Porsche is aiming to continue ‘cross-pollinating’ staff between its European and North American LMDh facilities when its new prototype hits the track in the U.S. later this year.
The German manufacturer has so far only undertaken track testing in Europe but intends to transport a second LMDh car from its development center in Weissach to the Porsche Penske Motorsport IMSA team base at Mooresville, N.C this summer.
An exact date for that movement has not been set, but Porsche Penske Motorsport managing director Jonathan Diuguid told Sportscar365 that staff from the European side of the project will assist during the initial track outings.
Multi-day tests at Barcelona, Motorland Aragon and Spa-Francorchamps in recent months have involved a mixture of American and European staff.
The two sides will then split off into their respective regional hubs ready to run the LMDh car in separate FIA World Endurance Championship and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship programs, both under the Porsche Penske Motorsport banner.
“We’re still going to try to cross-pollinate people,” Diuguid told Sportscar365.
“I think the European testing program is going to reduce and the U.S testing program is going to increase, so we don’t want to leave the WEC people behind.
“We’re definitely going to bring people [over] for all the U.S based testing. If I was going to split it percentage-wise, I would say from the summertime split it’s going to be 80 percent U.S-based testing and 20 percent European-based testing.
“On the front side of the program there are a lot of people coming from the U.S to Germany, but in the later stages it’s going to be the reverse. So it’s going to balance out.”
Diuguid explained that the U.S.-based testing will primarily focus on refining the LMDh car’s setups, building on the initial validation work carried out in Europe.
“A lot of the homologation-based decisions were made in the first six months of the program,” he said.
“So it will really focus on what’s required for U.S.-based circuits. It will be about performance optimization at that point: homing in on procedures and how the team works and is structured. That is the phase of the [test] program that will be U.S.-based.”
North American testing is set to take place at south-eastern facilities within driving distance of the IMSA team headquarters in North Carolina.
Diuguid and Porsche’s Director of Factory Motorsport LMDh, Urs Kuratle, identified Sebring and Daytona as sites where most of the private testing will be carried out.
Furthermore, Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta and Daytona are the venues for the official IMSA sanctioned tests in October and December respectively.
“Ideally you would go to every single [circuit] but it’s simply impossible to do,” Kuratle told Sportscar365.
“Track availability is one thing, but support availability is another one: testing in the United States is a little different to Europe.
“Michelin is doing a great job, but the support level in the U.S is traditionally different to Europe. It’s not better or worse, just different. The teams are able to do the service more themselves. These are the questions that come into it.”
Kuratle echoed Diuguid’s proposal that there will continue to be ‘cross-pollination’ between staff from the U.S and Europe during the car’s track testing phase this year.
Porsche’s ambitious transatlantic endeavor will enable it to tackle both the WEC Hypercar class and the IMSA GTP category with dedicated two-car factory programs.
It has also proposed a maximum of four customer cars for next year, although no customer team programs have been confirmed.
“There is a lot of crossover, definitely,” Kuratle told Sportscar365.
“It’s a challenge because nobody has ever done it this way. You cannot pull examples to say this is what we want. We have to create it by our own, for the first time.
“What is sure, is that there is a lot of crossover. Whenever some activities are on either of those bases, there is interaction with the other ones.
“There are ops rooms and all the technical, electrical systems and software will be there.”
According to Kuratle, Porsche is currently building up its second LMDh test car that will be flown to the U.S when ready.
Having a second car will enable some European testing to continue as the Mannheim branch of Porsche Penske Motorsport gathers data on circuits that it will visit during the WEC season.
“Right now we are in the early phases,” Kuratle said. “But we are planning to have a test every month. They are not in parallel: drivers will fly over but it’s no problem because we will not test in Europe and the States at the same time this year.
“For next year, and at one point the complete driver lineup will be announced, we will have drivers allocated to IMSA and WEC. Then, they are operating independently.
“But there is a lot of interaction now. It’s basically independent organizations which are working together very closely.”
Mooresville Team Continuing to Grow
The IMSA wing of Porsche Penske Motorsport is based in the same building as Team Penske’s other racing programs, taking up approximately one-quarter of a 400,000 square foot facility. NASCAR takes half the space and IndyCar the remaining quarter.
Diguid explained that some minor “remodeling” has been done to accommodate the LMDh project, while the number of staff is continuing to grow this year.
“We have a lot of people with experience from the Acura DPi program and IndyCar experience,” he noted.
“To be able to draw on that experience for the initial team infrastructure is good, and then we’ve gone outside and tried to build the team personnel in Mooresville.
“At the end of last year, we probably had 15 people on the program, including myself. Now we’re in the mid-20s and by June we hope to be in the mid-30s.”
While the Mooresville facility uses space within an existing motorsports shop, the Mannheim facility has required a more significant restructuring. A Penske-owned Porsche dealership since 2008, it has been modified to serve its new racing purpose.
“Building a team in Europe is not just building the team from the personnel side: we’re having to build up a new shop and understanding how things work in Germany,” Diuguid said.
“We’ve got some people from DTM Class One and ex-Joest guys bringing a lot of experience.
“Being able to draw on those to get the right people has been difficult and rewarding at the same time because we have found a lot of good personnel to be on our program.
“We’re trying to bring American-style race shops to Europe and have a really world-class facility there: a very high level to start from.”