As was widely forecast, and in a parallel of the decision by their sister manufacturer Audi one year previously, Porsche have officially announced the cessation of their participation in the FIA World Endurance Championship LMP1 class a year ahead of schedule with the German marque’s last race for the 919 Hybrid being the 2017 season finale at Bahrain.
The entire LMP1 team, including the drivers, will be maintained post withdrawal and from 2019, Porsche will compete with a factory team in the Formula E Championship.
As part of the same statement Porsche have confirmed that in parallel with the preparations for Formula E the manufacturer plans to extend their commitment to GT racing with the 911 RSR in the GTE Pro class of the FIA World Endurance Championship and in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
“A diversity of manufacturers and the quality of both WEC and IMSA have led us to strengthen our commitment and concentrate our energies on using the 911 RSR,” said Michael Steiner, Member of the Executive Board of Porsche AG responsible for Research and Development. “We want to be number one. To do that, we must invest accordingly.”
At present it has not been confirmed whether the retained drivers will move to the new Formula E program, boost an extended GT participation or be loaned to other teams.
With the exit of Porsche from LMP1 the future of the class and manufacturer involvement is now thrown into a period of uncertainty. The WEC have been the first to respond to the news, emphesising that the World Championship status of the FIA WEC is not in doubt, the WEC will still have three world championship titles in play: the World Drivers’ title (for which LMP1 and LMP2 drivers are eligible), GT Manufacturers’ and GT Drivers’.
The statement reads:
“The manufacturer Porsche, which recently confirmed its participation in the FIA LMP1-H World Endurance Championship up to the end of the 2018 season, and which has been actively involved in the development of the technical regulations that will come into force in 2020, has just announced the withdrawal of its LMP1 hybrids from the end of the 2017 season.
“The Automobile Club de l’Ouest, promoter of the WEC and organiser of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, regrets this precipitous departure, as it does the abruptness of the decision from one of endurance racing’s most successful and lauded manufacturers.
“However, the ACO and the FIA, guardians of the existence and quality of the FIA World Endurance championship, have immediately set to work to put forward to everyone involved in endurance racing the outline of the 2018 season, a season which promises to be quite exceptional thanks to the introduction of new innovations.
“Clearly, the reduction of costs and stability, but also inventiveness and audacity, will be vital in making it possible to stage an increasingly spectacular and attractive championship with the sport of endurance racing at the forefront.
“This unprecedented 2018 World Championship will, without doubt, excite and enthuse competitors, partners and fans of endurance racing alike.
“We look forward to seeing you in Mexico City on September 2 and 3 for the next WEC event when further information will be given.”
Soon after the release from the ACO/WEC, Toyota President Akio Toyoda released the following statement:
“I felt that it was very unfortunate when I heard that Porsche decided to withdraw from the LMP1 category of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) racing series.
“At last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans race, we were honored that Porsche considered Toyota as a rival. It was a great battle as we fought against each other for victory.
“Looking toward this year’s series, we aimed to rise to and even surpass Porsche’s challenge. Those thoughts drove us to work harder and put forth our best efforts in realizing new technologies and skills.
“At this year’s Le Mans, I again had the opportunity to meet and talk with Dr. Porsche. He told me that, much like us, his company participates in motorsport to enhance its production cars.
“As a carmaker that has been doing such for a very long time, Porsche deserves a great deal of respect.
“I feel very sad and disappointed that we will no longer be able to pit our technologies against such a company on the same battleground next year.
“However, the fight is not yet over. We will continue to battle with all our strength in the remaining five races of this year. Let’s make it an amazing competition that will remain in the hearts of the teams as well as of the fans.
“I am full of gratitude to Porsche, but I will save my thanks for when the season is over.
“At that time, I wonder which of us will be congratulating the other.
“Let’s look forward to that moment as we continue to fight.
“To everyone at Porsche, we’ll see you on the track!”
As part of the statement, Toyota Gazoo Racing has stated that it will not be issuing any further comment on Porsche’s withdrawal.
So for a few weeks we can all continue to speculate; what will become of LMP1? Will Toyota remain and race themselves (perhaps adding more cars and, in effect, multiple teams) or pull the plug early too? What of the new privateers due for 2018, the six chassis reportedly sold by Ginetta, the BR/Dallara LMP1, the Perrin? The first part of the jigsaw will be place at the start of September at the ACO/WEC where Pierre Fillon and Gerard Neveu will present the plans for the class from 2018 onwards.
Watch this space!