Webber Expects Porsche to Fulfill LMP1 Contract Through 2018

Photo: Porsche

Mark Webber expects Porsche to fulfill its existing contract in the FIA World Endurance Championship to the end of the 2018 season before deciding on its future in the LMP1 category.

Speculation emerged in the lead up to last month’s 24 Hours of Le Mans that Porsche was considering ending its LMP1 program after the 2017 season with one year remaining on its contract.

Porsche was actively involved in shaping the new LMP1 regulations for 2020, which were revealed by the ACO at Le Mans, but concerns over the cost of the new plug-in hybrid systems lingered.

Webber, who raced for the German manufacturer in LMP1 for three seasons before becoming a motorsport consultant, feels that more details about the new regulations need to emerge, but is confident Porsche will complete the existing cycle.

“Regs help, they’re out. They’re being held back a lot at the moment,” Webber told select media including Sportscar365 at the FIA Sport Conference in Geneva.

“I think we’re fine for ’18, and there’ll be decisions after that.”

When asked directly by Sportscar365 if he expected Porsche to see out its existing LMP1 contract, Webber said: “Yeah.”

Le Mans did little to ease concerns about the future of LMP1 as all five of the factory hybrids hit trouble through the 24 hours, allowing Jackie Chan DC Racing’s No. 38 Oreca 07 Gibson to finish second overall and even flirt with outright victory despite entering the LMP2 class.

While Webber felt it was good that an LMP1 car won the race, he did not read too much into the lack of reliability for the class in the race, feeling it was generally worse throughout the field.

“If you look at the strike rate of the P2 car, there was a lot of attrition with the P2 cars as well, a lot of cars dropped out. But that’s Le Mans,” he said.

“We’ve had seasons there where we’ve done fuel and tires, the last few years was fuel and tires only, and the ratio of all the cars finishing was a lot higher. This year, with the heat, was hard.

“We had a 50 percent finishing rate, which was enough to get the job done. Toyota had whatever ratio you want to call it, but wasn’t quite as impressive, so we were happy. We’re not apologizing for getting a third victory, which is great.

“We wouldn’t have liked the downtime in the garage, but that’s Le Mans, we got the car back out there. I think even when Audi won, all the Peugeots didn’t finish one year, and Audi cruised around.

“We pushed each other to the limit. I think it shows you how much we were pushing each other to the absolute limit and probably beyond. The pace was just so, so, so hot, so fast, and it wasn’t sustainable, for the majority.

“But in the end a lot of the components, some of those parts have done previous Le Mans with no issue. That’s the nature of Le Mans. Our water pump last year did 243,000 km in testing, but that’s Le Mans, it fails, and we lost the race with that.

“It’s drama, and unpredictable. We got it home – just.”

Webber watched on as former LMP1 teammates Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard fought back from 55th place to take Porsche’s 19th overall Le Mans victory alongside Earl Bamber, much to the Australian’s delight.

“I was very emotional for both of them, it’s the biggest result of their careers,” he said.

“I know what Timo has put into that program, and I know what Brendon has put in, so I was absolutely stoked.

“The No. 1 mechanic, it was his first Le Mans win. Alex, also a mechanic on the car… 20 Le Mans and he hadn’t won a race. That shows you what Le Mans is like. A lot of great stories out of it.

“Brendon is one of the best guys in the business at the moment, and thoroughly deserves a win, and Earl obviously just smooth as silk as usual in the background.

“I was stoked, really stoked, to see them up there, and to give them the trophy as well, with Brendon, it was pretty emotional.”

13 Comments

  1. P

    July 5, 2017 at 6:53 am

    Happy for Porsche.

    But the million dollar question is. Will they stick with the Hybrid engines?

    • Laird Sasser

      July 5, 2017 at 11:33 am

      It’s what the world is coming to.

