In less than a week, two racing categories could be put in jeopardy by two major German manufacturers.
Porsche is expected to announce that it will shut down its Le Mans Prototype 1 operation after the 2017 World Endurance Championship and prepare for a Season 6 entry into Formula E in 2019-2020, sportscar365 reports, citing industry sources. The potential announcement would come one day after Porsche’s board met to vote on whether it would abandon the LMP1 category.
Since the FIA and ACO launched the WEC in 2012, the German automaker and its Volkswagen sister brand Audi have had the two most successful LMP1 programs, tied for the most manufacturer and driver championships at two apiece. Porsche, though, has taken the checkered flag at the last three 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Audi, due to VW’s aggressive cost-cutting in the wake of “Dieselgate,” pulled the plug on its prototype outfit after 2016 to increase its FE commitment and become a full works team. Toyota consequentially would be the sole remaining manufacturer in LMP1 should Porsche leave, casting a black cloud over the future of the class.
Peugeot has said it is considering re-entering the category, though any potential return from the French manufacturer likely would be a few years down the line. With no other OEMs to compete against, though, Toyota would have little motivation to stay, and as a result, LMP1 — at least in its current form — might not survive that long.
The news from Porsche follows Mercedes-Benz Motorsport’s announcement Monday that it also will join FE in Season 6, and abandon its DTM efforts. The decision from Mercedes has left DTM in a similarly tough spot.
Audi and BMW now will be the only automakers in DTM, forcing both of them to re-evaluate their position in the series. Given that GT3 and GT4 racers also look similar to road cars but, unlike the German touring cars, aren’t purpose-built racers, the two likely could determine that DTM no longer presents a good enough return on investment.
Thumbnail photo via the World Endurance Championship