Porsche race car engineer joins Apple: source

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Apple poached the technical director of Porsche’s race car program earlier this year, a company source said on Friday, hiring a project manager who helped engineer the sports car company’s victorious return to the Le Mans endurance race.

The Apple Inc. logo is shown outside the company's 2016 Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S. June 13, 2016. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Alexander Hitzinger is the latest auto specialist to be recruited by technology giant Apple as it explores building its own car.

Earlier this month, Apple urged regulators not to impose too many restrictions on developers of self-driving cars.

Hitzinger could not be reached for comment. The move was first reported by Germany’s Manager Magazin.

Officially, Porsche only confirmed Hitzinger had left the luxury carmaker in the spring. Apple was not immediately available for comment.

Hitzinger helped Porsche, owned by Volkswagen VOWG_p.DE, return to endurance racing and to develop the 919 hybrid sports car from scratch, much in the same way Apple is now looking into building its own vehicle.

Porsche’s new race car won Le Mans and the endurance racing world championship in both 2015 and 2016 using largely unproven technology, which beat far more established rivals.

Hitzinger helped hire and build a development team and organizational structure at Porsche, expanding from ten staff to over 150 employees.

Hitzinger’s LinkedIn profile states he left Porsche in March and joined a “Technology Company” located in the San Francisco Bay Area as an engineering executive in April.

Hitzinger is quoted by Manager Magazin as saying he wanted to do something “which has a significant and direct impact on society”, but did not confirm he now worked at Apple.

Reporting by Edward Taylor and Ilona Wissenbach; Editing by Tina Bellon and Mark Potter