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WEC Monza

Proton “can only surprise” in first WEC races with Porsche LMDh

Proton Competition “can only surprise” in its first race outings in the World Endurance Championship with its new Porsche 963 LMDh, believes Neel Jani.

Matt Campbell, Porsche 963 LMDh customer

The German outfit, a long-time campaigner of Porsche GT machinery, will become the second customer team in the WEC’s top Hypercar class this weekend at Monza after fellow Porsche squad Jota, which first raced its 963 at Spa.

Jani joins Harry Tincknell and Gianmaria Bruni at the wheel of the WeatherTech-liveried #99 car for the fifth round of the season as well as the final two races of 2023 at Fuji and Bahrain.

Looking ahead to his first top-class WEC appearance since his final appearance for Rebellion Racing at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2019, Jani acknowledged that Proton’s limited experience with prototypes means the team can only realistically aim to take advantage of others’ problems.

“It will be a big challenge,” Jani told Motorsport.com. “They are an established team in GT racing but I think they will have a steep uphill curve at the beginning, also because they got the car much later than everyone else. 

“That doesn’t make it easy, but I’m ready for it and I think we can only surprise. 

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“Jota is basically the reference, and they have a lot of experience with prototypes. We have to look at how they did in their first races. In Spa it was not easy for them, at Le Mans they were fast but they had problems [in qualifying]. 

“A lot of problems are still happening in LMDh, a lot of cars are retiring, so we just need to be there when the music stops.”

 

Jani was a part of the works Porsche LMP1 project for its entire duration, winning Le Mans in 2016 as well as the WEC title, but parted ways with the German marque at the end of 2021 after campaigns in Formula E and in GTE machinery.

The Swiss driver was involved in the early stages of development for the 963, but was not selected as a factory driver for the works Porsche Penske Motorsport squad, and ultimately left the brand before the new LMDh first hit the track in early 2022.

“It was just basic things, like setting up the viewing angle of the windows, the amount of light coming in the cockpit,” Jani said of his time working on the 963. “I did a few sessions to evaluate software strategies as well, but it was very early stages. 

“I only ever drove the simulator, I never drove the real car; that came later. Right now, I would say [that experience] will be of very little benefit.”

 

Jani also divulged that he could make an additional outing for Proton at Petit Le Mans, the final round of the IMSA SportsCar Championship in October.

Tincknell and Bruni will share the Proton 963 as a duo for the team’s first race in IMSA's top GTP class at Road America in August.

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