Dream Team: Porsche and Penske reunite to go sportscar racing
Two powerhouses of motorsport, Porsche and Penske, are teaming up to go sports car racing.
The Dream Team will develop a so-called LMDh prototype car for entry in international sports car racing from France’s 24 Hours of Le Mans to the Rolex Daytona 24 Hours. Due for the 2023 season, the LMDh will usher in a hybrid era for sportscar racing while reviving a Porsche-Penske partnership that won Can-Am titles in the 1970s and in sportscar racing from 2006-08.
The Porsche LMDh racer will headline the much-anticipated merging of global motorsport under one regulatory discipline, allowing — for the first time in years — manufacturers to enter the same car in FIA’s international World Endurance Championship and the North American IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. International prototype racing has been splintered with cars eligible for Daytona, for example, unable to compete in other countries.
“This is a proud day for our entire Penske organization. We have represented Porsche on the track or in our businesses for more than six decades. The heritage and success we have enjoyed together is unparalleled throughout our history,” said Roger Penske, chairman of Penske Corp., based in Bloomfield Hills. “I can’t wait to get started as we build a global racing program with Porsche that will compete for wins and championships well into the future.”
Under Penske team management, Porsche will enter two factory cars in the in LMDh class. LMDh will compete next to an even more powerful LMH — dubbed “hypercar” — class.
In structure, the twin prototype classes echo the North American 2006-08 seasons when the Dream Team collaborated on the legendary Porsche RS Spyder. The RS Spyder dominated the LMP2 class for three years running, even beating faster LMP1 prototypes on occasion.
The new international sportscar rules for LMH and LMDh set up a similar competitive tension beginning in 2023 across the globe. And it puts Porsche back in position to claim overall wins at Le Mans and Daytona — tracks where the brand made its marque in the 1960s as one of the globe’s premier performance brands.
"We are delighted that we were able to get Team Penske to form this partnership," said Porsche chairman Oliver Blume. "For the first time in the history of Porsche Motorsport, our company will have a global team competing in the world's two largest endurance series. To this end, we will be setting up team bases on both sides of the Atlantic. This will enable us to create the optimal structures we will need to take overall victories at Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring."
The Dream Team announcement had been expected since Penske dropped its collaboration with Acura in the IMSA Weathertech series last year. With Penske Motorsport also fielding top teams in NASCAR and IndyCar it puts "The Captain" — as the 84-year-old Penske is fondly known — in a position to with the Triple Crown of Motorsport (Le Mans, Indy 500 and Daytona 500) in a single year.
"Team Penske has made a name for itself with an almost unparalleled success story in motorsport. In the long list of victories to date, however, the name Le Mans has been missing," said Porsche Motorsport chief Fritz Enzinger. "I hope that we will finally be able to chalk up this success as of 2023 with Porsche Penske Motorsport. This would then mark Porsche's 20th overall victory at (Le Mans) — a dream come true."
For all the success of the RS Spyder, the Dream Team is probably best known for its Can Am collaboration racing in the early 1970s.
Featuring the most powerful sportscars on the planet, Can Am had made reputations for brands like McLaren and Chaparral in the U.S. Porsche and Penske ended McLaren's dominance in 1972-73 with epic, 1,000-horsepower-plus Porsche 917s that put Penske — then primarily known for his stateside Trans Am success — on the map as one of the world’s premier teams.
Ironically, the Porsche 917’s success wrote the Epilogue to the so-called Golden Era of motorsport as the 1970s oil crisis forced auto racing to downsize engines. Motorsport is on the precipice of a similar catharsis today as global governments force automakers into electric powertrains.
Along with hybrid powertrains coming from NASCAR and IndyCar, the LMDh prototypes are an attempt by international sportscar racing to get ahead of the regulatory curve and help market electrified technologies to customers via motorsports.
"As of 2023 ... our intention is to support and shape the new era with our LMDh prototypes," said Porsche R&D board member Dr. Michael Steiner.
The Porsche LMDd cars will weigh about 2,200 pounds and put out 670 horsepower. In addition to two Penske entries, Porsche intends to make the cars available to private teams with full factory support.
The Dream Team will set up its U.S. base camp in Mooresville, North Carolina.
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at email@example.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.