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Porsche Reignites Interest in Top-Class Prototype Return

Porsche signals interest in ACO-IMSA global platform; other GT manufacturers weigh in…

Photo: Porsche

Porsche has revealed that it will be “evaluating all of the details” of the newly announced LMDh platform, which could result in the German manufacturer returning to top-level prototype racing.

Absent from the premier class of the FIA World Endurance Championship since its withdrawal from LMP1 competition at the end of 2017, Porsche is known to have been in initial working group meetings for the Hypercar and DPi 2.0 platforms, although took a step back from both last summer.

Now, with a common global platform in LMDh agreed upon by the ACO and IMSA, in a historic announcement last weekend at Daytona International Speedway, Porsche is now throwing its hat back into discussions.

In an exclusive interview with Sportscar365, Michael Steiner, member of the Porsche AG executive board for research and development, said the manufacturer “appreciates” the convergence of the regulations, which will allow for the same prototype platform to compete for overall wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Rolex 24 at Daytona and Twelve Hours of Sebring beginning in 2022.

“This is a historical moment for our sport, a very positive message for sports car racing, our industry and the fans,” Steiner told Sportscar365.

“We highly appreciate the convergence of regulations from top category of IMSA and WEC creating this new platform.”

Steiner confirmed that Porsche will evaluate the LMDh platform, admitting that if the operating budget is the same or lower than GTE/GTLM, it would make the final call  for a commitment “much easier”.

“I asked my colleagues in the motorsport department to evaluate all the details of the new platform especially how much effort it would take to develop such a car and join this interesting new platform,” he said.

“We don’t have any details or regulations yet, so it is too early to judge. But the idea… it’s the right decision [made by the sanctioning bodies].

“This is a similar concept as we currently have in GTE/GTLM and has historical significance like similar regulations for the 935s, 956/962 and even the 911 GT1.”

Steiner said it’s “too early to answer” if a potential LMDh program for Porsche would come at the expense of its championship-winning factory GTE and GTLM programs in the WEC and WeatherTech Championship.

“First we need to know all the details to form an opinion,” he said. “But apart from that I would like to congratulate IMSA and WEC for this historical decision.”

Other GT Manufacturers Monitoring LMDh Developments

BMW, Lamborghini and Lexus are among other manufacturers that are not currently in top-level prototype racing that are also awaiting further technical information on LMDh.

While it’s GTE program, which claimed GT Le Mans class honors at Daytona last weekend, is only currently confirmed through the end of the 2020 WeatherTech Championship season,  BMW Motorsport director Jens Marquardt said that no immediate action needs to be taken on their end.

“We know the platform [in IMSA] pretty well,” he told Sportscar365. “We know WEC as well, the ups and downs and the shortcomings of everything.

“We need to look at it. It doesn’t mean any immediate action from our side.

“We can sit back and watch everything unfold and take along with us for the next future regulation and strategy discussions what’s available on the platform.”

Lamborghini, which had been evaluating a DPi program, sees the global platform as “really beneficial”.

However, motorsport boss Giorgio Sanna stressed that they are “not close” to any form of decision, especially in the wake of what Sportscar365 understands to have been a recent calling off of a DPi 2.0 proposal to the board.

“We consider DPi a very nice category, very well organized and marketing-oriented with reasonable costs that enable manufacturers to approach the category with a customer racing vision,” Sanna told Sportscar365.

“In the next couple of months, we will see how they are going to manage the two concepts of cars in a common program.

“We will take our consideration. But for sure, to have this kind of global platform is something really beneficial.”

Toyota Racing Development President and general manager David Wilson, meanwhile, admitted that the 2021-22 WEC season debut for the platform will be one of the “challenging aspects” for OEMs.

“Prior to this announcement IMSA had committed to Q1 of 2020 [to finalize the regulations] in anticipation of 2022 [launch],” he said. “That’s a tight timeline.

“As a fan and as someone who obviously is just interested in this direction, we’re all anticipating Sebring and when the detail starts coming to the table.”

As with the other manufacturers, Wilson stressed that Lexus continues to monitor developments but is not in a position to commit at this time.

Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

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