    • Max

      July 10, 2017 at 11:07 am

      Hybrids are finished in sportscar racing! Too complicated, too expensive and logistically a nightmare to operate. IMSA Weathertech is now the best sportscar racing in the world. More manufacturer variety, best drivers, best tracks and top brass involvement like Ganassi with Ford, Corvette with all-out GM support,and Penske coming soon with HPD. WEC now has to make decisions about the anemic P1 fields, and the underpowered P2 machines. Cadillac is proving to be car to be reckoned with, thus proving that the best sportscar racing is now in North America!

      • Tyler Sanders

        July 11, 2017 at 11:48 am

        Best drivers lol

  2. Antonio Miles

    July 5, 2017 at 7:54 am

    Interesting question. Makes me wonder. Call me crazy for asking this, but what if they went back to using there flat-6 powerplants in LMP1 like they did during the Group C era? Now that’s relevant to their road cars. Like I said, crazy!

    • GR88

      July 5, 2017 at 8:39 am

      Group C is 30 years ago.

      Compact 4cyl and V6’s are what everyone will use, even the new privateer efforts.

      The whole reliability issue from Le Mans this year is a red herring. Both teams pushed for performance and suffered. A year old 919 or TS050 would have won even if their ultimate pace was a few seconds off.

      I guess we’ve been spoiled in an era where a retirement is unusual.

      • Larry

        July 5, 2017 at 10:19 am

        And guess what they were using in Group C 30 years ago…………………….4 cyl turbos and 6 cylinder turbos, like Antonio said.

        The flat 6 can do anything a V6 can do.

      • Anonymous

        July 5, 2017 at 1:57 pm

        Porsche made the Flat-6 Water Cooled Turbo engine one of the most dangerous motors in Motorsport. Since its arrival in the late 60’s to its final Le-Mans 24hr in 1998 it won at Le-Mans about 12 times!! In both Prototypes and GT’s

        Of course we should point out that previous winners include Mercedes who won with a V8 turbo, Mazda a 3-Rotor Wankel engine which was promptly banned, and of course Jaguar were using V12’s.

        Changing the subject though I hope Porsche remain till at least the end of next season because it’ll take Ginetta, Perrinn and BR-Engineering to get their LMP1’s up to speed to challenge Toyota, who is suspect will withdraw at the end of 2019.

  3. Jenner

    July 5, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    Look at what’s on roads today. Hybrids, hybrids, hybrids.

    Thanks to Al Gore and the libs.

    Look for more hybrids and electrics at your local dealers.

    • GTurner38

      July 9, 2017 at 12:50 am

      Presumably if you like high performance cars, you want maximum horsepower. That should mean you want a hybrid, since it isn’t throwing energy away. Ferrari, Porsche, and McLaren didn’t build hybrid hypercars to be ecofriendly. They did it to get the extra horsepower.

  4. Mike S.

    July 5, 2017 at 2:58 pm

    Is Mark Webber in any way shape or form in a decision making capacity for Porsche on this topic? He sounds like he is so I will believe him as he wouldn’t go against what gets decided in the boardroom I guess.

  5. Matt

    July 6, 2017 at 3:51 pm

    Hybrids will be gone come 2020, Porsche and Toyota are both going to pull out if not this year then next. DPi will make its way to the WEC in some form or another to help plug the gap when the new crop of CFD designed P1 cars flops. The ACO are really doing a number on themselves.

  6. southcove

    July 7, 2017 at 10:34 am

    Racing is strictly at business, more so at this level for the factories.

    As a fan, I appreciate the high end hybrid cars and the incredible racing, passes, etc that we see on the track.

    But the F1 level budgets, number of folks at the track, the over the top compounds at places like Lemans…how is that ever justified on the bottom line.

    Also as a fan, I just enjoy sports car racing. A high end class of cars w 750-900+ HP in a modern chassis and minimal electronics would work just fine for me – but wouldn’t satisfy the marketing needs of any modern auto manufacturer.

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