Porsche’s head of factory motorsport for LMDh says it’s “probably an even thing” in terms of the benefits and drawbacks of being the first manufacturer from the new formula to go track testing.
Porsche is so far the only LMDh manufacturer to have hit the track, making it the only one to have accrued real-world mileage on the formula’s 200 kW spec hybrid system.
Its most recent outing was a three-day test at Spa-Francorchamps in mid-April where one of its tasks was to collect tire data for exclusive LMDh supplier Michelin.
Urs Kuratle, who is in charge of the factory LMDh program, believes Porsche’s status as the first manufacturer on track gives it a leg up on its future rivals developing cars to the same formula.
But the German marque is also aware that it is currently ironing out bugs that its competitors are less likely to encounter when they start testing.
“Under the bottom line, it’s probably an even thing,” Kuratle told Sportscar365. “It’s a benefit on one hand, but it’s also a lot of effort on the other side.
“Yes, we are on track already and ahead of the other manufacturers, but they are testing things and we get benefits out of this, and vice versa.
“It’s a good relationship, initiated by IMSA and ACO to get that open. It’s not so natural. It’s not often that in an upcoming championship, a group of factories is doing this.
“It’s quite interesting. People were skeptical at the beginning, saying ‘we’re not talking to these people about hybrids’.”
Porsche’s LMDh track testing to date has seen it work in a dual capacity. On one side, it has progressively gained validation on the systems of its own car, and on the other it is helping the LMDh platform’s various partners to accrue valuable real-world data.
The hybrid system that will be fitted to all LMDh cars was gradually introduced during private Porsche tests at its own Weissach facility before track testing took place at Barcelona, Aragon and Spa.
“The very first rollout was a semi-hybrid, with not all the components inside,” said Kuratle.
“It was important for us to do, because it is not only a hybrid in the car: there are other components as well. It was good for us to get the car on the wheels.
“The second test we did with the hybrid system, and then we slowly increased the functionalities. Already at Weissach, and definitely in Barcelona, it was a full-hybrid car.
“We are a pilot [manufacturer], which is an advantage. But it’s also a lot of work. It’s also costs, at the end of the day.”
Porsche Penske Motorsport managing director Jonathan Diuguid described the manufacturer’s test schedule advantage as “huge” but, like Kuratle, acknowledged it is also doing work that other brands “are going to benefit from”.
“I think it’s huge because every time we experience an issue, a failure or something’s not programming correctly, we always learn,” he told Sportscar365.
“We either learn to optimize it, or we learn to be able to react and set up operational processes.
“This is the first hybrid for Team Penske, so it’s our first exposure to high voltage systems, and the training and safety protocols that are required.
“We’ve worked closely with Xtrac on other programs and Porsche has a close relationship with Bosch. Williams is bringing the hybrid battery. Forming those partnerships with the suppliers is really important.
“We’re investing a lot that other manufacturers are going to benefit from, because it’s a spec hybrid system.
“So any issues that the Porsche Penske Motorsport program finds, the Acuras, Cadillacs and whoever are going to benefit from.
“But I think we also get a side benefit in that we understand what actually happened and what the fix was. It just makes us smarter about how the systems actually function.”
Kuratle feels comfortable with the approach taken by the LMDh rules makers to encourage openness in the development of the common hybrid system, for the benefit of the formula.
“All the other LMDh manufacturers – Alpine is a step further back – but they have all [been] testing their hybrid components on the dynos since quite a long time,” he said.
“The nice thing on the program is that there’s an open relationship between IMSA, ACO and the hybrid partners and Xtrac.
“All of the dyno testing data is shared. Not aero maps and performance-related things, but when it comes to the development of the hybrid-related components, that’s shared. That is a nice thing.”
Porsche in “Good Shape” with LMDh Program
Head of Porsche Motorsport Thomas Laudenbach believes the brand’s LMDh development program is in “good shape” to reach its targets leading up to the race debut.
The publicly unnamed car will go through a homologation process later this year, including wind tunnel tests at Windshear and sanctioned track tests in the U.S, to be approved for IMSA competition.
It is set to undergo European wind tunnel testing at Sauber in advance of its WEC debut, which is projected to be a couple of months after the IMSA season-opener at Daytona in January.
“There is a certain pressure because there are time restrictions, but so far I would say that we are in a good shape,” Laudenbach told Sportscar365.
“I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t meet that [homologation] goal in time.
“It is acceptable pressure, as you have in any program. It is not that we are that far behind that we are afraid of struggling. For sure not, even though there is a lot to do.
“The car is running properly out there. We are getting various drivers through and doing tire testing. We are somewhere we wanted to be.
“It is always better to be further ahead, but also compared to the others we are in a good shape.”