The fight for top seats in new sports car golden era: Harry Tincknell positions for 2023

Sports Car News

Sports car drivers are jockeying for top-level seats next year when a glut of LMDh and Hypercars join the World Endurance Championship. Harry Tincknell explains his strategy to land a leading drive in 2023

Harry Tincknell waits in the pits at 2021 Le Mans 24 Hours

Harry Tincknell at Le Mans last year. He'll be back with Dempsey-Proton in 2022

Joao Filipe / DPPI

One step back to take two forward? It’s easy to dismiss a return to the GT ranks as lost momentum when top-class prototypes are where you want to be, but that’s not Harry Tincknell’s view as the British sports car ace prepares for the 1000 Miles of Sebring this Friday.

The decorated 30-year-old, who has banked big IMSA wins of late at the Sebring 12 Hours, Petit Le Mans and Watkins Glen 6 Hours, has changed tack this season for his first full-time World Endurance Championship campaign since 2018/19. That he’s racing in GTE Am – not even GTE Pro – matters not a jot to a driver who still appears well placed to land a factory berth in a top-tier prototype when the LMDh/GTP era begins in 2023.

Tincknell has joined Dempsey-Proton Racing, with whom he made a last-gasp appearance at Le Mans last year, to race a Porsche 911 RSR in the WEC’s fourth tier. He shares with fellow Multimatic affiliate Seb Priaulx, son of his old Ford GT mucker Andy, and respected bronze-graded amateur Christian Ried. The car topped the class times this week in the Sebring Prologue and Tincknell looks well set to bid for his first FIA world title.

A means to an end is probably a more accurate (and slightly more polite) way of describing his deal. “It feels great to be back in WEC,” says Harry, who was left looking for fresh challenges when Mazda pulled the plug on its Multimatic-run IMSA DPi campaign at the end of last season. “I’ve really enjoyed IMSA, but fighting for a world championship is very special. It’s also a great story renewing the Tincknell/Priaulx partnership, even if the Priaulx has gone from senior to junior! It’s a very established team with a very good bronze in Christian Ried, who has been around a long time. I had a little taste with them at Le Mans last year, a very last minute deal where I literally turned up on the test day for my first time in the car. I wasn’t sure what it would lead to, but it’s funny in motor sport. If you come in, work hard and show your passion these one-off opportunities can grow into a bigger programme.”

Harry Tincknell stands behind Mazda DPi car

Tincknell had to look elsewhere when Mazda closed its DPi programme


The team that’s co-owned by Hollywood star Patrick Dempsey – “He’s got great eyes!” quips Harry – is well respected and a highly valued customer to Porsche. Tincknell’s status within the Canadian Multimatic organisation, which is the chosen chassis supplier of Porsche’s new LMDh contender, also stands him in good stead with the Weissach marque. Just to rub it in, Harry even has Allan McNish, a winner with Porsche at Le Mans in 1998, in his corner.  In that context, and putting two and two together, the Dempsey-Proton drive really begins to make sense.

But still it’s surprising Tincknell hasn’t lined up an LMP2 drive for this year as he keeps himself in the shop window for browsing manufacturers.

“I’ll probably be in a P2 at some point,” he reveals. “Obviously I raced in a P2 at Daytona in January” – for PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports – “so there may be some stuff coming up on that later in the year. It’s great to keep my hand in with high-downforce stuff, and there will be LMDh testing later on in the year as well, most likely.” He clarifies that will be for Multimatic rather than specifically for Porsche, which has been the first to run an LMDh/GTP contender in tests this winter.

Harry Tincknell Porsche 911 at 2021 Le Mans 24

Tincknell was a late addition to the Dempsey-Proton squad for Le Mans last year

Joao Filipe / DPPI

“It’s no secret, Multimatic’s involvement with Porsche and Audi and other VAG brands that are coming soon as well,” he says, referring (we assume) to the expected entry of Lamborghini. “I’m obviously heavily linked and involved with Multimatic, and clearly LMDh is the destination I want to end up in. I’ve won three of the four major races in America, I’ve been on the podium at Daytona and I’ve had two class victories at Le Mans – and my ultimate goal is to win Le Mans overall. I feel I have proven credentials, but at the same time I’m very pragmatic. One programme doesn’t necessarily flow into the next. But Multimatic does have a lot of stuff going on in the LMDh arena. Proton are an ambitious team involved with Porsche for a long time and have links with Mutimatic in the past as well, so it’s a really nice fit for this year.”

He points to the example of Felipe Nasr and Dane Cameron, both of whom have been confirmed on the Penske-run Porsche team, but have stepped down from racing in a top class this season. “They’ve been in DPi for years but not this season. When I was watching the DPis at Daytona while I was in the P2 I did feel a little bit sad not to be up there, but you’ve got to think long-term in this game. Driving a Porsche 911 RSR in a world championship is still a pretty stellar programme.”

