Speed Chills - Formula E

  • Porsche Withdraw from LMP1

    It has now been confirmed that Porsche will be leaving the LMP1 category in World Endurance Championship at the end of the season. Rumours had been circulating the team at the 6 Hours of Nurburgring, where Team Principle Andreas Seidl stated the team would decide on its future later this month. Porsche released a statement on their website this morning to confirm that 2017 would be the final season they would participate in LMP1 as they were turning their attention to enter the 2019 Formula E season.

    In the statement posted to their website, Michael Steiner, a member of the executive Board for Research and Development at Porsche AG, stated that is was the “growing freedom for in-house technology development [that] makes Formula E attractive to us.

    “Porsche is working with alternative, innovative drive concepts. For us, Formula E is the ultimate competitive environment for driving forward the development of high-performance vehicles in areas such as environmental friendliness, efficiency and sustainability.

    “We want to be number one. To do that, we must invest accordingly.”

    Since their return to sports car racing in 2014, Porsche has had a lot of success in the LMP1 team. In their first year, they almost challenged Audi Sport for the overall win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Since then, the team has gone on to take three consecutive Le Mans victories and look to be set to take their third consecutive Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ titles at the end of the season in November.

    “Building up the Le Mans team from scratch was a huge challenge.” Fritz Enzinger said on the Porsche statement. “Over the years, we have developed an incredibly successful and professional team. This will be our basis going forward.

    “I am certain that we will maintain our high level in Formula E. Confidence is high, and we are excited to get started”

    Porsche had claimed that they will keep the LMP1 team together, with the six factory drivers staying on board, but which capacity has not been clarified. Along with this, the team will still run their GT programme, with the newly developed 911 RSRs in both the WEC and International Motor Sport Association.

    The announcement for Porsche to leave the WEC and join a fully electric race series comes days after the announcement that diesel and petrol cars will be banned from the roads in the UK and France from 2040. Whether or not this has anything to do with Porsche decision to leave the Hybrid racing series behind is unknown. Volkswagen are also still in a lot of financial issues from the “dieselgate” debacle which was one of the main reasons Audi pulled out of the series last year.

    Toyota Gazoo Racing have commented on Porsche’s decision to leave the LMP1 class, saying that it is “unfortunate” the German manufacture has left the sport. There has been no comment on Toyota’s future plans in the WEC. If they stay next season, as they are contracted to, they will be the only competitors in the LMP1-H class.

    It is clear that the WEC is not happy with Porsche’s sudden decision to leave WEC for Formula E. Before Porsche withdrew at the end of last week, both LMP1 teams – Porsche and Toyota Gazoo Racing – had confirmed commitment to participating in LMP1 until the end of 2018: “[Porsche] recently confirmed its participation in the FIA LMP1-H World Endurance Championship as a manufacturer 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.” Toyota were clear that they were not going to make any comments about Porsche departure from the sport, but they have conceded that they only agreed to stay in the sport until the end of 2018 as they believed they would have factory competition. With this revelation, now not even Toyota have binding commitment after then end of this year.

    However, as there were rumours at the 6 Hours of Nurburgring that Porsche would not see past the end of the year in LMP1, the WEC and ACO have not been caught napping at the announcement of this news. There is already work underway to make sure the 2018 season is “a season which promises to be quite exceptional thanks to the introduction of new innovations.” Some of the regulations changes that were supposed to be coming in in 2020 are now being brought forward, with some changes due to come into effect as early as next year. WEC will make an announcement at the 6 Hours of Mexico about the new plan for the LMP1-H class for 2018.

    WEC’s main concern will be to keep Toyota on board net year, but with no one to race against there needs to be a very good reason for Toyota to stay.

    If Toyota were to leave there would no longer be an hybrid field in the WEC. This could be detrimental to the series as, with automotive vehicles becoming greener, the hybrid technology is the closest to road car technology for the future in the field.

    The WEC ended their statement by putting stress on the fact that cost and stability reduction, and inventiveness and audacity held the key to getting more manufacturers into the sport. This backs up Toyota’s claims that if the technical factor of the cars was reduced to save cost they would walk away from the LMP1 class.

    Right now, WEC’s priority must be keeping Toyota in WEC, but the question that remains is how are they going to do that when there are no longer any competitors for Toyota to try and beat?