Porsche’s 16 year wait is over

June 10, 2014

Porsche’s 16 year wait is over

June 10, 2014

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Remarkably it is 16 years since the mighty Porsche last graced the top class at Le Mans. First though a short history lesson.

Despite being soundly beaten by rivals Mercedes back in the 1998 FIA GT Championship, the Stuttgart marque took the silverware and the glory at Le Mans that year with the svelte Porsche 911 GT1-98 piloted by Stephane Ortelli, Laurent Aiello and a youthful Allan McNish, the latter of who took the first of his three victories at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Even as the car crossed the finishing line the Porsche hierarchy were busy planning their next move for 1999 with a brand new normally aspirated engine to replace the elderly flat-six turbo which had powered its challengers all the way back to the iconic 917s in the early 1970s.

With time constraints ruling out a defensive of their hard won 1998 Le Mans success, the decision was taken to green-light a prototype (designated the LMP2000) in readiness for the 2000 season. However, a combination of circumstance, becoming part of the giant Volkswagen Group and also a growing focus on road car projects ensured that the new prototype racer would only run once at an secret test in the fall of 1999.

Technology from the secret LMP2000 project was blended in to Carrera GT road car and then subsequently in to the LMP2 Porsche Spyder, which harnessed so much success for Penske Racing in the American Le Mans Series during the last decade.

Now, some 14 years later Porsche is back at the scene of its incredible past achievements, winning an astonishing 16 overall Le Mans 24 Hours endurance races.

The Michelin-shod Porsche 919 Hybrid’s will take on stable mates Audi and the Toyota TS040’s to search for what would be a sensational 17th success this weekend. Bringing it all full circle will be the fact that Mark Webber will be one of Porsche’s star drivers. What was Mark doing at Le Mans in 1998? He was fully ensconced with their bitter rivals Mercedes!

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