As Tincknell is only too aware, sports car racing is awash with talented drivers pitching for the big seats, some with Formula 1 experience, others turning away from the likes of Formula E to focus on a chance to win the big races: Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring.

From the archive

“At Daytona I did think I don’t mind a year out [of the top class] but next year I want to be in there pitching and swinging!” he says. “The path to success isn’t a straight line the whole way and I’m enjoying this slight deviation to do something completely different. Look at Felipe at Daytona: he went from being the outright DPi winner to suddenly pitching into a Porsche GT with drivers who have been driving those cars for years. He did a great job and ended up winning the class. That’s the example I need for myself.”

It’s a long time now since Tincknell stepped out of a Formula 3 car to win the LMP2 category at Le Mans at the first time of asking in 2014. Through the ill-conceived Nissan GT-R campaign, but more emphatically the Ford GT and Mazda DPi years he’s built up a wealth of endurance racing experience. He’s also had his fair share of Balance of Performance breaks and blows, and knows what is coming next year with LMDh versus the Hypercars.

“You’ve got cars that are going to produce lap time in quite a different way,” he points out. “It’ll be more important to have a drivable, tuneable car than necessarily have peak downforce numbers. That’s just my opinion. From everything I’ve heard Porsche’s LMDh tests have gone really well, reliability has been strong and it’s all been very positive.”

But will it really be possible to balance two-wheeled drive LMDh/GTPs and those LMH entries running four-wheel-drive hybrid powertrains? “For me, it will balance OK lap-time wise, I just wonder how it will balance in the way the lap time is produced. It’s very difficult to BoP a four-wheel drive car that’s quite heavy versus more of a spec LMDh car. So I do think that will be a challenge, honestly. It’s always in the press every year at Le Mans, the BoP with GT cars. Some years you benefit, some years you don’t. I’m sure there will be plenty of that. It was quite tough with multiple manufacturers in the GT class a few years ago, so when you have potentially up to 10 with two very different philosophies of car it won’t be easy. I wouldn’t want to be the person making the decisions, that’s for sure.”

Harry Tincknell Simon Dolan and Oliver Turvey celebrate 2014 LMP2 win at Le Mans

Dolan. Tincknell and Turvey were LMP2 Le Mans winners in 2014

Jean-Michel Le Meur / DPPI

If Tincknell’s backside doesn’t slide in a factory seat there is always the possibility of a customer LMDh drive, which has been part of the Group C-throwback attraction of the new budget-friendly class from the moment it was announced. “That’s all happening,” he says. “I hear rumours here and there which team is aligning with that manufacturer. I’m sure you’ll see the top well-funded LMP2 teams running LMDh cars. Look at the way [leading junior single-seater team] Prema have come into LMP2 this year [in the WEC]. Surely that will be a long-term thing for LMDh. Then there’s WRT and Audi. But LMP2 will continue. I’ve heard stuff about ‘LMDh will kill off LMP2’, but I think the budget will be too high for some teams to reach. And it’s not really a Pro-Am thing either. So LMP2 will be here to stay too, which is a good thing because it’s been very successful.”

Beyond the six WEC dates and whatever deal he secures for some more LMP2 appearances, Tincknell also reveals there’s a possibility of a maiden historic racing event or two “in a very well-known car with a manufacturer I’m very closely linked with, from back in the 1990s”. Could that be in partnership with Mr McNish? “That would need a big seat insert!” he chuckles, referencing the discrepancy in height between master and apprentice…

Harry Tincknell celebrates podium place at 2017 Le Mans 24 Hours

Tincknell was on the Le Mans podium with Ford in 2017


“This is my mindset,” he concludes. “I’ve got six races in the WEC, I want to be as prepared as possible and do a great job with Seb and Christian. When all these programmes were first announced they were two years away and I’ve never known a time where there has been so much excitement about something that was still so far out. But now we’re in March 2022, testing is beginning and it’s real. You can see where everyone is aligning themselves for the future and it is very exciting. There’s a golden period of sports cars coming, and in the same way at Le Mans in 2017 and 2018 when we had 18 or 19 GTE Pro cars from half a dozen manufacturers, it’ll be like that. But there’s no doubt that when it’s for the overall victory it just creates an incredible buzz. Look at Daytona this year: the fight between the two Porsches was unbelievable but because it was the GT class the TV still cut back to the overall battle even though it was pretty much tied up.

“When it’s like that with all those cars for outright victory it’s going to be incredible. Le Mans has such incredible support from the fans. It will be insane.”