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Proton in line for dual Porsche LMDh campaigns in WEC/IMSA

The German Proton squad appears to be on course to field customer Porsche 963 LMDh prototypes in both the FIA World Endurance Championship and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next year.

Porsche 963 LMDh

The long-time Porsche GT entrant has looked certain for some time to get the second customer chassis available for the WEC in 2023, where it would join the British JOTA team next year. 

It has now emerged as the leading contender to secure the remaining chassis available for IMSA, where it would be the second Porsche customer after JDC-Miller MotorSports.

Proton had made a bid for the remaining car available for North America earlier in the year, but Porsche looked set to go with a new operation set up by IndyCar team owner and 1967 Le Mans 24 Hours winner AJ Foyt in conjunction with JR Hildebrand, who is driving for Foyt in the five oval races on the IndyCar schedule this year.

This deal now appears unlikely to go ahead, which has brought Proton back into the frame. 

Proton Competition team boss Christian Ried confirmed that his team, which races in the WEC in GTE Am with a pair of Porsche 911 RSRs under the Dempsey-Proton Racing banner, is working on plans for a dual programme with the 963 in 2023.

“We want to do it, but there is nothing confirmed as yet,” Ried told Motorsport.com.

“We are still interested in doing both, because it is better to have two cars even if they running in different championships.”

 

He explained that the plans for the WEC programme are at a more advanced stage than those for North America. 

He also conceded that it is unlikely that the Proton USA branch of the team, which is a running a Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GT Daytona class this year, could be geared up to run an LMDh in time for the Rolex 24 at Daytona IMSA opener in January.

“Time is the issue and it is probably already too late for Daytona,” he said. 

It appears, however, that the North American customers of the 963 are unlikely to get the cars in time for Daytona. 

Porsche Motorsport boss Thomas Laudenbach said “it will be difficult” when asked if the deliveries of the cars can be made in time for the customers to go up against the factory Porsches fielded by Penske in the opening round of the 2023 IMSA series. 

“The first thing is that from the development point of view the car needs to be mature enough to be handed over to customers,” he explained. 

“If this is done, then we need the parts to build up the customer cars, which is even more tricky.”

When asked if the two IMSA and two WEC cars would be ready for the 'SuperSebring' weekend in March when the two series come together, Laudenbach said: “I would be happy if I could confirm it, but there are a lot of things out of our hands. 

“We are pushing as hard as we can to get the customer cars on track as early as possible, but it is definitely too early to say.”

He admitted that Porsche remains behind schedule in the 963 development programme.

Laudenbach wouldn’t comment on the negotiations with Proton ahead of any announcement on the destination of the second set of customer cars. 

Porsche driver Gianmaria Bruni, who is racing for Proton in the European Le Mans Series this year, has expressed a desire to race a 963 for the team next year.

“I like working with the Proton team a lot, and if they go with LMDh, I would be very happy to drive for them if they are happy to have me,” he said. 

Harry Tincknell, who is racing for Proton in GTE Am in the WEC this year, also appears to be a strong candidate for a seat in the WEC entry. 

Additional reporting by Jamie Klein

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