How Porsche and Penske Will Decide Who Races at Le Mans

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How Porsche Penske Decide Who Races at Le MansIcon Sportswire - Getty Images

Six Porsche 963s are entered in this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans, including three from the factory Porsche Penske Motorsports outfit. Two of those cars will be filled by the full-time World Endurance Championship lineups that just bookended a 1-2-3 finish for the marque at Qatar, but the third and final entry only has one driver attached right now. Porsche Penske employs four full-timers and uses reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Josef Newgarden as an endurance driver when the company races in IMSA, but just three of those drivers will get to race in the car at Le Mans.

That means Porsche and Penske have to make a decision. Despite being filled so late, the seats are among the most coveted on the grid. The 963, which struggled by Porsche's standards in 2023, has opened the 2024 season with wins in both the 24 Hours of Daytona and the FIA World Endurance Championship opener in Qatar. The factory team led the way over privateers in both races and in each race, the 963 looked like the clear class leader of two very deep and very different fields. In other words, the drivers in the final Porsche Penske car at Le Mans have a serious chance of etching their names in the history books

Two choices have already been made: Mathieu Jaminet is named on the entry list in the car, meaning he will be among the drivers in the lineup. Josef Newgarden, who first stepped into the car as an IMSA endurance driver late into 2023 and won as part of the No. 7 crew at Daytona, has already been ruled out for this year's running due to his inexperience with the car. That leaves three IMSA drivers for two seats: Felipe Nasr, Nick Tandy, and Dane Cameron.

Jonathan Diuguid, Managing Director of the Porsche Penske operation, tells Road & Track that the decision will be weighed by both performance in the events leading up to the race and more straightforward logistical considerations:

"Like we've said previously, there really is no bad choice per see," Diuguid says. "We look at how everybody's performing within the team, and driver sizing and height and other things can also come into play for seat fitment. It's a lot of different factors, but with our group of ten drivers that we're choosing from and specifically the four for this third Le Mans car, there's really no bad choice. Honestly, it's unfortunate. If we could run four drivers in cars like Daytona, we would, because of the caliber and level of the drivers in our team that we can choose from. It's a lot of factors, performance, pace, and even physical size."

The full-time IMSA driver not selected is expected to serve as the reserve for the Porsche Penske team during the race weekend. Porsche occasionally assigns its factory drivers to work with customers and Porsche customer Proton has two open seats in a second 963 waiting at the top of the race's reserve list. But, a decision to put a factory driver not racing for the team in a customer 963 in the future was not one that Diuguid would comment on.

"Ultimately, that's a question for Porsche. All the drivers within the PPM program are contracted through Porsche, so their first goal and commitment is to the PPM team. Beyond that, like you've seen with Campbell and other guys who do some GT3 races around the world, Porsche deploys them to different customer teams and customer programs when it makes sense and it can benefit the brand. For us, the main focus for our team is just the Porsche Penske Motorsport organization."

Jaminet, Nasr, Tandy, and Cameron will be in action three more times before the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. The biggest of those opportunities comes at the 12 Hours of Sebring, a flagship American endurance race that will run next weekend.

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