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Porsche: “Too Early” to Say if LMDh Could Run Alongside GTE

Porsche’s Pascal Zurlinden reaffirms LMDh interest; cohabitation with GT program “an option”…

Photo: Porsche

Porsche remains keen on returning to top-level prototype racing but says it’s too early to say how a potential LMDh program might impact its current GTE involvement.

Pascal Zurlinden told reporters on Monday that LMDh co-existing with Porsche’s extensive factory GT project would be an “option” but that no decision has been made.

The future of factory-led GTE efforts has been put into question by the arrival of LMDh, with Ferrari suggesting last month that the category would face a “problem” if the current manufacturers suddenly flocked to the new prototype platform.

Porsche announced its LMDh intentions in January when Michael Steiner, a Porsche AG company board member for R&D, confirmed that program evaluations would take place.

LMDh will enable manufacturers to enter the same form of prototype in both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the FIA World Endurance Championship, as well as highlight races such as the Rolex 24 at Daytona and 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Porsche withdrew from prototype racing in 2017 when it pulled out of LMP1 to focus on its title-winning GTE program with the two latest versions of the 911 RSR.

“We looked at the Le Mans Hypercar rules at the beginning of 2019 and we already figured that Hypercar is a regulation which is quite expensive and you could only race in ACO competitions, so Le Mans and WEC,” said Zurlinden.

“The advantage we see in LMDh is that one car can race for two championships around the world, and from the information we have, the budgets are quite low making it comparable to what we have at the moment with our GT program.

“In the past we were in LMP1 and we were also in GT, so it is an option [to do both]. But this is too early to answer.”

Zurlinden said that he expects an announcement on the LMDh technical regulations to come soon.

Most manufacturers that have shown interest in the new prototype formula have said that they will need to wait for the rules to arrive before making any commitments.

“We are still looking into it. We have no decision if we will go or not,” explained Zurlinden.

“Our board member, Mr. Michael Steiner, asked us to do a study to see what is possible. At the moment the regulations are not out but I think they are delayed by a few days.

“The ACO and IMSA have gone into home office [because of the coronavirus pandemic] but they are still working on it.

“We really hope that the new regulations are coming in the next days so that we can do a concept study as we were asked to do.”

Zurlinden also hinted that if Porsche was to commit to LMDh, it would be open to launching a customer program.

“If the car is affordable as we do it in GTE, it is definitely something we would look into,” he said.

No Concern Over LMDh Regs Delay

Zurlinden doesn’t foresee any issues associated with the delay of the anticipated LMDh technical rules announcement, which was originally set to be made over a week ago.

The cancellation of the ‘Super Sebring’ joint race weekend between the WEC and IMSA due to COVID-19 travel restrictions has resulted in a wait for the details to be confirmed.

ORECA president Hugues de Chaunac said a week ago that the announcement should come in the next “eight to ten days” to keep the IMSA/ACO convergence process healthy.

ORECA, along with Dallara, Multimatic and Ligier Automotive, will build the chassis that car brands will use to design their own LMDh machinery.

“If the regulations come out in the next two weeks it will give a delay of a maximum three weeks, so I don’t see any risks for manufacturers that want to join,” said Zurlinden.

“IMSA and the ACO are facing the same issues that everyone is being affected by with the COVID-19 crisis, which means that they are being stretched to adapt.

“All the discussions are still ongoing. I think it is only a matter of time until these regulations will be published.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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