It’s official: Porsche will enter the FIA Formula E championship with a factory-backed team in season six, starting in the winter of 2019.
The German marque confirmed in a statement on Friday morning that it would be closing its three-time Le Mans-winning LMP1 programme at the end of this year as part of a realignment of its motorsport interests, focusing on an all-electric future in Formula E.
“Entering Formula E and achieving success in this category are the logical outcomes of our Mission E road car programme. The growing freedom for in-house technology developments makes Formula E attractive to us,” said Michael Steiner, Member of the Executive Board for Research and Development at Porsche AG.
“Porsche is working with alternative, innovative drive concepts. For us, Formula E is the ultimate competitive environment for driving forward the development of high- performance vehicles in areas such as environmental friendliness, efficiency and sustainability.”
The news comes just three days after reigning Formula 1 champion team Mercedes announced it would be snapping up its option to join Formula E in season six, taking the number of manufacturers provisionally set to be racing in 2019 up to 11.
“I’m delighted to welcome Porsche to the FIA Formula E Championship. If somebody told me when we started this project five years ago, that we’d be announcing a partnership with a brand like Porsche, I wouldn’t have believed it,” Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag said.
“To have a name like Porsche in Formula E, with all it represents in terms of racing and heritage – and in terms of sport cars – is an inflexion point in our quest to change the public perception about electric cars. The electric revolution continues, and Formula E remains the championship for that revolution.”
Porsche’s full works team will mark a return to single-seater racing for the sportscar maker after almost three decades away. The last Porsche single-seater programme was in the American CART series in 1990.
The rumours have been bubbling away for a while and intensified when Porsche’s motorsport management visited the paddock in Monaco and Berlin to meet with series chief Agag.
LMP1 team boss Andreas Seidl said back in June that Formula E was “not interesting enough” in its current form, but the decision to join the grid suggests he has enough faith in the future regulations to pursue the series at the expense of the far more well-established WEC category.
It was only in 2014 that Porsche made its long-awaited return to the premier class of racing at Le Mans, entering its 919 Hybrid LMP1 car to the FIA World Endurance Championship. Victory in both Le Mans and the WEC championships followed in 2015 before Porsche repeated the feat last year, taking a second straight 24-hour win in dramatic fashion after Toyota’s last lap failure.
Despite completing a hat-trick of Le Mans victories, questions about the future of Porsche’s LMP1 programme arose in the week leading up to the famous race, supposedly down to its lack of competitiveness against the rival Toyota operation and concerns about the costs of the operation.
Porsche worked with Toyota and Peugeot to help form the new LMP1 regulations for 2020, announced at Le Mans, with a stress on hybrid and electric technology offering a sign of its intentions.
The new regulations were not enough to keep Porsche’s LMP1 programme alive, though, with the decision to pull the plug coming at a board meeting in Germany this week.
“Porsche is a brand which has a fantastic history in motorsport, and its intention to join the FIA Formula E Championship alongside so many of the world’s biggest car manufacturers is very positive,” FIA president Jean Todt added.
“It’s clear that the hard work done to create a relevant laboratory for developing electric vehicle technologies has been successful, and I look forward to seeing Formula E continue to be a place of great sporting competition as well as innovation.
“I’m very happy that Porsche is coming to Formula E, but I regret their decision to leave the World Endurance Championship.”