Proton’s history with Porsche dates back to the very launch of the team in 1996 by Gerold Ried and it has remained a loyal partner of the German marque since then. This year, it expanding on the partnership by fielding one example each of the 963 LMDh in WEC and the IMSA SportsCar Championship on top of its regular GTE Am programme with the 911 RSR.
However, while Proton will continue to be a Porsche customer in top classes of both WEC and IMSA for the foreseeable future, it will run a separate programme with Ford in the new LMGT3 division that will come on steam next year to replace the existing GTE Am division.
As part of the tie-up, Proton will become the American manufacturer’s official partner team in LMGT3 and will run a pair of Ford Mustang GT3s in the class, pending approval from the WEC Selection Committee.
Porsche will instead be represented by Manthey Racing, which was its factory partner in GTE Pro until the category that was shelved at the end of the 2022 season.
Speaking to Motorsport.com, team boss Christian Ried revealed that Proton did hold talks with Porsche about running the 911 GT3 R in WEC next year, but the limit on number of cars per manufacturer prompted it to look elsewhere.
As per the rules, each manufacturer is limited to a maximum of two entries in the LMGT3 class next year and has to decide which team or teams that will represent it in the category.
“When you’re in the paddock you speak to everybody. I like to speak with different people and it’s always good to see different things,” said Ried.
“At the end when you saw what’s going on in WEC with limited cars per manufacturer in WEC, you need some options.
“And I think the concept, what Ford is leading for and what they want to do, I think it really suits the team, and I’m sure we can do really well together.
He added: “We also spoke with Porsche, we have a long history with Porsche. We are still running the LMDh from Porsche. Also GT3 was an option.”
Photo by: Paolo Belletti
#77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR – 19: Christian Ried, Mikkel Pedersen, Julien Andlauer
Ford is set to return to the WEC for the first time since its GT programme came to conclusion after the 2018/19 season, marking the end of a four-year hiatus.
Asked what it’s like to bring the American manufacturer back to world championship-level sportscar racing, Ried said: “It’s always great to see different manufacturers, it’s what makes the championship so interesting.
“Also we have the great history of Ford, especially in Le Mans.
“It’s a good programme, I’m really excited. We already started testing and the car looks good. So I’m really optimistic and I’m sure we can do some good results.”
Ford is deep into the development of the Mustang GT3 that is based on the seventh-generation, road-going muscle car, having first shaken down the vehicle back in February.
Ried revealed that Ford has lined up a major testing programme for the Mustang ahead of its competition debut in 2024, including several 24-hour runs.
“We have a big, big testing programme, so we do different tyre testing,” he said.
“Still the car is not homologated, so we have some options we are doing.
“At the end there is for sure to do a proper testing programme to be in the best possible condition for WEC as well as for Le Mans. This also includes 24 hour tests.”
Ford will also be providing technical and engineering support to Proton to help run the Mustang next year, having chosen it as its sole partner for WEC.
“It’s more or less the same what every manufacturer is doing, supporting with engineering knowledge, engineering people, drivetrain, cars, set-up,” Ried said.
“We’ve had really good tests with them, they have really good people, we learned a lot. I’m sure it will be the same for next year.”
An announcement regarding the line-up is yet to be made, with Ried refusing to comment when asked if any Ford-contracted drivers could join the team next year.
Photo by: Ford Performance
Ford Mustang GT3