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Proton Evaluating 2021 Plans; New RSR-19s Set for WEC, ELMS

Proton set to continue dual WEC, ELMS program with new Porsche GTE cars…

Photo: Proton Competition

Proton Competition is evaluating its plans for the 2021 season and expects to engage at least three of its new Porsche 911 RSR-19s for programs in the FIA World Endurance Championship and the European Le Mans Series.

The team run by Porsche stalwart Christian Ried has purchased four examples of the German brand’s 2019-spec GTE racer which becomes eligible in the WEC’s GTE-Am class and the ELMS GTE category from the start of 2021.

Porsche produced a run of 10 cars for customers and started deliveries last month, while Proton and Gulf Racing tested their new vehicles at Portimao in early November.

Ried told Sportscar365 that he plans to file at least one entry for WEC and two for ELMS.

Additionally, his team’s partnership with actor Patrick Dempsey is set to remain next year in the world championship, resulting in a continuation of the Dempsey-Proton Racing team name and its familiar grey and light blue and car livery.

Ried said that he is open to streamlining Proton’s WEC involvement to a single-car entry, but suggested that a two-car program would make more commercial sense.

For the 2019-20 season Dempsey-Proton Racing’s No. 77 car had a fixed lineup of Ried, Matt Campbell and Riccardo Pera, but its No. 88 crew changed at every round with no full-time Bronze-driver committed despite the 2019-20 season’s entry fee being paid up.

The No. 88 lineup, which ended up having 13 different drivers, was often only finalized in the week prior to a race, resulting in fines for the team due to late driver declarations.

“We will have two cars in ELMS and maybe two cars [in WEC],” said Ried.

“I am in contact with some drivers but nothing is signed yet. If we have only one car it’s also fine. It would be nice to have two cars because it makes more sense than one.

“But to enter a [second] car without having the driver lineup confirmed is not ideal. It’s too tough to find drivers at the last moment. It makes no sense.”

Ried stressed that Proton’s program will also depend on how the coronavirus pandemic develops and how it impacts the motorsport industry over the winter months.

“For me it depends on how we handle this COVID situation, then see what’s going on in the world and if we can do it,” he said.

“The question mark will be if we can start at Sebring or not. It’s still possible to travel, but for Bahrain a lot of flights from London got canceled. It’s already starting to get a bit more complicated.

“It is a light commitment, for whatever we do.”

Regarding Proton’s project with Michael Fassbender, Ried ruled out a move to the WEC for the Hollywood actor who is set to focus on another development year in ELMS.

Fassbender made his GTE debut in ELMS this season, teaming up with Felipe Fernandez Laser and Porsche factory ace Ricard Lietz. All three drivers tested the RSR-19 at Portimao.

While a Fassbender WEC entry is currently off the cards, Ried wouldn’t completely rule out the possibility of the Irishman appearing on next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans grid.

Proton has one automatic invitation to the 2021 edition of Le Mans following its ELMS title win with Ried, Alessio Picariello and Michele Beretta, which means it could have as many as three places on the grid if it commits to a two-car WEC program.

“We plan to do one season more in ELMS for him [Fassbender] just to make him prepared for WEC the year after,” said Ried.

“It [a Le Mans entry] can happen but we will see how it’s going in testing through the winter and at the start of the season. We will make a decision later on.”

Proton Had Eyes on GT3 This Year

Regarding other race program possibilities, Ried revealed that Proton had an International GT Open program lined up for this year with a Porsche 911 GT3 R.

While that opportunity ultimately fell through, Ried said he’s in a position to have access to a GT3 Porsche if the right sort of customer arrangement springs up for 2021.

He also identified January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona as a race of personal ambition, speaking of tentative plans to enter that event in the GT Le Mans class with Porsche factory drivers, but also noting that it’s too early to confirm Proton’s presence on the grid.

“We don’t have a GT3 R but we were close to doing a program with one this year,” said Ried.

“In the end, we couldn’t sign the contract with the customers. If you do ELMS and WEC, it’s a nice program and is fun for the guys.

“If you do more, you have to look for more guys to help. Especially at this time, it’s more risky.”

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

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