Christmas has come early for motorsport fans as Porsche on Wednesday confirmed its return to top-level endurance racing, specifically in the new LMDh (Le Mans Daytona hybrid) class that will soon serve as the top category for both the World Endurance Championship and WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Porsche said it will contest both series, starting in 2023. Crucially, this means Porsche will compete for outright victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the premier event of the WEC and a race where Porsche is the most successful team in history (with 19 outright wins so far).
When Porsche exited the WEC's LMP1 class at the end of 2017 to focus on Formula E, leaving Toyota as the only automaker competing in the current top class, it marked the end of the automaker's participation in top-level endurance racing. Porsche said it will remain in Formula E even with its new LMDh campaign.
LMDh was announced by IMSA (International Motor Sports Association) and ACO (Automobile Club de l’Ouest), which sanctions the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in January. The rules are still being finessed but the LMDh class is currently expected to be introduced in 2023.
Porsche has released a handful of teaser shots that hint at what its LMDh race car might look like. LMDh has been developed with a view of keeping a lid on costs so teams will need to use a spec chassis similar to a current LMP2 chassis, sourced from one of four suppliers (Dallara, Ligier, Multimatic, and Oreca), and a hybrid powertrain of their own choosing. The cars will tip the scales at around 2,200 pounds and output around 680 horsepower.
“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,” Oliver Blume, CEO of Porsche, said in a statement.
Fellow Volkswagen Group brand Audi only in November said it was considering LMDh, and it isn't clear how Porsche's decision will affect that of Audi.
Note, LMDh isn't a replacement for the new LMH (Le Mans Hypercars) class which will also serve as the top category of the WEC, where balance of performance rules will help to level the playing field for the two classes. But unlike LMDh, LMH cars won't be able to compete outside of the WEC and thus is likely to be less attractive to automakers looking to promote their brand to the widest audience as possible. LMH cars also need to spawn road-going counterparts. Automakers that have committed to LMH include Toyota, Peugeot and Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus.