Porsche chose Le Mans over F1 for “road relevance”

2013 F1 season

Porsche 911 GT1-98, Le Mans 24 Hours, 1998Porsche says a lack of “road relevance” in F1’s regulations is the reason why it chose to race at Le Mans instead from next year.

The German manufacturer began considered a return to F1 three years ago but decided to build a new LMP1 car for 2014.

“It was clear two or three years ago that we had to be back in high-level motorsport,” head of research and design Wolfgang Hatz told Autocar. “It was a choice between top-flight sports cars or Formula One.”

“But the final decision was the only logical one,” he explained. “F1 was an alternative, but the road relevance is not there.”

“Also, there is a lot of publicity around politics and tyres, but not so much about the engines and chassis. The aero, too, is incredible, but so extreme that it cannot result in any development in our road car understanding.”

Formula One is introducing new engine rules for 2014 and Honda are among the manufacturers believed to be considering a return.

Porsche competed in F1 as a constructors in the sixties, winning a single race. It enjoyed a highly successful spell as McLaren’s engine supplier in the eighties, winning a string of championships, but a later return with Footwork was a flop.

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88 comments on Porsche chose Le Mans over F1 for “road relevance”

  1. HoHum (@hohum) said on 23rd April 2013, 14:00

    Who could blame Porsche, if the current restrictions on innovation and development had been introduced in 1950, nobody would have joined F1, certainly not Enzo Ferarri who always strove to have the most powerful engine, nor Colin Chapman who strove to have the lightest most nimble chassis. Beside the publicity, F1 provided a test bed for new ideas, designs and materiels.
    Imagine though if in 1950 with todays restrictions, some entrepeneurs like Bernie had built a successful racing “show” we would possibly now be watching front engined, metal bodied open-wheel race cars powered by a version of the 4 cylinder Offenhauser Indy engine. No wonder the manufacturers don’t want to spend money in F1.

    • dennis (@dennis) said on 23rd April 2013, 14:16

      If manufacturers were always allowed to do what they wanted there would be no F1 today anymore, because no one could afford it. Something similar happened to the DTM in the 90’s.

      • HoHum (@hohum) said on 23rd April 2013, 16:54

        @dennis,Under the open development rules backyard “garagistas” managed to thrive and become big corporations, the budgets are just as high now only the results are less tangible. The world is a wealthier place and the market is vastly greater, if they could do it then, they can do it now, but they will probably have to stop giving half the revenue away to do so.

  2. Alec Glen (@alec-glen) said on 23rd April 2013, 14:01

    One thing to remember when we’re talking about KERS and how relevant it is to manufacturers; KERS is essentially ancient tech, much simpler than what was on the original Prius and something McLaren dabbled with in 1999.

    In 2014 we’ll be freezing engine development as we have the past bunch of years also, except for the energy storage where Red Bull’s link with Infiniti’s likely to pay dividends where they’re already ahead of the game as far as using supercapacitators goes.

  3. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 23rd April 2013, 14:02

    Hard to blame them.

    As technology goes, F1 is getting even more limited. It’s been 6 years they’ve been stuck with the same old engine, so there’s nothing to do in that department. KERS produces a totally lame amount of HP and it’s not pushing for “green” technologies. The rulebook allow nothing in terms of innovation outside aerodynamics, and there’s always the odd loophole that provides a certain team a massive advantage.

    So the risk of persuing innovation and road relevance is enormous. Le Mans allows you to get publicity, at a much lower cost, with higher road relevance, a more relaxed rulebook, which always concentrates on fuel efficiency and long range performance, and it’s a place Porsche is DA TEAM. Competing against Toyota and Audi iis “easier” in terms of marketing than competing against Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes and all that just to be beaten by an energy drinks company.

  4. GeorgeTuk (@georgetuk) said on 23rd April 2013, 14:10

    I can see what Porsche are saying but not sure they would get nearly as much coverage as F1 does. That said it is a smaller budget and yes there is a technology link to actual cars that is clearer.

    But not sure the man on the street would even be at all bothered to know who won the WEC (or even what it is), though most people know Le Mans.

    WEC is good though, I would watch it if it was more available. Is it on Sky at all? Motors TV?

