The Porsche LMP (also known as the LMP2000) was a stillborn Porsche Le Mans Prototype project with intentions to race in 2000. It was a planned replacement for both the LMP1-98 and 911 GT1-98 following Porsche's one year sabbatical from the top Le Mans Prototype class in 1999. The project was canceled before a single car could be completed, although it was later tested.
On November 28, 1998 Porsche announced that they would not continue their development of the open-cockpit LMP1-98 for the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Porsche 911 GT1, which had won Le Mans in 1998 but struggled in the FIA GT Championship, would not be continued either, but this was due to its GT1 class being dissolved through FIA and ACO rule changes. Porsche would instead concentrate on development of the 911 GT3-R, a production-based car for various Grand Touring series. However, Porsche also announced that they would return to the top Le Mans Prototype class in 2000 with an all new car.
Design work on this new car had begun just prior to Porsche's announcement in 1998. An open-cockpit prototype, it originally planned to use a variation of Porsche's traditional turbocharged Flat-6 engine. By early 1999, the Flat-6 would be abandoned due to difficulties in using the aged design. Porsche would instead turn to the use of a naturally aspirated V10 engine that had originally been built in 1992. At that time, Porsche was providing engines for the Footwork Arrows Formula One team. They had initially used the 3512 3.5 litre V12 engines without much success, and Porsche had developed a new 3.5 litre V10 for 1992. However, Footwork decided to end their partnership with Porsche before the end of the 1991 season, so the new V10 was shelved. Requiring an advanced naturally aspirated engine, Porsche decided to develop these V10s for the prototype. The engines were expanded to 5.5 litres and had their pneumatic valve systems removed in order to increase longevity and endurance.
The first chassis began construction in the summer of 1999, with Lola Cars International building the carbon fiber tub. The new V10 would require slight modifications to the design work, including a large rear hump to accommodate the engine and its airbox integrated into a new single rollbar behind the cockpit (a design element Audi was also developing for their Audi R8 at the time). Suspension and transmission elements were borrowed and upgraded from the LMP1-98.
On November 21, 1999 just before the first chassis was completed, Porsche officially announced that the project was to be canceled. Porsche's official reasoning was that engineering staff on the LMP project would be needed for the new Cayenne SUV project which was more economically important to the company. Porsche was also content to continue development of the 911 GT3-R which had become the dominant car in the lower GT classes. It is also believed that Ferdinand Piëch, chairman of the Volkswagen Group, wanted the new Audi R8 to compete uncontested at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Piëch supposedly offered aid in development of the Cayenne SUV in return.
Although the project was canceled, Porsche allowed for the prototype to be completed and conduct a two day test at the Weissach test track. Allan McNish and Bob Wollek both tested the car. Following the test, the car would be placed in storage and has not been seen since.
Following the cancellation of the project, Porsche decided that they needed to show that they were still a competitive sports car company, and allowed for the construction of a concept car that would be competitive with the top supercars of the world. Although the car was being designed from scratch, elements of the LMP were borrowed for usage on the concept. Most notably, the 5.5 litre V10 and its racing transmission were used in the car, although power was restricted down to a more modest 558 horsepower. The car, known as the Porsche Carrera GT, debuted at the 2000 Geneva Auto Show.
This concept would later become a production car with the same name, varying little from the initial concept. The racing engine was further refined with the addition of VarioCam and an expansion to 5.7 litres, bumping power to 612 horsepower. The sequential racing transmission was abandoned for a more traditional six-speed. The production Carrera GT would be sold from 2004 to 2006.
Porsche would not return to prototype racing until 2005 with the debut of the RS Spyder, although the car competed in the smaller LMP2 class it still managed to take overall race victories over the LMP1 class in the American Le Mans Series, including the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2008.
- Mulsannes Corner - 1999-2000 Porsche LMP1 (with pictures)
- Bentley Publishers - Porsche: Excellence was Expected (Chapter 61, Volume 3)