Porsche at Le Mans
After back-to-back wins at Le Mans, Porsche is quitting to move to Formula EReuters

Porsche has become the latest manufacturer to quit internal combustion motorsport in favour of the all-electric Formula E race series.

The German company is to withdraw from the LMP1 class of the World Endurance Championship (WEC) at the end of the 2017 season. The championship, which Porsche won in 2015 and 2016, includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans, won outright by Porsche for the past three years with its 919 Hybrid car.

From 2019, Porsche will instead compete in Formula E, where it will race against a growing number of car manufacturers looking to take what they learn on the race track and use it to develop electric road cars.

Mercedes recently announced that it too would join Formula E, while other manufacturers already involved include Audi, BMW, Renault, Jaguar and Citroen.

Spanning 2019 and 2020, season six will be the first to see Formula E drivers use a single car for the entire race. Currently, due to limitations in battery technology, drivers switch into a freshly-charged car half way through each race.

Mission E

Porsche will undoubtedly use what it learns through Formula E to expand on its electric road car development. The company is currently working on a vehicle codenamed the Mission E, which is a fully-electric, four-seat sports car set to go on sale in 2020.

Porsche's retirement from the top class of endurance racing follows a similar move by Audi, which no longer competes in the WEC after dominating the sport for a decade. Toyota is now the only manufacturer left in the LMP1 series, while Porsche will continue to compete in the road car-based GT classes at Le Mans.

Michael Steiner, a member of Porsche's research and development board, said: "Formula E is the ultimate competitive environment for driving forward the development of high-performance vehicles in areas such as environmental friendliness, efficiency and sustainability."

Alejandro Agag, chief executive of Formula E, said he was surprised by the decision: "If somebody told me when we started this project five years ago, that we'd be announcing a partnership with a brand like Porsche, I wouldn't have believed it."