Even with just a couple of cars previewed - the BMW M Hybrid V8 and Cadillac Project GTP - the Le Mans Daytona hybrid class of IMSA and WEC for next year is already shaping up to be a great category. Now it’s firmly in must-watch territory with the reveal of this, the Porsche Penske Motorsport 963. Which sort of sounds like a model that should already exist (what with old 961 and 962 racers, plus 964-era 911) but, rest assured, is a whole new thing.
Well, mostly. Developed with Multimatic (LMDh cars all use a chassis from the Canadian company, Dallara, Ligier or Oreca) the 963 uses a twin turbo 4.6 V8 with a spec hybrid system that, again, all entrants in the class must use, and is the work of Bosch, Xtrac and Williams Advanced Engineering. But the combustion engine is an old favourite from Stuttgart, based on the one used in the 918 Spyder and with its roots in the spectacular RS Spyder of the 2000s. And, well, that sounded like this - let’s hope for more of the same from the 963. As per regulations, it’ll make 680hp.
Painted in the familiar white, red and black Porsche colour scheme, it’s claimed that the 963’s design evokes the 956 and 962 of the 80s. Like any new Porsche (and a little easier to identify than the historical links), the 963 gets a rear light strip. Rather good it looks, too. Partners familiar to previous Porsche sportscar campaigns including Michelin, Mobil1 and software specialist Ansys (they help out with sims) are also involved, all of which will be keen to repeat previous successes.
Not least with the incredible history Porsche and Penske have earned, particularly in North America; the actual Porsche Penske Motorsport team was only formed last year, but they’ve collaborated before with Can-Am 917s and the previously mentioned RS Spyder. With the 963 eligible to compete in both the FIA World Endurance Championship and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (as all LMDh cars are), they will be prepared in both Mannheim in Germany and Mooresville, North Carolina.
Plus, of course, Porsche is already subjecting the 963 to a thorough testing programme. It’s covered almost 8,000km in the first half of 2022; Vice President of Porsche Motorsport Thomas Laudenbach said the development was “on a very good path but there is still work to be done before the start of next season.” That’s without mentioning the drivers lined up for the 2023 factory campaign. The lineup for the four cars being built includes names like Kevin Estre, Andre Lotterer, Laurens Vanthoor and Mathieu Jaminet. Porsche being Porsche, there are no half measures employed here.
Porsche Penske Motorsport MD Jonathan Diuguid said of the 963: “Expectations are extremely high… Not only from the public but also from Porsche and Team Penske, who have written great motorsport chapters together in the past.” As with the BMW M Hybrid V8, Porsche plans for the new LMDh car to make its competitive debut at Daytona in January 2023, with what Porsche is calling a ‘non-competitive dress rehearsal’ set for Bahrain in November. Unlike BMW, however (at least for the moment), Porsche is planning to offer the 963 to customer teams from the first year the factory races with it as well. Nice to see that some motorsport traditions endure even in the 2020s. The manufacturer says the teams “will already communicate their program in the next few days.” Best get working on some liveries, then…
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