Porsche has confirmed that Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas will be part of its LMP1 driver lineup at next year's Le Mans 24 Hours in the wake of speculation linking Red Bull Formula 1 driver Mark Webber to the German manufacturer.
The announcement is no surprise as Bernhard and Dumas, whose loan period at Porsche sister marque Audi came to an end last year, were always set to be part of its driver squad when it mounts its first bid for outright Le Mans honors since 1998.
Porsche had already stated that the duo, who won Le Mans with Audi in 2010, would lead test and development of Porsche's new gasoline-electric LMP1 hybrid, which is due to hit the track in the summer. Their confirmation appears to be a reaction to the rumors concerning Webber. It has been suggested that the Australian has been offered a five-year contract with Porsche, but this has been denied by the marque, which insisted that there had been no approach to Webber. For his part, Webber has yet to comment on the rumors.
A spokesman said at last weekend's Silverstone World Endurance Championship opener: "We have a very good base with our 10 factory drivers and a decision on whether we will have additional drivers will be made later in the year.
"Choosing drivers are not our top priority, because we are lucky that we have 10 very experienced and fast factory drivers."
Fritz Enzinger, director of the LMP1 project at Porsche, paid tribute to Bernhard and Dumas's abilities as test drivers.
"For this reason, the pair is already closely integrated in the development program of our new car and will embark on an intensive test schedule from the middle of this year," he said.
Porsche will be bolstering its lineup next year: few of its 10 factory drivers will make the transition from its GT programs to the LMP1 project. Drivers like Jorg Bergmeister and Marc Lieb have as good as ruled themselves out from racing the LMP1.
Porsche is known to be talking to a number of drivers about joining its prototype squad, including privateer stand-out Neel Jani.