Porsche has a wide-ranging motorsports program in store for next season, but it won't defend its title in the GTE Pro class of the FIA World Endurance Championship. This according to the road-map it laid out over the weekend at its Night of Champions year-end gala in Weissach.

The German automaker enjoyed a massively successful racing season this year. With the 919 Hybrid, it took top honors for both drivers and manufacturers, winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans outright along with five additional races on the eight-round calendar to take both the drivers' and manufacturers' titles. With the 911 RSR, it also won the World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers and for Manufacturers, locking out the bragging rights in the GTE Pro category.

Rather than return to defend its two GTE Pro titles, Porsche's GT racing department is essentially taking the year off. Reigning champion Richard Lietz and teammate Michael Christensen will have the opportunity to defend his title, but instead of a GTE Pro ride, they will drive for the Proton Dempsey team in the GTE Am category. They'll be joined at Le Mans by Wolf Henzler and at select points by Patrick Dempsey. That'll still put them in contention for the World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers, but without a works entry from the factory, Porsche will be out of the running for the GT manufacturers' title.

The reason behind the rearrangement of its WEC GT program, according to Autosport, is to allow Porsche to focus on development of the next generation of sports racers. It's been the better part of three years since Porsche introduced the current 911 RSR, and though its performance in this year's championship clearly shows that it remains competitive, the thorough trouncing it received at Le Mans from the likes of the Corvette C7.R, Ferrari 458 Italia GT2, and Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTE show that it's not invincible. The all-new model is expected to be based on the latest generation of turbocharged 911s, to replace the current RSR.

Over on this side of the Atlantic, Porsche still intends to defend its title in the GT class of the IMSA SportsCar Championship, where the Porsche North America team will field two 911 RSRs. One will be driven by defending champion Patrick Pilet and reigning Le Mans winner Nick Tandy (joined in the longer races by former McLaren factory driver Kévin Estre). The other will be handled by Tandy's Le Mans-winning wingman Earl Bamber and veteran race winner Frédéric Makowiecki (with Christensen for the longer races).

Porsche is also asking the ACO for two GTE Pro slots on the starting grid at Le Mans next year. If granted, they'll go to Tandy, Pilet, and Estre, and to Bamber, Makowiecki, and Jörg Bergmeister, respectively. We can also expect to see the latest 911 GT3 R (one step below the GTE-class RSR) debut at Daytona and compete in Japan's Super GT series, the Nürburgring 24 Hours in Germany, and the Pirelli World Challenge here in America.
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PORSCHE REMAINS THE STRONGEST MARQUE AT LE MANS

Porsche has recognised outstanding achievements over the 2015 season at the Night of Champions motorsport gala in Weissach. On this occasion, the Porsche CEO, Dr Oliver Blume, provided the first prospects for the upcoming season. "On the racetrack we have experienced one of the most successful years in our company's history. For 2016, we are placing emphasis on consistency and will again shift up a gear. We will be the only manufacturer to tackle three of the four classes at Le Mans," he outlined in his speech.

919 Hybrid: Title defender in the WEC with the starting numbers one and two

In 2016, the Porsche squad enters its third WEC season as the title defenders. Two 919 Hybrid racers will take on the nine rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC, with the starting numbers one and two. The 919, which has undergone conceptual refinements in many areas, constitutes the technical evolution of the 2015 vehicle. Its new look will be unveiled at the WEC Prologue at Paul Ricard, France, on 25 March. The hybrid system of the 919 combines cutting-edge downsizing turbo technology with efficient fuel direct injection for the two-litre, four-cylinder combustion engine and uses a lithium-ion battery to store electricity from two different energy recovery systems. The 919 Hybrid produces a system power of almost 1,000 hp and provided Porsche with many important impulses for the development of future road-going sports cars, for example, with regard to the 800-volt technology for the Mission E concept, which will go into production at the end of the decade. Two instead of three 919 Hybrid will contest the 24 Hours of Le Mans – the highlight of the 2016 WEC. Porsche and the VW-sister company Audi have agreed to reduce their effort by one LMP1 racing car each for maximum cost efficiency. All six current regular drivers in the Porsche 919 Hybrid will compete again in 2016. Sharing driving duties in the LMP1 racing car with the starting number one are the winners of the Drivers' World Championship, Timo Bernhard (34), Brendon Hartley (26) and Mark Webber (39), with Romain Dumas (37), Neel Jani (32) and Marc Lieb (35) driving the sister car with the starting number two.

Kévin Estre signed as Porsche factory driver

Another racing professional who earned his stripes in Porsche's one-make cup series will become a Porsche works driver: Kévin Estre (27) from France has notched up many successes over six years at the wheel of 911 GT3 Cup vehicles, including the titles of the Porsche Carrera Cup France and the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup. In 2015, he supported the Porsche Manthey squad in the 911 RSR at the WEC round at Spa and scored third place in the GTE-Pro class with Porsche Junior Sven Müller (23). With Kévin Estre, Porsche now has 16 works drivers under contract for the 2016 season in the LMP1 and GT categories.

