Porsche announces development of LMDh prototype to compete at Daytona, Le Mans

Geneva Auto Show Press Days 2017
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Porsche announced Tuesday that it will develop a Le Mans Daytona hybrid (LMDh) car to compete in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and FIA World Endurance Championship when the new premier class makes its debut in 2023.

The car will rebuild the bridge between the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona (and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring) by allowing for crossover between the top divisions in IMSA (whose rebranded DPi class will be known as LMDh) and WEC. Currently, the LMP2 and GTLM classes of IMSA can run at Le Mans, but its premier prototype division isn’t eligible for the world’s biggest sports car event.

The new class for hybrid powertrain prototypes (which will weigh 2,200 pounds with 680 horsepower) was announced in January at Daytona International Speedway, and Porsche executives said both the U.S. and European championships are significant for the German sports car manufacturer’s business.

“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,” Porsche AG CEO Oliver Blume said in a release. “The project is extremely attractive for Porsche. Endurance racing is part of our brand’s DNA.”

It’ll mark the first time in more than two decades that Porsche will compete for overall victories with identical vehicles in endurance races at multiple sports car series globally.

According to an IMSA release, Porsche is the first manufacturer to make an official commitment to its LMDh class. For the first time in more than 20 years, Porsche Motorsport will be fighting for overall victories with identical prototype vehicles in endurance races around the world.

It’s a boon for IMSA, which lost Porsche from its GTLM division after the 2020 season (Porsche-affiliated teams will continue to compete in the GTD category, though without full factory support). It’ll also mark the first time Porsche will compete in the top ranks of U.S. prototype racing since 2010 (with the RS Spyder LMP2 in the American Le Mans Series).

Michael Steiner, board member for research and development at Porsche AG, said the LMDh and its hybrid powertrain will help fulfill Porsche’s goal of racing in three distinct drive concepts in motorsports, joining its entries in the fully electric FIA Formula E Series and the “emotional combustion units” in GT racing. “If the regulations eventually allowed the use of synthetic fuels, then that would be an even greater incentive for me in terms of sustainability,” Steiner said in a release.

Said Fritz Enzinger, Vice President Motorsport: “I’d like to thank our board of directors for the immense confidence they have in the motorsport strategy we’ve developed. We hold a record with our 19 outright wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and we’ve climbed to the top podium step many times at major races in the U.S.A. We can continue this tradition with an LMDh vehicle while at the same time keeping costs reasonable.

“There has been huge interest from other manufacturers. I hope we can pick up where we left off with the famous clashes against many other marques in the eighties and nineties. That would give the entire motor racing scene a huge boost.”

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.