Scott McLaughlin is near-certain to be racing at Le Mans in 2023 as his mentor, Roger Penske, chases victory in the only major motorsport event to have eluded him.
Penske has never mounted a full-scale effort at Le Mans but, after partnering with Porsche for the next generation of global sports car competition, the French endurance classic is now clearly on his radar.
If his past programs are any guide, Penske will establish a dedicated sports car driver roster for sprint events and then add his aces for any races that need a three-driver roster.
That means McLaughlin for Le mans.
Porsche and Team Penske have just confirmed a renewed partnership as world ports car racing enters a new hybrid prototype era under the LMDh rules.
Toyota is already on-board, and won the first of the new-age races at Spa in Belgium last weekend, with Peugeot, Audi and Porsche all committed for 2022 and beyond. The cars weigh approximately 1000 kilograms and are based on an LMP2 prototype chassis, with a 500-kiloWatt (680 horsepower) hybrid drivetrain.
The announcement that Penske will drive the Porsche program is a surprise – but not.
Porsche has usually run its factory efforts from its in-house competition department, including the 919 hybrid that scored its most-recent victories at Le Mans, but has used a Penske connection for other high-profile efforts.
Penske fielded Porsche 917s in the Can-Am series in the USA in the 1970s and also ran a prototype program in the early 2000s with the RS Spyder when Aussie Ryan Briscoe was one of the drivers.
This time around, it’s Porsche and Penske from the start.
“We have represented Porsche on the track or in our businesses for more than six decades. The heritage and success we have enjoyed together is unparalleled throughout our history,” said Roger Penske.
“I can’t wait to get started as we build a global racing program with Porsche that will compete for wins and championships well into the future.”
Porsche Motorsport will be operating a team base in the USA together with Team Penske at the American team’s headquarters in Mooresville, North Carolina.
It’s far too early for any talk about drivers, but no-one will be surprised if Will Power leads the roster.
Power has just renewed his Penske contract but has probably peaked as any IndyCar racer and would be an ideal spearhead in sports cars.
In the past, both Helio Castroneves and Juan Montoya were moved across from IndyCars into sports cars with Penske and were winners with a Honda-backed program.
The new Porsche program will compete in both the World Endurance Championship and the IMSA SportsCar Championship in the USA.
“We are delighted that we were able to get Team Penske to form this partnership,” said Oliver Blume, chairman of Porsche.
“For the first time in the history of Porsche Motorsport, our company will have a global team competing in the world’s two largest endurance series. To this end, we will be setting up team bases on both sides of the Atlantic. This will enable us to create the optimal structures we will need to take overall victories at Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring, for example.”