UPDATED: Porsche has confirmed its departure from LMP1 in a press release, announcing a switch to Formula E.
“Entering Formula E and achieving success in this category are the logical outcomes of our Mission E. The growing freedom for in-house technology developments makes Formula E attractive to us”, Michael Steiner, Member of the Executive Board for Research and Development at Porsche AG, said in a statement.
Porsche confirmed it will continue to race in WEC as part of GTE with its 911 RSR.
The news comes less than 12 months after fellow Volkswagen Group compatriot Audi abruptly pulled up stumps on its LMP1 program at the end of the 2016 World Endurance Championship season.
An official announcement from Porsche regarding its withdrawal from LMP1 is expected on Friday night or early Saturday local time.
It has been reported the German manufacturer will use the opportunity to confirm its intention to enter the FIA’s all-electric Formula E category as a factory team.
The withdrawal of Audi and Porsche from LMP1 will kneecap the category, which is the headline attraction at the 24 Hours of Le Mans – one of motorsports’ ‘Triple Crown’ events.
Their departure leaves Toyota as the only works team, and the only contender in the uppermost LMP1-H sub-category for hybrid-powered race cars. The Japanese manufacturer – still hunting for its first 24 Hour of Le Mans victory – will be left to fight privateer outfits competing in slower, non-hybrid vehicles. That is if Toyota continues with what is estimated to be a circa $376 million per annum venture.
LMP1 and WEC’s loss is Formula E’s gain, as the category continues to posture itself as the future of factory-backed motorsport on a global scale.
The transition from LMP1 to Formula E is expected to save Porsche significant money, some reporting the necessary budget could shrink by as much as 90 percent per year.
Porsche is the most successful manufacturer in history at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. By 2012 it had 16 outright victories, but sister company Audi was fast approaching that record having won five events in a row. In response, Porsche announced a return to the iconic French endurance race with a brand-new race car, the Porsche 919.
The 919 made its debut at Le Mans in 2014, winning outright in its sophomore year, and then backing it up in 2016 and 2017.
Now, just four years after its return to the top rung of sportscar racing, and with its Le Mans record win tally extended to 19 victories plus a pair of constructors’ and drivers’ FIA WEC championships, the reign is poised to come to a self-imposed end.
Confirmation of the withdrawal will spell the end of VW Group’s involvement in sportscar racing, which has been unbroken since 1995. In that period, between Porsche and Audi, it was undoubtedly the most dominant force in the category’s history.
There are five rounds left in the 2017 WEC championship, which could be the last opportunities to see true factory-versus-factory LMP1 battles between 700kW+ hybrid-powered beasts.