The recently-announced joint top-flight LMDh class that will share duty between IMSA and the WEC has captured the attention of Porsche’s motorsport department. The lower-cost replacement for LMP1 will run alongside the stupendously expensive Hypercar in a joint fight for the overall win at prestigious races like the 24 Hours of Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. While the full rulebook as not yet been released, Porsche has formally announced interest in building a car for the new class.
After retiring its 919 Hybrid at the end of the 2017 FIA WEC season, Porsche has not competed for overall victories in any major international sports car championship since. Instead, the German sports car maker has devoted its attention to a new Formula E team. While the manufacturer has had some success in open wheel racing in its history, it is best known for dominating international sports car prototype racing. It would make sense that Porsche Motorsport is paying close attention to this new rulebook.
As the FIA’s Hypercar class fell apart due to the explosive costs to field a car, LMDh was introduced in January as an alternative. We currently only know that it is loosely based around IMSA’s current DPi class, which allows manufacturers to build prototype racers around existing LMP2 chassis designs with marque-specific aesthetic and aerodynamic bodywork and marque-specific drivetrains. This next-generation prototype will incorporate a spec KERS-style hybrid system on the rear axle, as well.
And that paragraph right there is more or less all we know about this new class.
The LMDh class was supposed to receive further definition during the Super Sebring weekend shared between IMSA’s 12 Hours of Sebring and the FIA WEC’s 1000 Miles of Sebring. The two series were scheduled to hold a series of important joint meetings, as well as the rules announcement, during that weekend, but it was all forced to be postponed due to the continued spread of coronavirus.
“Porsche is seriously looking into it, but there is no decision yet,” Porsche Motorsport boss Pascal Zurlinden said. “Until today the regulations are not out, but I think it is just a delay by a few days because the Autombile Club de l’Ouest and IMSA have also gone to home working.”
Porsche has not built a car for overall victory in American sports car competition for about a decade. It built the Penske-run RS Spyder prototype for IMSA’s LMP2 class, which occasionally took the fight to Audi’s more powerful diesel LMP1 prototypes between 2005 and 2010, while a few teams ran Porsche-powered Daytona Prototypes.
LMDh is scheduled to be introduced following Le Mans in June of 2021 for the 21/22 season of the FIA WEC, while it will be incorporated into the IMSA class structure in January of 2022. Porsche has not indicated where or when it would be interested in kicking off its program, assuming it decides to move forward with such a program.