Tag Archives: Rolex 24

Porsche’s LMDh Commitment Is A Huge Moment For Sportscar Racing

The dust has barely settled on Porsche’s withdrawl from IMSA’s GTLM category at the 2020 season finale in Sebring last month and already the German marque has announced its return to sportscar racing as a factory.

Let’s not beat around the bush here, last night’s news that Porsche will return to top-class sportscar racing and compete in both IMSA and the FIA WEC with a new LMDh prototype, is as significant as it gets.

Audi was technically the first marque to commit to LMDh, with its brief statement of intent to race at Le Mans and Daytona in LMDh as part of the fallout from its Formula E exit earlier this month. But Porsche’s bulletin is the first full confirmation for IMSA’s LMDh formula, which will replace DPi and be eligible to race alongside Le Mans Hypercars in the FIA WEC as part of top class convergence.

Better still, Porsche’s commitment to the new LMP2-based, hybrid-powered category will likely add two full-season factory cars to both IMSA and the WEC’s grids, and potentially, multiple customer cars too.

“The new LMDh category allows us to fight for overall victories with a hybrid system at the Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring classics – without breaking the bank. The project is extremely attractive for Porsche. Endurance racing is part of our brand’s DNA,” explains Oliver Blume, CEO at Porsche AG.

Michael Steiner, Board Member for Research and Development at Porsche AG, adds: “In the medium term, Porsche focuses on three different drive concepts: fully electric vehicles, efficient plug-in hybrids and emotional combustion engines. We want to represent this trilogy in both the development of our cutting-edge road cars and in motorsport.

“We use the all-electric drive to contest the FIA Formula E as part of our works commitment, and the highly efficient and emotional combustion unit in GT racing. Now, the LMDh class closes the gap for us. There, powerful hybrid drives – like the ones that are mounted in many of our brand’s models – go up against each other. If the regulations eventually allowed the use of synthetic fuels, then that would be an even greater incentive for me in terms of sustainability.”

The car, Dailysportscar.com says, is planned to be powered by a twin-turbo V8, while the engine used by fellow VAG-brand Audi, is tipped to be a four-cylinder turbocharged engine from its outgoing Class One DTM chassis.

From the teaser renders meanwhile, it appears that the next-generation Multimatic LMP2 chassis has been selected as the base for Porsche’s LMDh car. Travel Destinations understands that it will also used for Audi’s forthcoming challenger also.

A further similarity is that like Audi, Porsche’s new car will hit the track in 2023, the year which Travel Destinations believes will be the first for LMDh as a formula, with IMSA set to delay its inception by 12 months to allow manufacturers more time to prepare. Crucially, this coincides with a hugely significant year for the Le Mans 24 Hours, which will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the inaugural running of the race held back in 1923.

The 2023 edition of the ‘Grand Prix of Endurance’ is shaping up to be an extraordinary occasion, with the ACO planning a whole host of festivities in the build up to what should be one of the most hotly contested races ever at La Sarthe. As it stands now, Toyota, Peugeot, Audi and Porsche are all set to be on hand for the 2023 race, with the potential for Glickenhaus and ByKolles to join the fun running privately entered Le Mans Hypercars. And that’s without any additional marques or privateers committing to either LMH or LMDh.

Don’t expect the coming months to be quiet though; we’re likely to hear about more programmes very soon. Acura is believed to be close to confirming its LMDh participation with ORECA, McLaren and Mazda are still actively assessing options and rumours persist that Ferrari is working on something behind the scenes following its participation in the technical working group meetings.

After a heavily disrupted year for motorsport, and the world as a whole, this news comes as a real boost. The future of both IMSA and the FIA WEC’s top classes are is taking shape. Convergence looks increasingly likely exceed the expectations of the key industry stakeholders on hand back in January when IMSA and the ACO’s top brass made their historic announcement.

With Porsche now on board, even if nobody else pushes the button on an LMDh or LMH programme going forward, the grids for the big endurance races like Rolex 24 Hours, Sebring 12 Hours and Le Mans 24 Hours are all set to be blockbuster, with multiple major marques in wildly different cars battling for the overall wins. And that, as we sit here more than two years out from LMDh’s debut, may be the best news of all…

ACO President Pierre Fillon puts it best: “This eagerly anticipated announcement is excellent news for endurance racing. It proves that our regulations, boosted by a historic agreement with the USA, are an attractive proposition.”

Stephen Kilbey

Want to be trackside at Le Mans in 2021? Call our office today on 01707 329988 or email info@traveldestinations.co.uk to make a booking…

Rolex 24

Excitement is building ahead of the 2020 Rolex 24 Hours

The 2019 IMSA season came to a close just last month at Road Atlanta, but already the teams and drivers are hard at work ahead of January’s Rolex 24 Hours, which kicks off the 2020 IMSA campaign.

