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The Porsche Story, Part 4: Race to the Future

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Andre Lotterer leading the field at 2021 Ad Diriyah E-Prix
Credit: Porsche Newsroom

The world has been focused on the electric vehicles (EVs) push for the past decade, and it wasn’t too long until the world of motorsport followed suit. Electrification seemed to be the way of the future, and the way motor racing would inevitably end up, especially with the birth of Formula-E in 2014.

The series surged into popularity as drivers and manufacturers turned the way of electricity and got on board the EVs train. Suddenly manufacturers were developing EVs at a rate inconceivable and the automotive industry was more interested in electric motors than combustion engines. Alike so many of their competitors in the automotive sector, Porsche knew this was something they had to be a part of.

During their most recent stint at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and in the FIA World Endurance Championship, Porsche had dabbled in electric power through their hybrid engines. The 919 ran a combustion petrol engine that was supported by an electric motor – part of WEC’s move to remain relevant in the evolving car industry, attract more manufacturers and pursue a different course of action to Formula-E. Having some experience with the electric-powered motor put them on the front foot as they turned their attention back to single seaters.

From a higher up perspective, the shift for both Audi and Porsche (both manufacturers under the Volkswagen umbrella) to move from racing in a combustion-engine focused series to a fully electric one was great for the brand representation. Volkswagen went from the forefront of ‘Dieselgate’ to being 100% invested in the sustainable energy push in the space of four years. It made sense for them to invest in green technology and show they were proactively correcting the errors of their past.

The move to Formula-E was also one of the factors in Porsche retiring from LMP1 in WEC. The brand wanted to use their resources to focus on the electric program, and with the GT team still keeping the German marque successful on the endurance scene, their pooled their resources into the new endeavour, taking two of the then Porsche LMP1 drivers with them; Andre Lotterer and Neel Jani. Lotterer had been racing in Formula-E with DS Techeetah before Porsche joined the discipline and brought a wealth of knowledge to his new team and teammate.

Concept art for Porsche LMDh Hypercar
Credit: Porsche Newsroom

Porsche were one of the late comers to the Formula-E game, but as with all their racing projects, they were still a force to be reckoned with and an underdog to keep an eye on. In their first race, the 2019 Ad Diriyah E-Prix, Lotterer took his Porsche 99X Electric to the second step of the podium. As expected from Porsche, they came out of the gates strong, showing their intentions to not just learn the ropes whilst racing, but go straight for victories. Lotterer would repeat this feat once more in the turbulent 2019/20 season at the first Berlin E-Prix in 2020, helping himself and the team finish eighth in the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ championships respectively.

This year marks the team’s second season in the sport, with Pascal Wehrlein having replaced Jani alongside Lotterer for 2021. Only two races of the eight-race calendar have been completed at the time of publishing, but make sure to keep an eye on TheCheckeredFlag to stay up-to-date with all the latest from the electric paddock.

In a story that has come full circle, the Porsche tale ends with the announcement they will, once again, return to endurance racing and Le Mans from 2022 with an LMDh Hypercar. It seems an inevitable path for the German manufacturer, with the Porsche 911 still delivering and delighting motorsport and road car fans globally as it has since the 1950s.

When Porsche do return to the front of the endurance grid, they will be up against strong competition, but one thing is for certain; never write off Porsche. As they have shown through over 70-years of history in motor racing, they always make it to the top step.

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