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Porsche Is Set To Return To LMP1 At Le Mans

Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 1 2011

Porsche has announced it will move to the LMP1 Class at Le Mans in the near future. The Porsche Spyder, above, competed in LMP2. (File photo courtesy of the American Le Mans Series)

Porsche AG has announced the company’s return to competition in the premier LMP1 category at the Le Mans 24-hour in 2014. It will be the German marque’s first commitment to winning the race over-all at the famed French race since its victory in 1998.

The company’s director of motorsports said Porsche will consider building a hybrid racer, pending the development of the rules.

“Now we will begin with detailed research in order to evaluate the various concept alternatives for our new car,” said Hartmut Kristen. “These obviously depend on how the regulations for the year 2014 look in detail. In principle, these regulations are interesting for us because the integration of our hybrid technology in the vehicle concept is one possible option.”

Improving fuel consumption continues to be a focus of the rules by the Automobile Club de L’Ouest, which welcomed Porsche’s return and also signalled its interest in hybrid technology.

“It’s obvious that this return heralds the arrival of a new technical approach in the LM P1 category,” said Vincent Beaumesnil, the ACO’s sports manager. “We’re already working on the 2014 regulations, and Porsche will be one of the major participants in these discussions. Its contribution to our talks can only be of capital importance given this company’s past, and the immense experience it has accumulated in endurance racing. We’re very happy as not only will we have an additional make in LMP1, but also a manufacturer ready to explore new technological avenues.”

Porsche, whose 16 wins is the most at Le Mans by a manufacturer, has been racing its 911 GT3 R Hybrid since early last year in international endurance events featuring GT cars and its newest high-end supercar, the Porsche 918 Spyder, features hybrid technology.

This year’s race had two hybrid prototypes entered by private teams, which produced insignificant results.

“Motorsport was always an essential part of the Porsche brand,” emphasized Matthias Müller, President of the Executive Board at Porsche AG, who last fall said the company would not discount a return to Formula 1, a prospect now jettisoned. “So for us it was only a matter of time before we returned as a factory to the top league of racing. Porsche’s successes in Le Mans are unrivalled. We want to follow up on this with the 17th outright victory.”

Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood scored the first outright victory for Porsche at Le Mans in 1970. The 16th and most recent overall win was secured by Laurent Aiello, Stéphane Ortelli and Allan McNish in 1998 with the 911 GT1. In the years 2008 and 2009, the Porsche RS Spyder sports prototype won the title in the LMP2 category.

After dropping out of the prototype category for the 1999 season, Porsche began focusing on its 911 GT3 racers, developing it into one of the most successful race cars in the company’s history in terms of unit sales and performance in series around the world and in the GT2 class at Le Mans. The company returned to the prototype ranks in 2005 with the introduction of the Porsche RS Spyder in the LMP2 category for prototypes with smaller engines. The car was raced by Penske Racing from 2005 to 2008 and by privateers until 2010.

“With the RS Spyder we proved that our motorsport engineers in Weissach are at the forefront,” says Wolfgang Hatz, board member for research and development at Porsche AG. “For instance, we were the first to run a high-revving race engine with direct fuel injection, DFI, setting new standards in performance and efficiency. Recently, with the 911 GT3 R Hybrid, we adopted a completely new drive technology for racing purposes and achieved a considerable reduction in consumption.”

– Jonathan Ingram can be reached at jingram@racintoday.com

Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 1 2011
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