MSA, WEC Weekend: Porsche Penske Motorsports Loaded for Bear

auto mar 16 imsa mobil 1 twelve hours of sebring presented by cadillac
Porsche Penske Motorsports Loaded for BearIcon Sportswire - Getty Images
  • The WEC will be making its first appearance at Imola, Italy, for its six-hour race.

  • On Saturday in Long Beach, Porsche Penske Motorsport will be defending last year’s inaugural Porsche 963 race victory and a tie for the current points lead in the WeatherTech Championship.

  • Want to talk resources? In total, 132 people will staff the four Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963 cars racing globally this weekend.

Has Porsche and its factory team at Penske stolen a march on their competition in the WeatherTech Championship and the World Endurance Championship?

A year ago, Porsche Penske Motorsport was trying to keep up with its competition following a mediocre Rolex 24 at Daytona and a disastrously unlucky finish at the Sebring 12-hour.


The customer car program, meanwhile, was beginning to look like a boondoggle during the struggle to produce cars. A miserable three-car factory outing in the WEC’s crown jewel at Le Mans, where the LMDh car of Cadillac finished on the podium, was painful.

What a difference a year makes on a weekend when both IMSA’s WeatherTech series and the WEC are in action.

On Saturday in Long Beach, Porsche Penske Motorsport will be defending last year’s inaugural Porsche 963 race victory and a tie for the current points lead in the WeatherTech Championship.

fia wec imola 2024
The No. 06 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963 of Kevin Estre, Andre Lotterer, and Laurens Vanthoor leads the way during the early part of the 2024 WEC season.James Moy Photography - Getty Images

At Imola on Sunday, the Porsche Penske team will defend its points lead in the World Endurance Championship after an impressive season-opening victory at Qatar, where the two factory 963s finished on the podium along with the customer car of Hertz Team Jota.

Where it won on strategy last year at Long Beach by not changing tires on the lone pit stop in the 100-minute race, this year Porsche Penske Motorsport arrives loaded for bear to compete against the other eight LMDh entries head-to-head in a race that includes 17 GTD entries.

Defending winners Mathieu Jaminet and Nick Tandy will drive the No. 6 entry for the Porsche factory team; winning Rolex 24 at Daytona co-drivers Dane Cameron and Felipe Nasr will pilot the No. 7 entry.

sahlens six hours at the glen, june 2023
Mathieu Jaminet, and Nick Tandy are on top in IMSA atfter their win at Daytona." Brian Cleary - Getty Images

“Where the strategy obviously worked out for us last year, it was born out of a deficit in performance,” said Jonathan Diuguid, the managing director at Porsche Penske Motorsport. After testing for bumpy circuits, including at the Sebring International Raceway, Diuguid expects to be fighting for the victory on outright pace this year. Because Michelin is bringing a softer tire with more degradation, he said, getting to the finish on one set of tires is unlikely.

The WEC will be making its first appearance at Imola for its six-hour race, where Matt Campbell, Michael Christensen and Frédéric Makowiecki will drive the No. 5 entry and Qatar winners Kévin Estre, André Lotterer and Laurens Vanthoor will pilot No. 6.

In all, nine Porsche 963 hybrids will be competing this weekend, including two customer cars at Long Beach for Proton Competition and JDC-Miller Motorsports and three at Imola for Jota and Proton.

The data being gathered from those programs on LMDh cars that are extraordinarily complicated is one key to Porsche Penske Motorsport’s current success. No other LMDh manufacturer has a customer car program.

“So far, our 2024 record looks very good,” said Urs Kuratle, the director of the factory’s LMDh program, which also supplies and coordinates with the customers. “We want to continue this.”

Sparing no Budget

To sustain its dominance, Porsche and Penske are apparently sparing no budget, some of which arrives courtesy of the customer program. The overall money spent may be a key difference between the current success of the Porsche 963 and the competition.

At Long Beach, a release from Porsche stated the two factory entries will be supported by 55 team members, which is almost comparable to the 63 on the ground to support the three NTT IndyCar entries of Team Penske. (Some of the personnel may not be directly connect to the Porsche racing operation, but will be operating promotional displays positioned at the circuit.)

In total, 132 people will staff the four Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963 cars racing globally this weekend. This includes all team and Porsche Motorsport personnel at Long Beach and Imola as well as “the boys back in the shop”—known as the Operations Room at Porsche Motorsport’s headquarters in Weissach, Germany.

Double Duty

The lone other American team doing double duty at Long Beach and Imola, Chip Ganassi Racing, has considerably fewer personnel in place for its two entries, the No. 01 Cadillac V-Series.R at Long Beach (Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande) and the No. 2 V-Series.R at Imola (Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn). According to information released by Cadillac, the total number supporting Ganassi’s two-car effort is less than half of what Porsche and Penske are listing, albeit with half the number of cars and no promotional displays.

BMW, meanwhile, will race at both Long Beach and Imola with two separate teams at the helm of its BMW M Hybrid V8 entries. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan team is competing in Long Beach with cars No. 24 (Philipp Eng and Jesse Krohn) and No. 25 (Connor De Fillippi and Nick Yelloly).

At Imola, WRT is running the LMDh entries No. 17 (Raffaele Marciello, Dries Vanthoor and Marco Wittmann) and No. 20 (Robin Frijns, René Rast and Sheldon van der Linde). BMW confirmed it will have a total of 31 engineers involved in the two races, but figures on the crews were not available.

Penske’s Diuguid sounded a cautious note about the streets of Long Beach, while pointing out that the circuit is hallowed ground for Penske in sports car racing as well as IndyCar.

“This is the first of the shorter format races and it will take perfect execution by the team and the drivers to repeat last year’s triumph,” Diuguid said. “Our global team has been performing at a very high level in 2024, and we look forward to the next challenge.”

At Imola, Porsche Penske Motorsport will likely not enjoy the tire wear advantage that helped it win at Qatar, due to the nature of the asphalt at the Italian circuit. Kuratle sounded a note of caution about Round 2. “Our goal is to once again make the most of the potential in Imola and defend our world championship lead,” he said.