Porsche rearranges WEC GT programme

In addition to the LMP1 commitment, Porsche again contests both GTE-Pro and GTE-Am categories in 2016. Driver champions Richard Lietz (31) and Michael Christensen (25) aim to defend their title in the professional category. The pair will be supported at Le Mans by Wolf Henzler (40). Proton Dempsey Racing fields the 911 RSR of the Porsche factory pilots. American actor Patrick Dempsey (49) continues to follow the WEC races in 2016 as partner of the team. Whenever his filming commitments allow, he will also tackle selected races in the GTE-Am class.

Two additional 911 RSR at the Le Mans 24 Hours

Porsche also plans to campaign another pair of 911 RSR at the Le Mans 24-hour race. Sharing the cockpit of one vehicle are Patrick Pilet (34) and Kévin Estre with Britain's Nick Tandy (31). The sister car has been earmarked for Earl Bamber (25), Frédéric Makowiecki (35) and Jörg Bergmeister (39). "We would be very pleased to receive confirmation from the ACO for two GTE-Pro grid spots at Le Mans," said Head of Porsche Motorsport Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser.

Porsche aims to defend title in the USA with two 911 RSR

In the third season of the most important sports car championship in the USA, the IMSA Weathertech SportsCar Championship, Porsche again sends a works squad to take up the challenge. The Porsche North America team will again field two 911 RSR, which have been significantly modified to comply with the new regulations. The cockpit of the number 911 vehicle is shared by Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy. At the longer races (24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring, Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans), the pair receives support from Kévin Estre. The regular crew in the number 912 car consists of Frédéric Makowiecki and Earl Bamber. These two will be joined by Michael Christensen at the four long distance classics. The season gets underway with the 24 Hours of Daytona on 30 January.

New 911 GT3 R celebrates race debut at Daytona

On the tradition-steeped circuit in Florida, the production version of the new 911 GT3 R for customer teams, mounted with the new four-litre, six-cylinder boxer engine with direct fuel injection, celebrates its race debut. Four teams field five vehicles at the season-opening round. Porsche factory pilot Wolf Henzler supports the Alex Job Racing squad. Jörg Bergmeister competes for Park Place Motorsports, with Patrick Long driving for Black Swan Racing. Due to the strong response from customer teams around the world, Porsche has decided to increase production of the 911 GT3 R and supply nearly 40 cars.

Porsche works drivers compete worldwide in the 911 GT3 R in 2016

Porsche continues the tradition of supporting 911 GT3 R customer teams with works drivers. Accordingly, Jörg Bergmeister will contest rounds of the Japanese Super GT, Patrick Long will tackle the Pirelli World Challenge for Effort Racing. At the 24 hour race on the Nürburgring, Wolf Henzler again competes for the Falken Motorsports squad.

Factory campaigns two 911 GT3 R at the Nürburgring 24 Hours

With the experienced Manthey Racing team, Porsche tackles Germany's most popular automobile race in 2016, the Nürburgring 24 Hours, with two new 911 GT3 R each manned by four works drivers. The GT3 racer, based on the seventh generation of the iconic 911 sports car, was unveiled as part of last year's 24-hour race at the Nürburgring, and underlined its Nordschleife capabilities by clinching third place at its first test race as part of the VLN Long Distance Championship in October.

Porsche extends youth development programme

Porsche further extends its successful youth development scheme in 2016. Germany's Sven Müller (23) and the Italian Matteo Cairoli (19) will receive 200,000 Euro each to contest another season of the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup. New onboard are two talented young aspirants: Dennis Olsen (19) from Norway contests the Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland as the first step in his training to become a professional racing driver. The Frenchman Mathieu Jaminet (21) managed to beat the other talented young candidates from one-make cup series worldwide. The vice-champion of the Carrera Cup France tackles the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup as a Porsche Junior. As in previous years, the former Porsche works driver Sascha Maassen coaches the four Porsche Juniors on and off the racetrack.

Ryan Dalziel wins the Porsche Cup

The winner of this year's Porsche Cup, the trophy for the most successful Porsche privateer, is a racing driver from Scotland. Ryan Dalziel (33) received the coveted trophy from Dr Wolfgang Porsche, the Chairman of the Supervisory Board at Porsche AG. In addition, Dalziel takes home a 400 hp Porsche 911 Carrera 4S Cabrio valued at over 165,000 Euro. Thanks to his successes in the Pirelli World Challenge, in which he finished third overall at the wheel of the Effort Racing 911 GT3 R, he earned 5,580 points over the 2015 season. Second-placed Klaus Bachler can look forward to prize money of 30,000 Euro. In third place, Marco Seefried wins 25,000 Euro. The Porsche Cup has been awarded since 1970 and is based on an idea of Ferry Porsche.


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