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Top 20 Stories of 2017
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Top 20 Stories of 2017

Top Stories of 2017, #6: Porsche says goodbye to LMP1

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Top Stories of 2017, #6: Porsche says goodbye to LMP1
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Dec 26, 2017, 11:09 AM

We continue our countdown of the biggest motorsport stories in 2017 with the shock news of Porsche ceasing its ultra-successful LMP1 programme.

When Audi announced its exit from the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2016, it sent a shockwave through endurance racing, effectively signalling the end of the 'golden era' that had began with the return of Porsche's return to the top flight two years before.

With sister brand Porsche, its exit was a less of a surprise, but the impact of the Weissach marque pulling the plug has arguably had even larger ramifications - and not all of them negative.

Coming into this year's Le Mans 24 Hours, there was a sense that the WEC was trying to pretend it was business as usual without Audi. After all, it argued, it only takes two manufacturers to produce great racing, and many of the legendary battles over the years at La Sarthe have been two-way affairs.

But when the FIA and the Automobile Club de l'Ouest revealed its vision for how the LMP1 rules would look in 2020 in Le Mans, with the introduction of a plug-in hybrid element, there was a sense that the warning proffered by Audi's exit had not been heeded.

Instead of providing an opportunity to dramatically slash costs and attract fresh manufacturers, it felt more like a last-ditch effort to convince Porsche, which was known by this stage to be strongly considering entering Formula E, to stick to LMP1.

If this was the intention, it failed miserably. At the end of July, the bombshell hit: Porsche announced the end of its LMP1 programme after the end of the 2017 season in favour of a Formula E entry.

Still, there was a job to be completed. The 919 Hybrid had just secured a hat-trick of Le Mans wins (albeit not in the most awe-inspiring manner possible) and after a dominating performance at the Nurburgring, it was well on course to make it three WEC titles in a row too.

Further wins in Mexico and at Austin gave Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber a near-insurmountable lead in the drivers' standings, and while Toyota began to mount a fightback in the last three rounds by resuming development on its TS050 Hybrid, it was too little, too late.

By the time Porsche arrived in Bahrain, it had wrapped up both the drivers' and manufacturers' title, and the fact it ended up with fewer race wins that Toyota did little to take the sheen off another season in which it had proven to be the clear class of the field.

Unlike Audi, Porsche didn't manage to win its final LMP1 race, but there was a certain pleasing symmetry that Neel Jani - the man who took the 919 Hybrid's first pole position back in 2014 at Spa - managed to take its last one in Bahrain.

"For sure we will never most probably never see a big programme like that anymore," said Jani post-race. "These kind of huge programmes are most probably gone now.

"Formula E will never be like that, and I don’t see anything coming in the future this big.

"I tried to take everything in, because the last four years have been clearly the next step in my career, put me on a new level, and I’m very happy to have experienced it.

"Don’t be sad it’s ending, be happy it happened."

Click here to see the list of top 20 stories so far.

 

#1 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Neel Jani, Andre Lotterer, Nick Tandy, #2 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber, Brendon Hartley, #91 Porsche Team Porsche 911 RSR: Richard Lietz, Frédéric Makowiecki, #92 Porsche Team Porsche 911 RSR: Michael Christensen, Kevin Estre with Porsche Team members
#1 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Neel Jani, Andre Lotterer, Nick Tandy, #2 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber, Brendon Hartley, #91 Porsche Team Porsche 911 RSR: Richard Lietz, Frédéric Makowiecki, #92 Porsche Team Porsche 911 RSR: Michael Christensen, Kevin Estre with Porsche Team members

Photo by: Porsche AG

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Series WEC
Teams Porsche Team Shop Now
Author Jamie Klein