Last season was full of twists and turns, with spectacular racing throughout the calendar year. It was a fitting tribute to IMSA, which celebrated its 50th anniversary, and Scott Atherton, IMSA’s President who retired at the end of the year after a 34-year career in the sport. Thus, IMSA’s 51st season next year feels like it will mark the start of a new era.

Rolex 24
Rolex 24

It would be easy to overlook next year, because DPi 2.0 (which will debut in 2022) is closing in, the new regulations currently being discussed by teams and manufacturers alike to shape the future of the WeatherTech Championship’s top class. But John Doonan, the former head of Mazda Motorsport who has moved in to take over as President has other plans. He’s hard at work to ensure that we have a huge grid packed with world-class teams and drivers to watch come January. There is still plenty more news to come, but thus far it looks like all four classes will be backed with storylines to follow.

In DPi, Mazda and Acura will return, both marques full of confidence that they can challenge for wins at the big races and titles after they took huge strides in 2019. The big turnaround was clearly in the Mazda camp. Further development work during the winter ahead of the season paid off.

After a slow start to the season, with another round of disappointing trips to Daytona and Sebring things began to pick up and the team took three straight wins from Watkins Glen onwards to break their duck. The breakthrough at ‘The Glen’ proved many things, that the team could work a good strategy and that the RT-24P was capable of being both fast and reliable in an endurance race. It was one of the most memorable races since the turn of the century in IMSA, which provided a hugely popular result in and around the paddock.

The target therefore, is a victory at Daytona. We know from testing and qualifying at Daytona this year that the RT24-P suits the circuit – it broke the all-time lap record. Now, if the drivers keep it clean and the car stays reliable, then they have as good a chance as anyone in the field. Penske Team Acura meanwhile, will return to Daytona for a third time with the same set of drivers, and a pair of ARX-05s that have been put through a huge test programme at the Floridian circuit since the end of the 2019 season. Roger Penske will be frustrated that wins at Sebring and Daytona has eluded his team in the first two years of its DPi programme. His track record shows that he can turn things around. If he does then that would break Cadillac’s streak of DPi victories at the Rolex 24.

Rolex 24
Rolex 24

What does Cadillac’s effort look like in 2020? That’s still forming. But 2019 Rolex 24 winner Wayne Taylor Racing returns with a fresh line-up, former Ford GTLM factory driver Ryan Briscoe joins returnee Renger van der Zande for the full season, the duo joined by Toyota WEC star Kamui Kobayashi and another ex-Ford driver Scott Dixon for the big 24 Hour to start the season. Action Express is concentrating on a single Cadillac this season, but it is going to run with a formidable line up once again.

Elsewhere, the other classes have seen boosts.

The GTLM category will be in the spotlight at Daytona when Corvette Racing debuts its hotly-anticipated C8.R. The new, mid-engined V8, will sound rather different to its predecessors, but it will still be loud, and stand out in the huge field that looks to be assembling.

GTD too will see many returning teams and drivers across a slew of manufacturers. Like NASCAR? Well the 24 will be treated to an appearance from Kyle Busch, a superstar in his own right, who has scored a Lexus GTD drive with Aim Vasser Sullivan. He joins a long list of stockcar stars that have taken on the Rolex 24 over the years. Jeff Gordon won the race overall just two years ago, will Busch, who is likely to bring a horde of supporters with him, be another NASCAR talent to leave Florida with a ‘watch’?

The biggest surprise is LMP2. Last year just four cars raced at Daytona and just two saw out the season. But a change to the category’s calendar (which is shorter than before) has sparked a surge in interest. Right now, PR1, Performance Tech, Era Motorsport, DragonSpeed and Rick Ware Racing have all confirmed entries, and better still, more announcements are expected.

Still not sold? From experience, I can say that the Rolex 24 has to be seen to be believed. It is a sportscar event, that like the Nürburgring 24, Le Mans 24, and Sebring 12 Hours, has its own character. It feels box office, it feels like you’re witnessing history. Standing in the infield under the floodlights, with fireworks going off overhead, surrounded by some of the most hallowed strips of race track in North America, filling your ears with sound of the sound of 50+ sportscars, is something you don’t get elsewhere. Sitting atop the collosal grandstand on the pit straight, with a view of the entire circuit, is also something that should be on every motorsport fan’s bucket list.

Rolex 24
Rolex 24

For 11 months a year, Daytona International Speedway is a NASCAR cathedral, visited by people from all over the world for its association with stock car racing. But in January, it’s a temple of endurance. You can shrug it off as ‘just an oval’, but you’d be wrong. There’s a whole lot more to it than that when IMSA’s trucks take over the paddock in January.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

You can join us at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January. We have limited availability, so be quick! Please call our reservations team to reserve your place track-side.