Porsche last night completed the driver line-up with its return to front-line sportscar racing next year with the signing of Palmerston North's Brendon Hartley and German Marc Lieb.
Merecedes simulator driver Hartley and long-time Porsche GT racer Lieb were confirmed after successfully coming through testing in the German manufacturer's 2014 World Endurance Championship LMP1 contender, which will be known as the 919 hybrid.
Hartley, who has impressed in his first two years of prototype racing with the Murphy Prototypes LMP2 team in Europe, said he was incredibly proud that Porsche has chosen him.
"I was deeply impressed by my first outings at Le Mans, but to compete there in LMP1 for an iconic company like Porsche is another dimension completely," he said.
"Thank you to everybody in my life who helped make this dream a reality."
Lieb and Hartley join Porsche regulars and former Le Mans 24 Hours winners (with Audi) Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas, former Fomula 1 driver Mark Webber and Swiss Neel Jani.
Hartley tested the petrol-electric hybrid Porsche for the first time at Monza last month.
The former Red Bull junior racer drove over the course of a three-day test at Monza,
Lieb said: "This is something special for me. I was brought up in Stuttgart, my father had been a Porsche apprentice, so as a kid I dreamed of winning the Le Mans 24 Hours with Porsche and not about Formula 1.
"When Porsche announced that it was coming back with an LMP1, I thought this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to try to win Le Mans outright."
Lieb, 33, said that he immediately felt at home when he drove the LMP1 for the first time at Paul Ricard, despite a lack of experience in downforce cars.
"It reacts differently to a GT car, but it is so much fun because it has so much more grip and power" he explained, while saying that he still had a lot to learn.
Porsche is returning to top-level endurance racing in 2014 after a 16-year hiatus and will contest the eight-round world championship.
Le Mans will be the ultimate target next year, but Porsche will run a large team for races in Europe and America.
- © Fairfax NZ News