Following many months of rumours, Porsche Motorsport has finally confirmed – they will leave the FIA World Endurance Championship at the end of 2017.
Instead they will put their focus on FIA Formula E, where they will start participating from the 2019/20 season. They will be up against other German manufacturers like Audi, BMW and Mercedes.
Porsche is a veteran in Sportscar Racing and has been in the top category of racing over several times. This time they have been around since 2014, where they entered the 919 Hybrid model, winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2015, 2016 and 2017 as well as winning the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2015 and 2016 and currently leading the Championship again this year.
Porsche first participated at Le Mans in 1951, but it wasn’t until 1970 that they claimed their first overall win, with the legendary Porsche 917K. They have since then won with 936, 935, 956, 962C, WSC-95, WSC-96, Porsche 911 GT1-98, and now the 919 Hybrid model.
Furthermore they claimed 6 World Championship titles in the 1980’s, with the potential of their 9th this year, if Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley can keep their lead to the finish.
A total of 10 drivers have been through their programme this time around, where the testing of the first 919 started in June 2013, with Timo Bernhard behind the wheel. He was a part of the original driver line-up, which consisted of Marc Lieb, Neel Jani, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley, and Romain Dumas. For Le Mans 2015 they pulled Earl Bamber, Nick Tandy, and Nico Hülkenberg into the third car at Le Mans, and that driver combination claimed Porsche’s 17th overall win at Le Mans.
Post the 2016 season we saw a big shake-up. Mark Webber chose to end his career, and he was joined by the just recently crowned World Champion and Le Mans winner, Marc Lieb. Romain Dumas was more or less pushed out of the seat by the team management, which appears strange to many, when he had just claimed the World Championship title.
Now they will close down the programme, and the 6 drivers have to find new teams.
The announcement surely gives a few grey hair to the organizers behind the FIA World Endurance Championship in the shape of Gerard Neveu and Pierre Fignon. Currently there is only Toyota Gazoo Racing left, having already confirmed their participation in the 2018 season – but they believed that Porsche would be there too, so will they reconsider? Audi Sport was a significant partner in the marketing budget for the series, and Porsche has been a big partner, too. So every time some of the big teams leaves WEC, there will be less money in the bank for the organizers. However we have BMW entering in 2018, so they will bring a new sponsorship.
There should be half a dozen privateer LMP1 teams heading towards the FIA WEC, since both Ginetta and Perrinn currently have LMP1 cars for sale for privateers. Furthermore SMP and Dallara are working on a car, that hopefully will end out in another new car. ORECA has spoken about interest in LMP1 too, but officially they don’t have a car yet. But it surely would be a good business for them, so they could offer their LMP2 teams to move up to the big class.
Bykolles Racing Team says they will be back in 2018, plus they are also trying to sell chassis’ to other teams. But they probably aren’t the first choice for new teams with their non competitive 2017 car, only able to do mid-LMP2 field laptimes. They are working hard to get more reliability and speed out of the car, over the fall/winter 2017/18.
The GTE Pro programme of Porsche isn’t affected by this, and they will continue to race their for 2017 new Porsche 911 RSR.
Some people expect this to be the end of WEC, by Porsche quitting the series, but we are quite sure that the series will survive and perhaps be even stronger next year. A new manufacturer (BMW) will show up in GTE Pro, and the current LMP2 surely smell blood after Jackie Chan DC Racing was leading the Le Mans race overall and finished second and third overall this year. For the 2018 season there should be a booming in GTE Am, since Porsche will start to provide their 2017 GTE car. There are some rumours that Ford are ready to provide GTE Am cars as well. In their 4 years programme, it would be natural to replace the chassis’ halfway through that, and it would make some available for privateers.
The coming weeks and months will be interesting, regarding new teams arriving in FIA WEC, and how many LMP1 cars will be there on the starting grid in 2018.