The news out of Saturday night’s Porsche Night of Champions event in Weissach had several intriguing elements, but among them was the confirmation that the Porsche GTE-Pro effort in the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship season would fall under the Dempsey Proton Racing banner.
News that the Porsche 911 RSR effort will be a privateer one, while the factory Porsche Team Manthey run ends except for a two-car effort at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, is a shakeup to the primarily factory GTE-Pro class.
However, as Proton team boss and co-driver Christian Ried explained, this was several months in the making and made sense given Porsche’s overall GTE strategy within the WEC.
“We had run a factory-supported car in the past, so after some rumors about whether Manthey would stop, we asked whether we could do a Pro car,” Ried told Sportscar365.
“We finally got a solution, and we’re happy to have the program.”
The program under the Proton umbrella will see at least a two-car full season effort, with WEC driver’s champion Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen in the GTE-Pro entry, to be joined by Wolf Henzler at Le Mans, and a GTE-Am effort with the lineup set to be confirmed.
Ried also confirmed rumors of a third car at selected races for Patrick Dempsey, if the actor/driver’s schedule allows. “(Two cars) is the minimum,” he said.
Ried said he hopes to have the Am class entry finalized within the next two weeks.
It presents an interesting situation for the team; Dempsey, Patrick Long and Marco Seefried drove the No. 77 car for most the season, except when Ried stepped in for Dempsey in Bahrain.
The aforementioned No. 88 car featured some combination of Ried, Khaled Al Qubaisi, Klaus Bachler, Earl Bamber and Marco Mapelli over the course of the year.
Long told Sportscar365 he expects to have some, if not all, endurance races as part of a 20-plus race schedule in 2016, to complement his full-season effort in the Pirelli World Challenge with EFFORT Racing.
Silver-rated Seefried, meanwhile, juggled a busy 2015 plate between the Dempsey Proton Porsche, a Rinaldi Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 in the Blancpain GT Series and three Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup rounds in Magnus Racing’s then-Porsche 911 GT America.
While nothing is finalized as yet, Seefried told Sportscar365 he hopes for a similarly busy 2016 with at least two if not all three teams.
For Long, who co-drove with Dempsey in Dempsey’s first year in the WEC, seeing his evolution as a driver was something to take pride in, even if Dempsey appears unable to build upon his achievements in 2016 at the moment.
“To be fair to him, he had never given 110 percent to motorsport. This year he did, and delivered,” Long told Sportscar365.
“We added some new curriculum. He stepped up. That’s not to say Marco Seefried and the team didn’t, but we started Jan. 1 and here we are, almost at Jan. 1 again.
“It was always going to be an organized plan. I made it clear he might hate me at the end of year, but we’ll get some results.”
Long said Dempsey’s reduced driving role in 2016 was “outside his wheelhouse,” but noted how challenging it can be once racing takes on a bigger role in your life.
“It’s easy to get tied into the daily riff (of racing), where things are at,” Long explained. “It’s too much for me to try to knock on doors and get what’s going on.”