  5. dennis (@dennis) said on 23rd April 2013, 14:13

    The notion that modern LMP cars have any more relevance to road cars than F1 cars, apart from having fenders is quite hilarious, indeed.

    • nickfrog (@nickfrog) said on 23rd April 2013, 14:49

      I agree dennis. There’s next to zero relevance between a road car and a race car, even at much lower levels of Motorsport. Farcical that anyone may think otherwise unless they really don’t understand the basics of motorsport.

    • LukE55 (@luke55) said on 23rd April 2013, 15:14

      Tell that to Audi. Many of their current road cars technology & engineering showed up on the P1 cars 1st – LED head & tail lamps, diesel, aluminum. Those are the obvious ones. Their road car technology and sales have absolutely benefited from running in Alms, LMS & LeMans on their way to trying to become the number 1 luxury car brand in the world (which they initially said they wanted to do by 2015).

      • nickfrog (@nickfrog) said on 23rd April 2013, 16:49

        LOL. LED ? You’re joking right ? That’s essentiallly cosmetics. Audi do not even make them. Hella do. Diesel ? LOL. Zero crossover. Aluminium ??? Massive LOL. Was it discovered last week.

        It’s 100% marketing. And it clearly works. Nothing wrong with that but don’t make me laugh.

        • Liam McShane (@motor_mad) said on 23rd April 2013, 17:52

          I think you’re missing the point @luke55 is trying to make. Yes the L.E.D.’s are cosmetic on their road cars, they are too on their LMP cars. You could argue that if a diesel car is winning races then diesel must be cool. Not forgetting most Audi’s sold are in fact diesels. I’m not sure what he means by aluminum though…

          • anon said on 23rd April 2013, 20:53

            I guess that the reference to aluminium would be the use of aluminium for the V12 diesel engine that Audi used in the R10. However, as far as I am aware, the use of aluminium in turbodiesel engines came from the mainstream automotive world into sports car racing, not the other way around.

            On a broader point, has there actually been a significant amount of technological trickle down from sports car racing, or motorsport as a whole, into the wider automotive world? Audi claimed that the Gasified Direct Injection technology they started using on their road cars in 2000 was partially based on research for the R8, but Mistubishi were already selling cars with GDI in 1996 before Audi even turned up to Le Mans. Common rail technology for diesel engines is an even earlier invention – Magnetti Marelli invented that in the early 1990’s and was already well developed technology before Audi built the R10.
            Even if you go back to earlier developments, often the wider automotive world got there first – HoHum’s cites the disc brake, but Chrysler offered disc brakes on their road cars (albeit as an optional extra) three years before Jaguar ever fitted them to the C-Type.

            Newey, after all, was asked what he thought the greatest contribution of motorsport to technological development was – his reply was ‘Motorsport as an industry is a user of technologies that have been developed in other industries, aerospace in particular. So CFD programmes, aerodynamic understanding, simulation tools software and hardware – all are developed outside motor racing, and we apply them because we are not big enough to invent them.’

          • matt90 (@matt90) said on 23rd April 2013, 23:46

            From wikipedia, the C-Type was still the first car to run reliable caliper brakes. The Chrysler ones were disc brakes, but very different .

          • HoHum (@hohum) said on 24th April 2013, 5:33

            While it is true that alot of Automotive technology was invented for the road before it came to the track, motorsport provides a testing and development regime that refines and improves products far faster than manufacturing cycles can.

        • HoHum (@hohum) said on 24th April 2013, 5:26

          @nickfrog, are you sure that Audi didn’t use LED lights to reduce the electrical load.

        • LukE55 (@luke55) said on 24th April 2013, 14:41

          Lol. RELEVANCE to road cars. LED’s better quality of light, longer lasting bulbs, more flexibility of design than traditional bulbs. Check, check, & check. You need something to market. Audi’s turbo diesel technology has definitely provided real world benefits to their TDI vehicles (even though they were using TDI before they raced diesels). Yeah, I’m sure they learned NOTHING of value. Aluminum construction was used how extensively previous to Audi? And in which Road cars? Umm, I think you jest. I never stated their race cars were their road cars. They are a test bed. You work in the industry and you think Audi didn’t learn anything that could trickle down to the R8 & TDI cars? Yes, Hella makes the LED’s so what? They were on their race cars (testing) before they put them on their road cars. Dallara makes their monocoques. Does that mean it’s not an Audi. Hybrid drive on the R18? Yeah they did that because they were bored. R18 E-Tron -> R8 E-Tron -> something in the future.

