Porsche Will Reportedly Quit Le Mans Prototype Racing After This Year

Audi’s stunning exit from LMP1 endurance racing last year put the whole class in limbo. With only two manufacturers participating—Porsche and Toyota—and with no others expressing interest, it seemed like the LMP1 class could be on the way out. That might happen sooner than we thought: German media andSportscar365 report Audi’s corporate stablemate, Porsche, will soon announce its plans to quit the World Endurance Championship’s (WEC) LMP1 class after the end of this season.

Rumors of Porsche’s LMP1 exit began picking up intensity over the last couple of weeks, with team boss Andreas Seidl announcing that the program’s fate would be decided this month. Porsche’s LMP1 program is rumored to cost over $200 million per year—an increasingly unappealing expense when there’s only one other competitor in the series.

There’s also the fact that Porsche’s parent company, Volkswagen, is still reeling from its expensive diesel-emissions cheating scandal. As a result of this, VW faces hefty fines, and an expensive recall program, plus, it’s now putting huge capital into developing electric cars.

Speaking to Belgian publication DH yesterday, Porsche factory driver André Lotterer didn’t express much optimism about the LMP1 program’s future.

“They are not going to make a statement to say that we are continuing the program,” Lotterer said. “After Audi last year, [we] are fed up … What happens to sports car [racing]?”

Of course, exiting LMP1 means that Porsche will no longer have a top-level entry for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, a race that has defined the brand for almost its entire history. After this year’s victory, Porsche has 19 overall wins at Le Mans, more than any other manufacturer.

Porsche will still likely campaign its 911 RSR in the WEC’s GTE-Pro class and support customer teams in the GTE-Am class, so there will be Porsches at Le Mans. Just not prototypes.

If Porsche exits LMP1, Toyota—whose program has faced heartbreaking defeatyear after year—will be the only automaker in the class. Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda promised to return to Le Mans next year, but it’s hard to imagine the company will want to stick with LMP1 if there are no other entrants.

Are we witnessing the death of LMP1? Unless the FIA pulls off a miracle and either convinces Porsche to stay or attracts a new competitor, it’s hard to see where the class goes. Lots of automakers would like to win Le Mans, but not if it’s prohibitively expensive, as it is now.

Porsche hasn’t yet confirmed it’s LMP1 exit, but we’ll update this post if and when it does