An Update On The Upcoming Le Mans Prototype Contestants For 2023
Some big names will be entering the mix for next season's endurance championships.
It might be a little bit early to talk about Le Mans 2023 and next year’s season of the World Endurance Championship and IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship since it’s still a long way away, but there’s been a ton of news since we last spoke about it. A number of high-profile car manufacturers have announced plans to run an LMH or LMDh prototype race car in the upcoming season, with more brands entering in 2024. This could possibly be a return to form for Le Mans and endurance racing like back in the 1980s and 1990s. The great battles between the likes of Porsche, Jaguar, Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes in Group C and GT1 class racing are still fondly remembered by many. So, without any further ado, let’s see what’s coming!
For the sake of I will be looking at new entries announced or in development for the LMH and LMDh classes. Teams that are actively competing in Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship, or any other LMH/LMDh racing class, will be skipped for now. Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus and Toyota Gazoo Racing for instance, have already raced under the new regulations this year and are set to return next year. Instead, the focus will be on completely new teams for this episode of the Petrolhead Corner.
2023 – Peugeot 9X8
Technically speaking, the Peugeot 9X8 isn’t entirely new nor has it been announced recently. But, and this is quite important to note, the car will make its Le Mans debut next year. It has been in development for quite a while now and even made its first appearance in this year’s 6 Hours of Monza race, part of the World Endurance Championship 2022 season. The team qualified fifth and 20th (no time set during qualifying) but only one car made it to the end. Taking part in the 6 Hours of Monza should be considered a shakedown race for the innovative 9X8, with the only car to make it to the finish coming as 4th in class and 33rd overall, some 25 laps behind the winning Alpine car. Nevertheless, Peugeot is surely aiming to further develop the 9X8 into a Le Mans conquering machine.
2023 – Porsche 963 LMDh
The Porsche 963 LMDh made its debut during the Goodwood Festival of Speed just before the summer. This numerical successor to the dominant Porsche 962 Group C prototype racer will be competing under LMDh regulations next year, meaning they will race both the Le Mans 24 Hours and Daytona 24 Hours events, as well as the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship. Although it’s eligible to compete in the FIA-sanctioned World Endurance Championship too, Porsche is yet to confirm if it will do so. The Porsche 963 LMDh uses a hybrid engine based on the one found in the Porsche 918 hypercar, with 680bhp coming from the 4.6-litre twin-supercharged V8 paired with an electric motor. With this weapon, Porsche is aiming to add a twentieth overall victory at Le Mans to its record.
2023 – Acura ARX-06 LMDh
Acura, the luxury performance division of Honda (like Lexus is for Toyota) has been very successful in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Championship over the past few years. With the new LMH/LMDh regulations being mandatory for next year, Acura has announced a completely new car, the AXR-06. This will be entered in the 2023 season for the IMSA championship, and as such is also eligible for competing at Le Mans. Even if there is only a slim chance Acura will cross the pond, it would be great to see them compete at Le Mans for the first time ever. This would also mean we are treated to a bespoke twin-turbo 2.4 litre V6 with 661bhp and a 10,000rpm red line. Please make it happen Acura!
2023 – Cadillac Project GTP Hypercar
It’s only natural that US car manufacturer Cadillac will enter its new top-tier racer in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship. But, the brand that’s responsible for the freakishly cool 1951 Cadillac “Le Monstre” Le Mans race car is set to make a grand return to French soil. The Project GTP Hypercar will be lining up on the grid of the Le Sarthe circuit next year, powered by a Cadillac 5.5 litre V8 engine mated to the mandatory LMDh/LMH hybrid system. The first images that have been released of the car, also show Le Monstre motifs as a nod to the legendary first-ever Cadillac to race at Le Mans. It comes as no surprise, however, that the new Project GTP Hypercar looks a hell of a lot better than its predecessor did.
2023 – BMW M Hybrid V8 LMdH
As it goes for many car manufacturers, the United States is a hugely important market for BMW. This is part of the reason a number of new endurance racers are built according to the LMDh regulations, making them eligible to race in the IMSA championship. And despite the fact the new BMW M Hybrid V8 LMDh is not a commercial vehicle, the saying “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” still sort of stands. If you can dominate a championship, this has a big payoff for a brand. And that’s exactly what BMW is aiming for. To do so, BMW has rebuilt an LMP2 car to comply with the new rules, fitted with a 640bhp hybrid V8 drivetrain. BMW has outlined a commitment to return to Le Mans in 2023 or 2024, with the latter coinciding with the 25th anniversary of its first and only overall victory in 1999.
2023 – Ferrari Le Mans Hypercar
This is the big one, really. Once the undisputed king at Le Mans, Ferrari has never competed in the top class of the 24 Hours race with a factory team since its last overall victory in 1965. The story is very well-known as first Ford and then Porsche pretty much took over in the second half of the 1960s and 1970s. Ferrari chose to build an LMH competitor, as it wanted to build the entire car in-house, in comparison to the standard chassis and hybrid system used in the LMDh class. Not many details about this car have been revealed yet, but as it has been spotted during tests at the Ferrari-owned Fiorano race track, we do have a glimpse of what it looks and sounds like!
2023/2024 – Alpine hydrogen fuel-cell racer
Although Alpine are one of the three current competitors in the top tier class for Le Mans and the WEC, the reason to include them in this update is very simple. Alpine has announced they will be developing a hydrogen fuel-cell race car to compete in the Le Mans 24 Hours. It’s not known if this will be in 2023 or 2024, but time will tell. Alpine will run the car under Le Mans Garage 56 regulations, which is open to experimental vehicles such as the Nissan Deltawing. Cars under Garage 56 are able to compete, but will not be able to officially win the event, despite possible beating all other entries.
2024 – Lamborghini
Following in Porsche and Ferrari’s wake, Lamborghini has announced its plans for a 2024 Le Mans entry. With over 40 titles in GT racing, Lamborghini has plenty of experience in building formidable race cars. Also, as some might remember, the manufacturer launched its own one-make championship back in 2009. It will be very interesting to see Lamborghini going head to head with its age-old rival Ferrari. Not many details are revealed yet and we only have the teaser image below to satisfy our curiosity.