Porsche has announced it will design and build a new LMP1 class racer for the Le Mans series in 2014, an in-house challenge to sibling company Audi who has won ten 24 Hours of Le Mans races since 2000.
“Motorsport was always an essential part of the Porsche brand,” Porsche AG CEO Matthias Müller said. “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 unrivaled. We want to follow up on this with the 17th outright victory."
Porsche’s most recent factory-backed effort in the prototype arena was with the DHL-liveried LMP2 RS Spyder racers of the American Le Mans series, which raced under Roger Penske’s blanket from 2006-2008. The last official Porsche factory race car was the 1998 911 GT1, which won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1998.
Given Audi’s stellar track record in the LMP1 class at Le Mans — it just won the race again this year with its R18 TDI turbo-diesel prototype — Porsche’s announcement is somewhat of a surprise.
There is no official information on the race car though our bet is that it will be either a gasoline-powered prototype or possibly a hybrid in the vein of the GT3 R Hybrid, which uses a gasoline engine and a Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS). A diesel-powered prototype is unlikely considering Audi has developed and currently runs a diesel-powered racer.
As for Audi’s response, here’s what was posted to the Audi Sport Facebook page: “This is the decision of Porsche company, a decision in which Audi is not involved. Audi relishes the prospect of every strong new opponent at Le Mans and in the new FIA World Endurance Championship. Porsche’s entry into the LMP1 class is evidence of the high level of attraction of sport prototypes.”
The most important question one may ask at this point: What is in store for the future of VW Group’s luxury-performance brands and their motorsports activities with Porsche breathing down their necks?
We hope the answer is healthy competition.