The winningest name in Le Mans endurance racing, Porsche, is set to return for the 2023 season in the highly anticipated LMDh category.
The Executive Board at Porsche AG has given the green light to the development of an LMDh prototype. After a lengthy evaluation phase, Porsche Motorsport has received the order to build a vehicle for 2023 regulations.
From 2023, the LMDh cars will make up a new top class in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) and the North American IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The major pull of the LMDh category is it allows Porsche to fight – amongst others against its highly successful sister brand, Audi – for overall victories with a hybrid system at the Le Mans, Daytona, and Sebring classics, without breaking the bank.
What is the LMDh category?
Dubbed the Le Mans Daytona ‘h’ series, the LMDh category is an inter-event sports prototype racing class that will converge the top-flight racing classes of the American and Canadian based IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, French-based Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) who organises Le Mans and the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) into a singular racing class. The class regulations were jointly created by all three bodies, in an effort to offer participating teams a truly global endurance racing championship.
The new LMDh category focuses on high cost-efficiency. The cars are based on an upgraded LMP2 chassis, and the spec for the hybrid system including the control electronics is standardised. Chassis from four different manufacturers are available. Each brand is free to select the concept for the combustion engine and the body design within the framework of the regulations.
The LMDh category closes the gap between the racing vehicle and relatable tech for road-going cars
Michael Steiner, Board Member for Research and Development at Porsche AG, adds: “In the medium term, Porsche focuses on three different drive concepts: fully electric vehicles, efficient plug-in hybrids and emotional combustion engines. We want to represent this trilogy in both the development of our cutting-edge road cars and in motorsport,”
“We use the all-electric drive to contest the FIA Formula E as part of our works commitment, and the highly efficient and emotional combustion unit in GT racing. Now, the LMDh class closes the gap for us. There, powerful hybrid drives – like the ones that are mounted in many of our brand’s models – go up against each other. If the regulations eventually allowed the use of synthetic fuels, then that would be an even greater incentive for me in terms of sustainability.”
The 2023 comeback
Porsche would return in 2023 after a 5-year hiatus from Le Mans, having secured hat-trick victories in 2015, 2016, and 2017 before retiring the 919 Hybrid and its works racing program. Porsche holds the all-time record of 19 outright wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, making it the most successful manufacturer to participate in this hallowed race.
Porsche has since released teaser images of how its 2023 LMDh challenger could look like but remains tight-lipped about other details such as the powertrain, and which of the four chassis constructors – Oreca, Ligier, Dallara, or Multimatic – the company would choose.
As for the powerplant, Enzinger told motorsport.com that the company has not selected a powerplant for its new LMDh racer, but says “if you look at all the vehicles we have at Porsche, all the sportscars, we have many engines that could fit."
Adding that a racing powerplant developed out of an existing production engine would be the most cost-effective way of producing the powerplant.
This of course ties in well with Porsche’s racing DNA, which applies a lot of its learnings from the track into its road-going cars and vice versa – a good example of this is the proprietary tech has wound up in the Porsche Taycan and the EV-specific J1 platform that underpins it.
In addition, they look forward to more tight battles with other manufacturer racecars in 2023.
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President Motorsport adds, “There has been huge interest from other manufacturers. I hope we can pick up where we left off with the famous clashes against many other marques in the 1980s and 90s. That would give the entire motor racing scene a huge boost.”