Next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans will be the same as this year’s in at least one respect: there won’t be a third Audi and a third Porsche, respectively.
The respective LMP1 program heads confirmed to Autosport that as part of their parent company Volkswagen’s budget cutbacks in the wake of their emissions scandal that it wouldn’t make financial sense to go back to three cars after scaling back to two this year.
“Three cars is not in the plan,” Head of Audi Sport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich told Autosport’s Gary Watkins, thus confirming what Ullrich had hinted at to Endurance-Info during the Total 24 Hours of Spa GT3 endurance race.
In the same Autosport report, Porsche LMP1 team principal Andreas Seidl told Watkins the third car for Porsche was “not a topic for discussion.”
Toyota could still run three cars at Le Mans next year, but hasn’t done so since arriving in the WEC in 2012.
Porsche’s third car famously won Le Mans in 2015 overall with Nico Hulkenberg joining Porsche factory aces Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber in their LMP1 Le Mans debuts.
But the scale back that came into play this year was always going to leave a gap on the LMP1 grid. The LMP1 grid fell from 14 cars at Le Mans in 2015 to nine cars this year.
Porsche, of note, should have more of its works drivers to place around its GT program in 2017 because of the impending arrival of a new GTE car to replace the venerable latest 911 RSR, which premiered worldwide in 2013.
Audi’s leftover third car drivers wound up in LMP2 seats, with Rene Rast (G-Drive Racing) and Filipe Albuquerque (RGR Sport by Morand) running the full season this year.