Porsche and Penske set sights on Le Mans with new 963 LMDh racer
In 2023, Penske Motorsport will field four Porsche 963 prototype race cars. The low-slung, hybrid-powered winged racer, developed under Le Mans Daytona prototype (LMDh) rules, will make its competition debut at the Rolex 24 at Daytona on January 28. It will then be raced around the world next season.
Penske and Porsche revealed the 963 today at Goodwood’s Festival of Speed, cloaked in the marque’s familiar red-white-and-black color scheme. The 680-horsepower turbocharged six-cylinder engine sits in a chassis developed by Multimatic, the Canadian company that built the Ford GT.
Penske Motorsport is headed by “The Captain” Roger Penske. Now, the motorsports mogul, who owns the IndyCar series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, will set his sights on wining the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The man has won most every major racing event except the famous French endurance race, and that’s a trophy that Penske, 85, wants on his mantel.
Two of the Porsche 963 cars will compete full-time in the U.S.-based IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. North America’s premier endurance road racing series sanctions the two most important road races in America: Daytona’s Rolex 24 and the 12 Hours of Sebring. These are two of enduro’s crown jewels, with the third being the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The introduction of the new LMDh car—which replaces IMSA’s current DPi prototype—will give teams from IMSA and its Europe-based counterpart, the World Endurance Championship (WEC), the ability to run one car in all three showcase races, plus the regular-season events. There have long been too many differences in the rules to allow for a common car. Given the unified rule set, Penske will race the other two 963s full-time in WEC.
“Over the past few months, our people at Porsche Motorsport and Team Penske have grown into an efficient and committed squad–the Porsche Penske Motorsport team,” said Urs Kuratle, program director. “We’ll have powerful driver crews in the four factory cars.”
Those drivers include 2021 IMSA champion Felipe Nasr, and Dane Cameron, the lone American in the eight-driver lineup. The rest of the drivers are all Porsche factory hot shoes like Kevin Estre and Matt Campbell.
The LMDh program is proving popular with manufacturers. Acura, Cadillac, and BMW have already unveiled their prototype warriors to be utilized next year. Lamborghini plans to join in 2024, as well as Alpine (a racing division of Renault). The class will be called GTP in IMSA, and Hypercar in the WEC.
While the Porsche 963 has run 5,000 miles in private testing, the first opportunity to see it and the other LMDh cars in the U.S. is the annual Roar Before the Rolex, scheduled for January 20-22 at Daytona International Speedway. With a whole new roster of fresh-faced prototypes, the mandatory test prior to the Rolex 24 at Daytona will likely be well-attended, Stuttgart’s most faithful included.