Porsche will cease its factory involvement in the GT Le Mans class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at the end of the 2020 season due to financial crisis surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. Announced on Thursday, the absence of the German manufacturer’s GTLM effort beginning in 2021 will make a “significant contribution” to overcoming the economic effects that the COVID-19 virus has had on the company, according to a statement.
It will leave potentially only two manufacturers in the class next year, should BMW elect to continue with its M8 GTE program alongside the factory Chevrolet Corvette C8.Rs. Porsche’s withdrawal from GTLM will not impact any of its customer programs in North America, including teams in the GT Daytona class, IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge and the single-make Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA and Canada series.
“The decision to halt our factory involvement in the IMSA series was not an easy one for us,” said head of Porsche Motorsport Fritz Enzinger. “With a view to the current corporate situation in connection with the coronavirus pandemic, it is only logical for Porsche Motorsport to make a contribution to coping with the economic fallout. “We’ve openly discussed our exit with all involved.
“At this point, we’d like to convey our sincere thanks to Jim France and the colleagues at IMSA for their understanding. Porsche belongs in endurance racing. We will work hard to ensure that this is only a temporary Auf Wiedersehen.” Launched in 2014, the CORE autosport-run factory operation claimed victory on its debut in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has gone on to win multiple races and GTLM titles, the most recent coming last year following a dominant season.
The team and manufacturer currently sit second in the 2020 championship, which is set to restart at Daytona next month. “For us sportspeople, such endings are always painful,” said Porsche Motorsport factory director Pascal Zurlinden. “For our operational team CORE autosport and everyone involved, I’m very sorry that we were unable to make this decision with more lead time.
“At the same time, I’d like to thank everyone affected by this for their professional handling of this situation.” While not confirmed, Porsche’s decision to pull the plug on its GTLM program could help pave the way for a LMDh effort, which it has been evaluating. It is understood that parallel factory LMDh and GTLM/GTE programs would not have been feasible, even before the pandemic.
LMDh is slated to launch in 2022, although IMSA President John Doonan admitted it could be pushed back by a year.