/ WORLD ENDURANCE CHAMPIONSHIP / RETURN TO GREATNESS?
it’s a major player and has built cars, as
well as sold them, since the 1980s?
There’s no official answer to that
question because the Japanese
manufacturer refuses to talk about its
plans except to say that it’s continuing to
evaluate hybrid technology for racing.
But if Toyota returns to Le Mans to
promote a message, why wouldn’t it
want to sing the same song in a
marketplace where it sells more hybrids
than any other manufacturer?
The competition for cars will be even
more keenly felt in terms of privateers.
When the ILMC was first proposed at
Le Mans in 2009, the focus was very
much on manufacturer LMP1 teams. The
original idea was effectively to parachute
the manufacturers chasing outright
glory at Le Mans onto the existing LMS
and ALMS grids, something Audi was
already doing at Sebring and Petit
Le Mans and at Spa-Francorchamps.
That has changed significantly, so
much so that the ILMC entry list for this
year stands at 26 cars spread across four
classes. There are manufacturers’ titles
on offer in LMP1 and GTE and teams’
titles in all four divisions. Next year,
there will be overall drivers’ and
manufacturers’ world champions
Top quality privateers will comprise the majority of a 35-car WEC grid, but car manufacturers such as Toyota (BELOW) will surely also be tempted.
“The ACO is talking
about having 35 cars
traveling around the
world to contest the
under his feet by the creation of the ILMC and now the WEC. So
crowned from the LMP1 division, while manufacturers in the
GTE Pro class will compete for a World Cup and teams in LMP2
and GTE Am compete for FIA Trophies.
The ACO is talking about having 35 cars traveling around
the world next year to contest the seven-race WEC. The
likelihood is that those extra 10 or so cars are already competing
somewhere, probably in either the LMS or the ALMS.
The LMS, which is jointly promoted by the ACO but run on
the ground by the Paris-based Le Mans Endurance Organization,
will be plowing its own furrow next year. One gets the impression
that series boss Patrick Peter believes the rug was pulled from
the LMS will race separately from the
WEC next season and it was decided at
Peter’s suggestion that the LMP1 division
will be dropped. No great loss: it’s been a
shadow of its former self on weekends
when the ILMC cars aren’t present.
U.S. MAY LOSE TO SOUTH AMERICA
Petit Le Mans may not be part of the WEC’s long-term plans
The bad news for sports car fans in the
U.S. is that one or other of the most
prestigious American Le Mans Series
events may not find a place on the World
Endurance Championship schedule. Both the
Sebring 12 Hours and Petit Le Mans at Road
Atlanta are on this year’s Intercontinental Le
Mans Cup schedule, but the likelihood is that
one will eventually disappear from the series.
The inaugural WEC will, like this year’s ILMC,
be made up of seven races with the Le Mans
24 Hours at its heart. Two of the remaining six
events will be in Europe, two in Asia and two in
the Americas…and the Automobile Club de
l’Ouest was at pains to stress that that did not
mean North America.
The ACO and the FIA want a truly global
series to attract the big manufacturers and that
means going to South America, a market in
which Peugeot is particularly keen to compete.
The big question is whether that can happen
next season, and ALMS boss Scott Atherton
Asian race alongside the existing Chinese ILMC
fixture (ABOVE). The ACO has been trying to
expand into Japan since the middle of the last
decade – witness its unsuccessful attempts to
launch the Japanese Le Mans Challenge and
then an Asian Le Mans Series. It knows that an
event in the home of racing in the Far East will
go hand in hand with persuading one or more of
the Japanese manufacturers to mount an LMP1
attack on the 24 Hours.