Dan Gurney drives his Porsche 804 to take the win at Rouen, 1962
News that Porsche and Audi are considering their futures in Formula 1 with the upcoming discussions on engine regulations in 2013 is good news for the sport’s success in America. Porsche’s chairman, Matthias Mueller, has been quoted recently at the Paris Auto Show saying that “we have to discuss whether it makes better sense for one of the [two] brands to go into LMP1, and the other brand into Formula 1. So we will have a round-table to discuss the pros and cons.”
America and the upcoming Formula 1 race in Austin would certainly be a factor in Porsche’s decision, as Porsche’s 2nd largest core market is the Americas with 31% of all Porsche sales taking place here last year. 29% of sales last year were in North America alone.
Currently, Porsche is part of the F1 circus across the world with the Mobil 1 Supercup series – a support series to Grand Prix races since 1993. 2010 will see 10 Supercup support races across the world, with drivers competing on the same tracks Formula 1 fans enjoy on Sundays. The GT3 Cup cars running at each of these races features customers behind the wheel – something which ties to the very ethos of the company.
Porsche as a brand has always maintained that their presence in world class competitive racing contributes directly to what you buy at the dealership. Porsche prides itself on their ability to provide a part number for anything you may need for the street – or the track. From weekend racers to GT3 Cup cars – they’ve got a dealer part number you can give at their parts desk. The idea here is clear – what’s relevant on the track is relevant on the street.
Lately, Porsche’s profile at LeMans has been taking a back seat to Audi’s dominance in the LMP1 class, so a continuation of Audi’s momentum at La Sarthe would seem to lead Porsche in the direction of F1. But is F1 a fit for the brand? Recent engine regulation discussions with the FOTA Technical Working Group have been open to all manufacturers, and Porsche’s presence there with talk of a 1.6 liter turbo on the grid in 2013 could mesh well with the company’s future plans for the development of their upcoming product lines.
F1 has been said to be a space race and is usually a marquee event in each country it visits. At different times, some manufacturers have leveraged F1’s global reach and exclusivity to create a ‘halo effect’ around their brand, while at different times other brands have justified their participation through tangible results and innovation in a series which creates relevant road car development.
Balancing the value and availability of each to Porsche are some of the many elements to consider when getting things just right if they enter F1. If the tide’s right, and a new American audience is in place with a home GP, Porsche could find the better value getting back into the sport. They certainly have a lot of rich racing history in America, and F1 could just be a platform of choice for the brand.