A long and storied legacy in the top tier of sportscar racing, since the retirement of the all-conquering 919 in 2017, the Porsche brand has been a notable absentee from the World Endurance Championship.
Porsche’s history in sportscar racing has created countless magical moments and memories, from the 917 and 935, to the dominant years of the 956 and 962, numerous iconic cars have brought success to the Stuttgart marque, prototypes that are synonymous with Le Mans, and endurance racing as a whole.
With the new LMDh Hypercar regulations already in place, the first years of the category have been somewhat slow to get started, with only Toyota competing with a works team, the privateer team Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus fielding two cars, and the rebadged Rebellion R13 LMP run by Alpine the only opposition to Toyota.
This is all set to change, with the Peugeot 9X8 set to compete in the forthcoming WEC round at Monza, and a recent run of reveals from Cadillac, BMW, Lamborghini, Acura and Ferrari, showing that from 2023, the class is set to explode.
A Goodwood Debut
The stage was set then, for a grand reveal at the sensational Goodwood Festival of Speed, the largest festival of motorsport in the world. Porsche, in partnership with Team Penske, scheduled the official unveiling of the all new 963 for the evening of Friday 24th June.
A huge crowd amassed, with James Glickenhaus notable for his presence front centre, moments before the covers were removed. Initial reception was overwhelmingly positive, the striking livery and smooth lines not diluting an evident sense of purpose. Porsche are back, and they are not taking any prisoners.
Both a rolling chassis, and fully operational versions of the 963 were presented at Goodwood, with the first public performance of the car on the 1.4 mile Goodwood hill, drawing huge attention, as the 963, with Dane Cameron at the wheel, took an enthusiastic first run up the course to rapturous appreciation from the crowds that had waited for the unveiling.
On a technical level, the Porsche 963 takes a newly developed chassis supplied by Multimatic, housing a 4.6 litre V8 engine, with hybrid components supplied by Bosch, Xtrac and Williams Advanced Engineering. The V8 bi-turbo engine, based on the 918 Spyder, offers a great combination of performance characteristics, balanced against weight and cost.
Regulations stipulate a power range of between 643bhp and 697bhp, which allows the much debated ‘Balance of Power’ parameters to take effect, to ensure a more level playing field between the competitors in the LMDh class. Weighing in at around 1000kg, the engine revs to 10,000rpm, with a maximum 110 decibel sound output, a distinctive and rich exhaust note will resonate long after the 963 has passed.
The Spirit of Porsche Sportscars
Aesthetically, there’s a lot of influence drawn from the legendary 956 and 962 Porsches of the 1980s. The chassis, as per the Hypercar regulations is based on the existing LMP2 chassis regs, whilst the lights draw influence from the modern line of Porsche road going models, with a single light strip across the rear and quad-light clusters at the front.
Presented in what will be the baseline for the official works livery, the red, white and black racing colours of Porsche form the underpinnings of the livery, with a classy nod to the Salzburg 917K, the resplendent red and white striped livery that adorned the bodywork of the 1970 Le Mans winning car.
With a driver line up that includes Kevin Estre, Michael Christensen, Andre Lotterer, Laurens Vanthoor, Matt Campbell, Mathieu Jaminet, Dane Cameron and Felipe Nasr, there’s a wealth of pace, experience and racecraft that will be sure to prove a force to be reckoned with, once the 963 takes to the grid.
An interesting development is that Porsche have always taken the view that their LMDh car should be available as a customer car too, and have confirmed that four cars in addition to the factory programme have been sold for the 2023 season, both the highly successful British Jota team, and the American JDC-Miller team confirming they will run the 963 in WEC and IMSA respectively, with the other customer teams as yet unannounced.
The 963 is set to make a competitive debut at the 24 hours of Daytona in 2023, with Porsche committing to field four factory cars in the first outing. The car should be homologated this autumn, with a potential non-competitive entry to the WEC round in Bahrain being touted as a possibility.
A New Dawn
The launch of the 963 heralds the dawn of a new era of sportscar racing. The Hypercar regulations haven’t yet delivered the quality of racing that the top tier of endurance racing needs. With the arrival of Porsche and the formidable looking 963, the class is set to get a lot more compelling from the get-go in 2023.