The World Endurance Championship is looking toward the United States for ideas to revitalize its Le Mans Prototype 1 class.
Automobile Club de l’Ouest sporting director Vincent Beaumesnil revealed the ACO and FIA might introduce manufacturer-specific bodywork to LMP1 cars starting in 2020, according to Motorsport.com. The idea is “one of the options” they’re considering in a bid to attract new manufacturers to the prototype category.
The future of the WEC’s top tier is extremely uncertain, as Porsche will exit the series after 2017, leaving Toyota as the sole entrant. What’s more, outside automakers are hesitant to join under the current regulations, as the prototypes’ hybrid powertrains are extremely costly to develop.
“At the moment an LMP1 is a kind of generic prototype and you have to paint it to put your mark on it,” Toyota Motorsport’s technical director, Pascal Vasselon, told Motorsport.com. “The idea could be to go towards bodywork that is clearly closer to real cars — it could interest manufacturers who at the moment who are not interested in a generic LMP.”
The FIA’s concept sounds like it would spawn LMP1 cars that are a cross between the FIA-sanctioned GTP cars from the 1990s and the Daytona Prototype internationals that compete in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Although Beaumesnil claims the next-generation prototypes, unlike GTP cars such as the Mercedes-AMG CLK GTR, won’t be homologated road cars. Instead, they will be purpose-built racers whose styling will be heavily influenced by each manufacturer’s respective road cars.
In that respect, they will have more in common with a DPi car. But unlike in IMSA — where manufacturers must use standardized chassis, but can modify the front and rear end body panels — automakers will be given relatively free reign to design a car that doesn’t exceed an aerodynamic performance level that will be determined by the WEC.
The FIA and ACO are still hashing out the new technical regulations, but based on what we know so far, the rules could give the WEC an influx of manufacturers similar to what we’ve seen in IMSA, with the likes of Cadillac and Acura having entered the DPi class. They also could attract well-known race teams such as McLaren, whose executive director, Zak Brown, said the Woking, England-based company was interested in the WEC, provided it can “replicate the same spirit and cost effectiveness” of the DPi model.
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