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Porsche announces development of LMDh prototype to compete at Daytona, Le Mans

Geneva Auto Show Press Days 2017

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - MARCH 08: A Porsche logo is seen the during the 87th Geneva International Motor Show on March 8, 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland. The International Motor Show showcase novelties of the car industry. (Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images)

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Porsche announced Tuesday that it will develop a Le Mans Daytona hybrid (LMDh) car to compete in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and FIA World Endurance Championship when the new premier class makes its debut in 2023.

The car will rebuild the bridge between the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona (and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring) by allowing for crossover between the top divisions in IMSA (whose rebranded DPi class will be known as LMDh) and WEC. Currently, the LMP2 and GTLM classes of IMSA can run at Le Mans, but its premier prototype division isn’t eligible for the world’s biggest sports car event.

The new class for hybrid powertrain prototypes (which will weigh 2,200 pounds with 680 horsepower) was announced in January at Daytona International Speedway, and Porsche executives said both the U.S. and European championships are significant for the German sports car manufacturer’s business.

“The new LMDh category allows us to fight for overall victories with a hybrid system at the Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring classics without breaking the bank,” Porsche AG CEO Oliver Blume said in a release. “The project is extremely attractive for Porsche. Endurance racing is part of our brand’s DNA.”

It’ll mark the first time in more than two decades that Porsche will compete for overall victories with identical vehicles in endurance races at multiple sports car series globally.

According to an IMSA release, Porsche is the first manufacturer to make an official commitment to its LMDh class. For the first time in more than 20 years, Porsche Motorsport will be fighting for overall victories with identical prototype vehicles in endurance races around the world.

It’s a boon for IMSA, which lost Porsche from its GTLM division after the 2020 season (Porsche-affiliated teams will continue to compete in the GTD category, though without full factory support). It’ll also mark the first time Porsche will compete in the top ranks of U.S. prototype racing since 2010 (with the RS Spyder LMP2 in the American Le Mans Series).

Michael Steiner, board member for research and development at Porsche AG, said the LMDh and its hybrid powertrain will help fulfill Porsche’s goal of racing in three distinct drive concepts in motorsports, joining its entries in the fully electric FIA Formula E Series and the “emotional combustion units” in GT racing. “If the regulations eventually allowed the use of synthetic fuels, then that would be an even greater incentive for me in terms of sustainability,” Steiner said in a release.

Said Fritz Enzinger, Vice President Motorsport: “I’d like to thank our board of directors for the immense confidence they have in the motorsport strategy we’ve developed. We hold a record with our 19 outright wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and we’ve climbed to the top podium step many times at major races in the U.S.A. We can continue this tradition with an LMDh vehicle while at the same time keeping costs reasonable.

“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 eighties and nineties. That would give the entire motor racing scene a huge boost.”