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Porsche set to abandon updated WEC engine

A reliable run for the factory Porsche Penske Motorsport and customer entries at the Le Mans 24 Hours next month with the existing engine is likely to lead to a decision to leave the upgrade on the shelf, 963 project manager Urs Kuratle has revealed.

He explained that the improved durability of the 963 this year had largely removed the need for the new version of the engine, designed to reduce vibration in the name of reliability of the car’s hybrid system.

“Maybe it will be cancelled,” Kuratle told Motorsport.com.

“If we go to Le Mans and have no issues that we can trace to vibration, we are probably not going to introduce it at all.

“We have been to all these races this year and we have had no reliability issues, so why introduce it?”

An initial plan to have the engine in its fleet of 963s in time for Le Mans on 15-16 June was abandoned, but Kuratle was insistent at the Qatar WEC season-opener in March that the revised V8 would come on stream at an unspecified point this season.

Porsche started development of the new version of the 4.6-litre V8 last year as a result of reliability issues with the off-the-shelf hybrid system mandatory in LMDh.

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

It believed that the vibration from the engine’s 180-degree or flat-plane crankshaft was contributing to the poor reliability, leading to the decision to begin work on an updated engine with a 90-degree crank.

But improvements in the hybrid system, particularly the motor generator unit (MGU) supplied by Bosch Motorsport, since the back end of last season have turned the 963 into a much more reliable contender.

PPM claimed victory in the Daytona 24 Hours curtain-raiser in January and Porsche had no hybrid issues over the course of the event.

Porsche didn’t push on with plans to have the new engine at Le Mans because it would have required to race it for the first time at Imola last month.

Series organisers the FIA and the Automobile Club de Le Mans wanted two races before Le Mans to assess the impact of the engine on the Balance of Performance.

Because only one homologation is allowed in LMDh that would have meant introducing it in the five 963s Racing in the WEC and the four in IMSA at the same time because the Long Beach round of the North American series clashed with Imola.

That would have left no time to undertake the necessary endurance testing to validate the engine ahead of a 24-hour race.

Kuratle explained that the logistical challenges of introducing the engine were an additional reason it might be left on the sidelines.

“You have to do endurance tests before you introduce it and that costs a lot of money.” he explained. “

“It would be a big effort to introduce it on all the cars at the same time in both series and to produce all the spare engines.”

The upgraded engine has run on the dynamometer but not in a car, Kuratle confirmed.

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