

    Everyone plays a part.

    But when the budget allows again, I expect Porsche to shoot for #20 at Le Mans.

  7. cAH

    August 8, 2017 at 9:30 pm

    DPi Lmp2 GTLM. GTD Lmp1 history no more players let’s MoveOn electric cars are coming I don’t like it but they’re coming

  8. TF110

    August 8, 2017 at 10:18 pm

    Guy blames everyone and thing for their departure except the company’s faults- namely dieselgate and it’s ramifications. That’s why they’re going to Formula E. To look like they’re a ‘green’ manufacturer and it costs next to nothing. Pretty sad if you ask me.

    • NASCAR/DPs Suck

      August 9, 2017 at 12:05 pm

      Yeah, the excuses don’t cut it-we know it was a board based budget/PR decision so let’s not bs and try to say otherwise.

  9. Noel

    August 8, 2017 at 11:39 pm

    I wish Porsche lmp1 don’t leave out from fia wec because it’s going to be replace. Please Porsche lmp1 please stay.

  10. Barry Miller

    August 9, 2017 at 9:46 am

    I have zero interest in Formula E

  11. JB

    August 9, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    +1 zero interest in Formula E. It’s unwatchable.
    WEC would still have my interest without LMP1. GT endurance racing will always get my attention, be it Blancpain, WEC, IMSA, or whomever. IMSA is more exciting than WEC already. I’d really like to see more international teams driving actual racing cars. You know. The ones that only use the battery to turn the starter.

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