Porsche and Penske: two of the most storied names in racing. You could fill at least one library just with books about their exploits. In fact, you could probably fill a library just with stories of their exploits when working together; working together in the “anything goes” days of CanAm in the early 1970s or battling against the diesel Audis in the heyday of the American Le Mans Series. Now the two are coming together again as Porsche re-enters endurance racing with a hybrid LMDh race car in 2023.
As many have suspected, Penske will run Porsche’s factory racing teams with these new 670 hp (500 kW) prototypes. In fact, it’s going to field a pair of teams: a two-car effort for the FIA World Endurance Championship, which includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and another two-car program for IMSA’s WeatherTech Sportscar Championship, which races here in the US. Additionally, Porsche plans to sell LMDh prototypes to privateer teams, something it last did with the RS Spyder in the mid-2000s.
“We are delighted that we were able to get Team Penske to form this partnership,” said Oliver Blume, Chairman of the Executive Board of Porsche AG in a statement sent to Ars. “For the first time in the history of Porsche Motorsport, our company will have a global team competing in the world’s two largest endurance series. To this end, we will be setting up team bases on both sides of the Atlantic. This will enable us to create the optimal structures we will need to take overall victories at Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring, for example.”
Getting the band back together
Penske and Porsche’s teamed up for the first time in 1972, when the two combined to enter the 917/10 in the CanAm series. CanAm had very few technical regulations, which encouraged competitors to build bigger and bigger V8 engines in search of ever more speed. Until the arrival of the 917, that is. The car had been successful in endurance racing at Le Mans and elsewhere, but was reaching the end of its competitive life as newer and faster 3.0 L engine prototypes surpassed it. So Porsche chopped off the roof and turbocharged the 5.0 L flat-12 engine, and utterly destroyed the competition.
The following year, an even faster 5.4 L version called the 917/30—a car that still be the most powerful prototype ever raced—was even more dominant, at least until the 1973 oil crisis put a stop to things.
The Porsche Penske double act was reprised in 2006, when Porsche built the RS Spyder to compete in the LMP2 category in the ALMS. For three years, fans were treated to a series of epic battles between the team’s yellow-and-red cars against the bigger, heavier, more powerful LMP1 Audis. The partnership ended in 2008, after three LMP2 championships and several overall wins.
In more recent years, both Porsche and Penske returned to endurance racing, but in separate programs. Porsche dominated the WEC and Le Mans with its 919 Hybrid. And here in the US, Penske won both drivers’ and teams’ championships in IMSA in 2019 and 2020 before going their separate ways.
In 2018, the first year of the Penske Acura program, team owner Roger Penske told Ars that going to Le Mans was still a goal. “But not if it’s only to make up the numbers. We’re not going to go there without a realistic chance of a win,” he told me.
From the sound of it, he’s looking forward to Le Mans in 2023. “This is a proud day for our entire Penske organization. We have represented Porsche on the track or in our businesses for more than six decades. The heritage and success we have enjoyed together is unparalleled throughout our history,” Penske said in a press release sent to Ars. “I can’t wait to get started as we build a global racing program with Porsche that will compete for wins and championships well into the future.”
Listing image by Porsche