DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The highly anticipated future of sports car racing took a major step forward Tuesday with the announcement that Porsche AG will develop an LMDh prototype that can compete in both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) beginning in 2023.
Porsche Motorsport becomes the first manufacturer to officially confirm its intent to enter the hybrid prototype category. The LMDh was announced in January at Daytona International Speedway as a shared platform between IMSA and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), allowing it to compete in the premier category across the spectrum of the world’s greatest endurance races that includes the Rolex 24 At Daytona, 24 Hours of Le Mans and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts.
"The new LMDh category allows us to fight for overall victories with a hybrid system at the Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring classics – without breaking the bank. The project is extremely attractive for Porsche. Endurance racing is part of our brand’s DNA," said Oliver Blume, CEO at Porsche AG in Stuttgart, Germany.
The LMDh is based on a cost-capped car and will have the same spine (the complete car without bodywork, engine or hybrid system) as the next generation of the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2). The LMDh chassis will be built by one of four approved constructors – Dallara, Ligier, Multimatic or ORECA. Each competing automobile manufacturer may develop its own branded engine and stylized bodywork.
Bosch, Williams Advanced Engineering and Xtrac will work in concert to provide the spec hybrid powertrain system for all LMDh cars. Between the manufacturer’s internal combustion engine and the hybrid powertrain, each LMDh car will have a combined power output of more than 670 horsepower (500 kilowatts).
Porsche is keen to enter the fray at the top level of global sports car competition once again.
"I’d like to thank our board of directors for the immense confidence they have in the motorsport strategy we’ve developed," explains Fritz Enzinger, vice president, Porsche Motorsport. "We hold a record with our 19 outright wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and we’ve climbed to the top podium step many times at major races in the USA.
"We can continue this tradition with an LMDh vehicle while at the same time keeping costs reasonable. There has been huge interest from other manufacturers. I hope we can pick up where we left off with the famous clashes against many other marques in the ’80s and ’90s. That would give the entire motor racing scene a huge boost."
Porsche Motorsport already boasts a decade of experience with high-performance hybrid vehicles at the pinnacle of the sport. From 2015-17, the Porsche 919 Hybrid was the overall and Le Mans Prototype 1 (LMP1) winner three straight times at the 24 Hours of Le Mans on its way to three consecutive WEC championships.
The LMDh program will allow Porsche to advance further its technologies for the future, according to Michael Steiner, board member for research and development at Porsche AG.
"In the medium term, Porsche focuses on three different drive concepts: fully electric vehicles, efficient plug-in hybrids and emotional combustion engines," Steiner said. "We want to represent this trilogy in both the development of our cutting-edge road cars and in motorsport. We use the all-electric drive to contest the FIA Formula E as part of our works commitment, and the highly efficient and emotional combustion unit in GT racing.
"Now, the LMDh class closes the gap for us. There, powerful hybrid drives – like the ones that are mounted in many of our brand’s models – go up against each other."