Porsche has done a major shake-up for the 2017 programmes.
It was already clear around two months ago, that there would be changes at Porsche in 2017. The 2015 World Champion, Mark Webber, announced that he would stop as an active driver after this season. Furthermore there were rumours around the paddock about other changes, but nothing concrete.
It has, however, been clear for a long time that Porsche would return to GTE-Pro as a factory team with their new 911 car.
Only a few days after the season finale in Bahrain, it was announced that Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas wouldn’t be a part of the LMP1 drivers line-up in the future – and then the speculations began.
But now they have released all the data themselves.
Both LMP1 cars will have new driver line-ups.
Neel Jani is the only guy left in the championship winning car, who will have number 1 in 2017. But he will get Le Mans 2015 winner Nick Tandy as well as triple Le Mans winner and 2012 World Champion Andre Lotterer in the car. Tandy already knows the team from 2015 where he was piloting the 3rd car at Le Mans, and won the race along with Earl Bamber and Nico Hülkenberg. Lotterer arrives from Audi Sport, where he has more often than not, been the fastest driver in the car. Tandy is incredibly fast, but every now and then, he makes some massive errors, that has cost him and the teams dearly. And Jani was superior in his car throughout the 2016 season.
Car number 2 keep Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley while Earl Bamber will be the 3rd guy in the car. Bamber is a very stable driver that rarely makes errors. He has proven that in the IMSA season 2016, where he just kept driving and driving. Oh yeah – and of course he won Le Mans 2015 for Porsche, as previously mentioned.
The first impression is that Car #1 will be incredibly fast, and that the competition has to be on their toes to beat it on pure speed, while Car #2 will be the consistent car, but still not going slow throughout 6 or 24 hours, though so far hasn’t shown the same speed as Car #1’s drivers.
In the GTE category they have selected three of the four drivers. Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen continue in the GTE Programme while Frédéric (Fred) Makowiecki will return as a full season driver in the FIA WEC Championship, where he finished 2nd in 2014, and after that had three FIA WEC starts and a Le Mans start in 2016. The 4th driver hasn’t been announced yet.
Porsche announced the rest of the works drivers for their GT programme:
Laurens Vanthoor and Dirk Wernerwill be doing the IMSA Championship, where they replace Tandy/Bamber. Vanthoor has been a Audi Sport works driver in GT3 cars for many years, so it was a bit of surprise that he moved over to the family members in Weissach. Dirk Werner was a Porsche Works driver during several season, before he went to BMW in 2010. He has done DTM, VLN, TUSC/IMSA and a few 24 hour races at places like Le Mans, Nordschleife and Daytona since then.
Jörg Bergmeister has been doing IMSA for the last few seasons, and it is expected that he will continue in a privateer team. Patrick Long and Wolf Henzler has been lend out for privateers in FIA WEC, but their 2017 is still open in that way. Kevin Estre has done a lot of VLN and ADAC GT Masters, but nothing has been announced for him. Sven Müller has been upgraded from Porsche Junior to a full works driver – no news about his plans for 2017. And then the World Champion 2016, Romain Dumas, who has appeared on the list as a GT driver. The question is if he will be in a GTE-Pro car, or if that seat goes to Sven Müller. It will most likely be some kind of a shoot-out between those 2 in the near future, which will decide that.
A name that we are missing on the list is Marc Lieb. The World Champion from 2016 has a high degree and engineer, that he has utilized on the race cars in Weissach along with his driving duties. So it will most likely be in that role that we will see Lieb in in the future. Its a great shame that he won’t be behind the wheel in FIA WEC any longer, since he in my personal opinion has been overlooked for a long time. When you have followed the team for a bit, you have often seen Lieb standing or sitting alone, while all his teammates got all the attention. So personally I hope to see him back behind the wheel very soon, even though it’s unlikely as a works driver.
Porsche has 2 categories more. The so-called Young Professionals are Matteo Cairoli and Mathieu Jaminet, who finished 2nd and 3rd in Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup. According to the press release they will be lent out to GT teams throughout the world.
Porsche Juniors are Matt Campbell and Dennis Olsen plus Thomas Preining. Campbell and Olsen will do Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup 2017, while newcomer Preining will do Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland.