Porsche reveals 963 LMDh car, Lotterer included in driver line-up

Three-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner Andre Lotterer will return to sportscar racing next year to drive Porsche’s new LMDh hybrid prototype, which has been christened the 963.

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Lotterer was announced along with a further five drivers who will race for the Porsche Penske Motorsport factory team in the FIA World Endurance Championship and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship from 2023 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed on Friday.

The wide-ranging announcement included the livery in which the 963 will compete, more technical information and details of the PPM squad, as well as a statement of intent to race the car in the Bahrain round of this year’s WEC in November on a non-points, invitational basis.

Lotterer was named together with Kevin Estre, Michael Christensen, Laurens Vanthoor, Matt Campbell, and Matthieu Jaminet as members of the LMDh factory squad.

That means eight drivers have been confirmed for the programme after Felipe Nasr and Dane Cameron were announced late last year.

PPM managing director Jonathan Diuguid has previously outlined a plan for the team to have a core of 10 drivers across the two series - six in WEC and four full-timers in IMSA - which suggests the announcement of a further two names at a later date.

Porsche has not announced how the drivers will be split across the two race programmes, but its statement included a line saying, “other experienced drivers from the Porsche squad will be added to the cockpit crews at the endurance races at Le Mans, Sebring, Daytona and Road Atlanta“.

Lotterer, who won Le Mans in 2011, ’12 and ’14 with Audi, rejoins Porsche in sportscars after three seasons on its Formula E squad and two with Techeetah following the end of the 919 Hybrid LMP1 programme at the conclusion of the 2017 WEC.

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He subsequently contested the 2018/19 WEC superseason with the Rebellion Racing privateer LMP1 squad while racing for Techeetah and remaining on Porsche’s books.

It looks increasingly unlikely that Lotterer will continue for a fourth season with Porsche in FE on the introduction of the Gen3 car at the beginning of the 2022/23 campaign, but the German manufacturer has insisted that a decision has yet to be made.

The other five additions to the LMDh squad are existing members of Porsche’s GT roster, with Estre and Christensen moving over from the GTE Pro WEC squad.

The name for the LMDh, which has been developed in conjunction with Multimatic Motorsport around the spine of its next-generation LMP2, tips it hat to the 962 Group C machine of the 1980s and early 1990s, which won Le Mans in 1986 and 1987 and again as the Dauer 962LM Porsche GT1 car in 1994.

The sale of customer cars is a key tenet of the LMDh programme as it was with the 962 and its predecessor, the 956.

Porsche stated that the first 963 customers will communicate their programmes in the next few days.

It has been confirmed that the LMDh’s twin-turbo V8 engine is based on the 4.6-litre unit that powered the 918 plug-in hybrid road car in normally-aspirated form.

That powerplant had its roots in the 3.4-litre V8 developed for the Porsche RS Spyder, which took a hat-trick of American Le Mans Series LMP2 titles with Penske in 2006-08.

The livery shown for the first time at Goodwood will be used in both the WEC and IMSA and, said the official statement, “is a salute to Porsche’s successful racing cars”.

Porsche said it is “aiming” to take part in the Bahrain WEC seasonal finale after the way was opened for LMDh machinery to compete this year by a FIA World Motor Sport Council decision in March.

A decision on whether the 963 will compete in Bahrain will be based on the results of the on-going test programme, which will expand into North America next month.

The key members of the PPM set-up working under Diuguid and competition director Travis Law were also announced.

Bernhard Demmer and Francis Schammo will be general manager and team manager respectively of the WEC team based in Mannheim, Germany, with Joel Svensson taking the same responsibilities for the IMSA team running out of Mooresville, North Carolina.

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