After winning three consecutive Le Mans 24-Hour titles with its 919 Hybrid prototype, Porsche is quitting the top class of the World Endurance Championship to focus on the all-electric Formula E series.
The German carmaker, which returned to WEC in 2014, will end its successful involvement in the LMP1 (Le Mans Prototypes 1) class at the end of this year, although it will continue to compete in the production car-based GT class with its Porsche 911 RSR. The WEC season ends on November 18 in Bahrain.
Porsche, which won 16 Le Mans races between 1970 and 1998, made a much-heralded return to endurance sportscar racing in 2014 when it took on Audi and Toyota with its petrol-electric 919. Just one year later the 919 took the first of its three successive Le Mans victories, making it a record 19 victories in total for Porsche at the legendary French race. With Audi having quit WEC at the end of 2016, Porsche’s departure leaves Toyota as the only remaining works team in the elite LMP1 class.
In 2019 Porsche will enter a works team in Formula E, joining a growing list of companies to head to the all-electric series. Already competing are Renault, Audi, Jaguar and Mahindra, while both BMW and Mercedes announced this month that they would enter Formula E within the next two years.
Formula E is the world’s first purely electric racing championship and was launched in 2014. Automakers are flocking to the series as they gear up for a future where fossil-fueled cars are phased out. Consumers have so far been slow to embrace electric vehicles but improvements in battery technology soon promise electric cars that will be able to match the range of their petrol- and diesel-powered counterparts.
Explaining Porsche's move to Formula E, Michael Steiner, Member of the Executive Board for Research and Development at Porsche AG, said: “This realignment of motorsport is derived from the direction set out for the company in Porsche Strategy 2025, which will see Porsche develop a combination of pure GT vehicles and fully electric sports cars, such as the first fully battery-powered Mission E road car.”
“Porsche is working with alternative, innovative drive concepts. For us, Formula E is the ultimate competitive environment for driving forward the development of high-performance vehicles in areas such as environmental friendliness, efficiency and sustainability”.