Porsche kills its winning Le Mans program, will focus on Formula E instead

2017 24 Hours of Le Mans
Porsche is indelibly linked with the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The German sports-car maker has won the iconic French race a record 19 times. But Porsche won’t be aiming for Le Mans wins anymore.

In a major change of strategy, Porsche will downsize its Le Mans program, and join the Formula E electric racing series beginning in 2019. Porsche will no longer race in the top LMP1 class, which includes purpose-built hybrid race cars that vie for overall wins. But it will continue to race in the GT classes for production-based cars with its 911 at Le Mans, as well as the rest of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Porsche’s move is both shocking and predictable. The automaker’s current LMP1 effort has been very successful. Porsche returned to the top-tier category at Le Mans in 2014, and won the race in 2015, 2016, and 2017. It also has multiple FIA WEC driver and manufacturer championships to its credit. But times change.

The immense cost of fielding an LMP1 effort may have led to its downfall. Porsche parent Volkswagen is being squeezed by its ongoing diesel-emissions scandal, which has already forced corporate cousin Audi to cancel its Le Mans program. Like Porsche, Audi will focus on the less-expensive Formula E series from now on. Earlier this week, Mercedes-Benz announced it would leave the popular German DTM series to join Formula E.

The attractiveness of a race series for electric cars to marketers also shouldn’t be underestimated. While Formula E is smaller and less prestigious than the WEC, and the cars are in many ways less sophisticated than Porsche’s mighty 919 Hybrid Le Mans racer, Formula E may be more relevant from a marketing standpoint.

When the current Le Mans program started, Porsche was all about plug-in hybrids. Its flagship supercar was the plug-in hybrid 918 Spyder, and it had just launched the first plug-in hybrid versions of the Cayenne and Panamera. But now Porsche is shifting its focus to all-electric cars. It will launch an electric sedan based on the 2015 Mission E concept before the end of the decade.

Porsche’s departure leaves only Toyota competing in the top LMP1 class. If nothing else, Toyota will likely get its long-sought Le Mans victory next year although, with no direct competition, it will be a hollow one. Le Mans organizers may have to rewrite the rules in order to bring costs down, and attract more manufacturers.

If the future of Le Mans is up in the air, so are the futures of the many drivers and engineers in the Porsche Le Mans program. Most of them won’t be needed in Formula E. However, Porsche said it will “keep the successful LMP1 team fully intact, including the factory drivers.” It will try to find places for them in Formula E and other racing series.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Cars

Volkswagen is planning a tougher challenge for its all-electric I.D. R

The Volkswagen I.D. R electric race car will head to the Nürburgring for a lap-record attempt. Volkswagen will reportedly aim to set the quickest lap time ever by an electric car with the I.D. R.
Cars

Tesla cuts workforce by 7 percent, ends referral program to trim costs

Tesla has announced plans to trim its workforce by seven percent, and it will end the referral program that rewards customers who help it sell cars. These measures are ways to cut costs and boost profits.
Cars

Sibling rivalry: 2019 BMW Z4 takes on the 2020 Toyota Supra

BMW and Toyota forged an unlikely partnership when they set out to build a sports car platform together. Here, we examine the similarities and differences between the 2019 Z4 and the 2020 Supra.
Cars

Ford’s Mustang-inspired electric crossover will spawn a Lincoln luxury version

Lincoln will get its own version of parent Ford's first mass-market, long-range electric vehicle. While Ford's version will have styling inspired by the Mustang, Lincoln will take a more traditional approach.
Cars

Prices for using Tesla Supercharging just skyrocketed

Tesla is updating their Supercharging pricing based on local electricity rates and customer demand, which has lead to an increase in charging costs by as much as 33 percent in some regions.
Cars

Can electric motors finally make three-wheeled cars great?

Every few years, someone tries to sell a three-wheeled vehicle to Americans. Historically, it hasn’t gone very well. We’ve got our suspicions about why people don’t buy trikes, and they boil down to this: a trike is just not a real…
Outdoors

Is Uber planning to put its self-driving tech into bikes and scooters?

Uber reportedly has its eye on building autonomous electric bikes and scooters that ride to a user when summoned by an app. The technology could also be used to make its two-wheelers safer with obstacle avoidance systems.
Cars

Someone just paid supercar money for the very first 2020 Toyota Supra

The 2020 Toyota Supra made its long-awaited debut at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. The resurrected sports car, famous for a role in The Fast and the Furious, goes on sale in the U.S. this summer.
Cars

Lincoln’s stately, limited-edition flagship sedan sells out in a month

The 1961 Lincoln Continental became a design icon thanks to center-opening "coach doors" (also known as "suicide doors"). Lincoln is bringing those doors back for a special edition of the 2019 Continental.
Home Theater

Report: Spotify preparing to launch $100 in-car streaming device

According to a report, people familiar with Spotify's plans say the company is readying a dedicated in-car music streamer that will cost $100. It will work with any Bluetooth-enabled audio system and can be controlled by voice.
Cars

Tesla given go-ahead to start deliveries of Model 3 to Europe

Tesla has been given the green light to start deliveries of its Model 3 electric sedan to Europe, giving it the chance to compete more effectively with the likes of BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz in the region's premium car market.
Cars

Royal fans bid big money as Prince Philip ‘car crash parts’ hit eBay

A couple of days after a car crash that involved the 97-year-old husband of Queen Elizabeth II, debris apparently from the scene of the accident showed up on eBay. And people wanted to buy it.
Cars

If Batman became a race car driver, he’d hit the track in the Vuhl 05RR

Mexican sports car Vuhl revealed the hardcore 05RR, a roadster that blurs the line between a track car and a street-legal car. The 05RR stands out with a design that looks right out of a video game and a 385-horsepower engine.