          • LukE55 (@luke55) said on 24th April 2013, 14:54

            Regarding the aluminum. Obviously it’s been used in many capacities in many ways. My primary point is Audi is testing many things that may or may not make it to their road cars. In F1 the primary company doing that still is Ferrari. It is definitely possible – maybe even likely that some things will make it road cars in some capacity but not as likely as what comes from sports cars to GT cars to Road. The ACO has had a mandate for a number of years that the tech should be more applicable to the future of road cars. They definitely have a head start on F1 in that regard.

  6. Rui (@ruicaridade) said on 23rd April 2013, 14:57

    Like some have stated before, WEC is becoming more interesting.

    – I simply don’t have the money to go to an F1 weekend. Living in Portugal and paying some hundred dollars for a ticket is crazy whereas i can by saving a bit go to a WEC race.
    – Web Coverage – Watching last race in HD using an official stream. WEC is open / F1 is pay per view.
    – F1 has always been about money, just look at the brands involved however it has been loosing, for me, the “wow factor”.

    Its like watching Queen with Freddie Mercury vs Queen with Paul R. It is simply not as good as it once was.

    • JimmyTheIllustratedBlindSolidSilverBeachStackapopolis III said on 23rd April 2013, 18:11

      Can you post a link for the official wec stream i knew i had watched some over the last few years but i can never remember where.

  7. xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 23rd April 2013, 16:42

    So it’ll be Audi vs Porsche vs Toyota for the WEC crown then…
    Tasty!!

  8. Liam McShane (@motor_mad) said on 23rd April 2013, 17:48

    Makes sense. Still, would be nice to see some proper car manufacturers back in F1.

  9. JimmyTheIllustratedBlindSolidSilverBeachStackapopolis III said on 23rd April 2013, 18:08

    That’s like a soldier saying I don’t want to go to afghanistan because there’s no sand at my local lazer quest, just lol.

  10. James (@jawerner) said on 23rd April 2013, 19:23

    Porsche always had a home at Le Mans so I think them deciding to compete in the WEC seems like a more logical choice than them coming into F1 as a constructor. Another aspect of choosing WEC over F1 is that in WEC there is more of an emphasis on the car rather than the driver which would mean that Porsche would get more of the glory for winning in the WEC than in F1.

    If Porsche were to enter F1 I think their best bet for success in F1 would be as an engine supplier with a works team, much like Mercedes did with McLaren. The most logical candidate for such a partnership seems to be Sauber or they could possibly buy out Force India if the team runs into serious finacial trouble.

  11. DaveW (@dmw) said on 23rd April 2013, 21:26

    That’s a cool story, Porsche. But when has F1 been “road-relevant”? Maybe when we had 1500hp I4s running on cooled jet fuel? Maybe little cigar-shaped cars with moveable wings? It’s never been “road relevant.” That’s a red herring.

    The only actual “road relevant” racing is GT racing. Porsche is all over that. They are pervasive if not dominant in many GT series. And bankers are constantly lining up for ludicriously overpriced GT2s so they can spend a couple weekends a year shuffling their hands at a track. So selling on Monday is a real thing for them. They can and should stick to that. No need to cast aspersions on others.

  12. GeeMac (@geemac) said on 24th April 2013, 8:00

    So WEC have Audi and Toyota competing for LMP1 honours. Soon Porsche will join in the fun. I now wish more than ever that Peugeot hadn’t pulled the plug on their programme, we could be heading for another golden era of sportscar racing.

  13. Mark McDonald said on 24th April 2013, 10:59

    Absolutely the right decision from Porsche. I wish Ferrari would follow. F1, from time to time, is a good TV show.

  14. alphaa (@alphaa) said on 24th April 2013, 11:35

    I guess it is the right choice after all. The first requirement of F1 team is to build a F1 car that looks like F1 cars. It’s kind of difficult for the Porsche designer to design something that arent looking like a Beatles… I think La Mans is more suitable after all.

  15. Cristian (@theseeker) said on 24th April 2013, 12:53

    That’s why Porsche will never be near Ferrari…they have good logic and technology, but they severely lack the passion.

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