No automaker has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans as many times as Porsche. Not Audi, with its ten wins to Porsche's sixteen, or Ferrari's nine. But those were all a long time ago. In fact, Porsche's most recent was with the 911 GT1 back in 1998.
Since then, Porsche has been pussyfooting around at the iconic round-the-clock race. The successor to the GT1 was aborted and turned into the Carrera GT road car. Sure, the RS Spyder (pictured above) has performed admirably in the LMP2 class, and 911s fielded by privateers have dominated the GT classes for years. But it's been over a decade since Porsche has competed for an overall win.
That's about to change, however, as Porsche has announced, through the video and press release after the jump, its intent to return to Le Mans to challenge for the win in 2014. To get there, Porsche plans a new LMP1 car, although it has released little in the way of details on what form that car will take.
If you're wondering where this leaves Audi, which falls under the same corporate umbrella as Porsche, the Ingolstadt-based automaker's team posted on Facebook that the decision was made independently by its Stuttgart-based sister company and that it looks forward to the competition. So we won't expect Audi to be dropping out any time soon for lack of anything to prove, even after ten victories out of twelve years, nor supporting the Porsche entry like it did with Bentley's in 2003.
Watching Porsche take on the likes of Audi, Peugeot, Aston Martin and the other automakers anticipated to be joining the field in the coming years ought to produce some nail-biting race action. But in the meantime, you can scope out the video and press release after the jump and the gallery of high-resolution images showcasing Porsche's rich Le Mans heritage.
Porsche returns to Le Mans in 2014
Stuttgart. Porsche returns to Le Mans with a works-run LMP1 sports prototype. The first outing of the completely new developed race car is planned for the year 2014. With 16 overall victories, Porsche is the most successful manufacturer in Le Mans. The most recent win was in 1998 with the Porsche 911 GT1.
"Motorsport was always an essential part of the Porsche brand," emphasises Matthias Müller, President of the Executive Board at Porsche AG. "So for us it was only a matter of time before we returned as a factory to the top league of racing. Porsche's successes in Le Mans are unrivalled. We want to follow up on this with the 17th outright victory."
With the RS Spyder sports prototype that was run with great success from 2006 to 2008 by the factory-backed Penske Racing team in the USA and to 2010 by several customer teams worldwide, Porsche has set the benchmark recently in the LMP2 category. "With the RS Spyder we proved that our motorsport engineers in Weissach are at the forefront," says Wolfgang Hatz, Board Member for Research and Development at Porsche AG. "For instance, we were the first to run a high-revving race engine with direct fuel injection, DFI, setting new standards in performance and efficiency. Recently, with the 911 GT3 R Hybrid, we adopted a completely new drive technology for racing purposes and achieved a considerable reduction in consumption."
Hartmut Kristen, Head of Porsche Motorsport, is already prepared for one of the most challenging development programmes in the company's history. "We're looking forward to the task of developing new technologies and to continue on with the success of the Porsche RS Spyder. After the conclusion of our works-supported sports prototype programme in the American Le Mans Series we have kept up with the latest technological advances. Now we will begin with detailed research in order to evaluate the various concept alternatives for our new car. These obviously depend on how the regulations for the year 2014 look in detail. In principle, these regulations are interesting for us because the integration of our hybrid technology in the vehicle concept is one possible option."
Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood claimed the first overall victory for Porsche in 1970 with the legendary 917 short-tail. The 16th and by now last overall win was secured by Laurent Aiello, Stéphane Ortelli and Allan McNish in 1998 with the 911 GT1. In the years 2008 and 2009, the Porsche RS Spyder sports prototype won the title in the LMP2 category.