No manufacturer has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans more times than Porsche. But Porsche’s dominance of top-tier endurance racing through the ’70s and ’80s (as well as a bit in the ’90s) gave way to the company concentrating its efforts on GT3 and GT2 racing, leaving outright wins to Audi. Half of the field in any given GT3-class race is now made up of Porsche 911s, but it seems that Porsche has gotten bored with this, as the company came back to LMP1 racing last year and took a 1-2 win at Le Mans this year.

The question following this win was whether Porsche was making a serious return to LMP1 or if this was just to prove that Porsche still had what it takes to win, sort of like what Bentley did in 2003. Porsche has now given official word that the LMP1 racing program, centered around the 2015 Porsche 919 Hybrid prototype, will continue until 2018. Porsche is surely pushing for those three more seasons to translate into three more outright wins at Le Mans, but Audi is definitely going to have a thing or two say about that, and we’re likely to see some very close races in the next few years.
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Why it matters

Porsche’s press release didn’t actually put much emphasis on the most recent win, or even on the many wins that came before it, something you can do when your legacy is that secure. Porsche instead took the opportunity to talk about the importance of endurance racing in developing technology for road cars. In this case, it specifically talks about advancements in fuel efficiency. The 919’s engine is the most efficient ever built by Porsche, and the car’s hybrid system is the most efficient at energy recovery of any ever made by any manufacturer. These are important accomplishments, but none of it really means anything to a sports car manufacturer if it can’t win races too. This year’s race proved it can, but wouldn’t hurt to rack up a few more wins to really drive the point home.

2015 Porsche 919 Hybrid

2015 Porsche 919 Hybrid High Resolution Exterior
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Press Release

With its ground-breaking concept – a downsizing turbo engine and powerful energy recovery systems, combined with an extreme lightweight design – the racing car with a performance of around 1,000 hp serves as a research laboratory for future sports car technology.

Matthias Müller, Chairman of the Executive Board of Porsche AG, said: “Motorsport is an important part of Porsche’s brand identity – but not an end in itself. Racing has got to help the technology of future road going sports cars. It was the revolutionary efficiency regulations that convinced us to return to top-level motorsport for the 2014 season. That we have managed to take the crown jewels of endurance racing in only our second year, with a one-two result in Le Mans in 2015 with our highly innovative and complex 919, is an outstanding testimony to the people in the Weissach research and development centre. The competition bears fruits and we see further potential for future synergy between the racing and road car programmes. This is why we have extended the programme.”

Wolfgang Hatz: “Porsche sets bench marks in the WEC"

For class one Le Mans prototypes (LMP1) entered by manufacturers, the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) regulations stipulate hybrid systems and limit the amount of energy (fuel and electricity) available per lap.

Wolfgang Hatz, Member of the Executive Board, Research and Development, underlined this: “Porsche sets bench marks in the WEC. The two-litre V4-cylinder turbo charged petrol engine with a performance of over 500 hp is the most efficient combustion engine we have built so far. We are the only ones able to generate eight megajoule of electrical energy per lap in Le Mans from our two energy recovery systems. It is easy to detect that the challenge provided by the sport pushes our engineers to extreme performances.”

Fritz Enzinger, Vice President LMP1, added: “Back in 2012 we began in Weissach with a handful of people, literally a white sheet of paper, high expectations and a strong amount of courage. I’m very proud of this team of 230 employees and I’m pleased for each of them that from now on we can plan securely for three more world championship seasons and Le Mans entries.”

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