Mark Webber expects Porsche to fulfill its existing contract in the FIA World Endurance Championship to the end of the 2018 season before deciding on its future in the LMP1 category.
Speculation emerged in the lead up to last month’s 24 Hours of Le Mans that Porsche was considering ending its LMP1 program after the 2017 season with one year remaining on its contract.
Porsche was actively involved in shaping the new LMP1 regulations for 2020, which were revealed by the ACO at Le Mans, but concerns over the cost of the new plug-in hybrid systems lingered.
Webber, who raced for the German manufacturer in LMP1 for three seasons before becoming a motorsport consultant, feels that more details about the new regulations need to emerge, but is confident Porsche will complete the existing cycle.
“Regs help, they’re out. They’re being held back a lot at the moment,” Webber told select media including Sportscar365 at the FIA Sport Conference in Geneva.
“I think we’re fine for ’18, and there’ll be decisions after that.”
When asked directly by Sportscar365 if he expected Porsche to see out its existing LMP1 contract, Webber said: “Yeah.”
Le Mans did little to ease concerns about the future of LMP1 as all five of the factory hybrids hit trouble through the 24 hours, allowing Jackie Chan DC Racing’s No. 38 Oreca 07 Gibson to finish second overall and even flirt with outright victory despite entering the LMP2 class.
While Webber felt it was good that an LMP1 car won the race, he did not read too much into the lack of reliability for the class in the race, feeling it was generally worse throughout the field.
“If you look at the strike rate of the P2 car, there was a lot of attrition with the P2 cars as well, a lot of cars dropped out. But that’s Le Mans,” he said.
“We’ve had seasons there where we’ve done fuel and tires, the last few years was fuel and tires only, and the ratio of all the cars finishing was a lot higher. This year, with the heat, was hard.
“We had a 50 percent finishing rate, which was enough to get the job done. Toyota had whatever ratio you want to call it, but wasn’t quite as impressive, so we were happy. We’re not apologizing for getting a third victory, which is great.
“We wouldn’t have liked the downtime in the garage, but that’s Le Mans, we got the car back out there. I think even when Audi won, all the Peugeots didn’t finish one year, and Audi cruised around.
“We pushed each other to the limit. I think it shows you how much we were pushing each other to the absolute limit and probably beyond. The pace was just so, so, so hot, so fast, and it wasn’t sustainable, for the majority.
“But in the end a lot of the components, some of those parts have done previous Le Mans with no issue. That’s the nature of Le Mans. Our water pump last year did 243,000 km in testing, but that’s Le Mans, it fails, and we lost the race with that.
“It’s drama, and unpredictable. We got it home – just.”
Webber watched on as former LMP1 teammates Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard fought back from 55th place to take Porsche’s 19th overall Le Mans victory alongside Earl Bamber, much to the Australian’s delight.
“I was very emotional for both of them, it’s the biggest result of their careers,” he said.
“I know what Timo has put into that program, and I know what Brendon has put in, so I was absolutely stoked.
“The No. 1 mechanic, it was his first Le Mans win. Alex, also a mechanic on the car… 20 Le Mans and he hadn’t won a race. That shows you what Le Mans is like. A lot of great stories out of it.
“Brendon is one of the best guys in the business at the moment, and thoroughly deserves a win, and Earl obviously just smooth as silk as usual in the background.
“I was stoked, really stoked, to see them up there, and to give them the trophy as well, with Brendon, it was pretty emotional.”