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Di Grassi, Buemi: WEC “Has to Adapt” LMP1 Regulations

Buemi, di Grassi say LMP1 regs must be adapted for future success…

Photo: Nick Dungan/Toyota

Toyota’s Sebastien Buemi and ex-Audi sports car driver Lucas di Grassi believe it’s time for LMP1 to move away from hybrid technology and adapt its regulations in order to be more attractive to manufacturers.

Porsche confirmed last Friday it would be ending its LMP1 program at the end of the year, leaving Toyota as the sole manufacturer racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s premier class for 2018.

The German marque will depart the series in order to prepare for a factory entry to Formula E for 2019, following in the footsteps of Audi, which made the same move at the end of last year.

The news has cast serious doubt on the future of the class despite new regulations being announced at Le Mans for 2020 pointing towards cost cutting and greater electric technology in the hope of attracting new manufacturers.

For di Grassi though, Formula E has already become the go-to place for manufacturers looking to tick those boxes, having been part of Audi’s efforts in both series in recent years.

“The automotive industry has to change, at least part of it, from combustion to electric. So why not create a series that promotes the technology of electric racing and electric technology overall?” di Grassi said.

“Of course the manufacturers take some time to understand the project and the series. The partners are strong, the media attention is there. They see the future being very clear: they have to switch to electric at a certain point. That’s why Formula E is so successful.

“For me, the WEC has a bright future, and especially Le Mans, but they have to adapt. Le Mans in my opinion would be the ultimate challenge for an electric car, to win a long-distance 24 hours over electric power.

“But they can continue with many different ways and they have to adapt, they have to lower the costs, they have to lower the complexity.

“For sure there will be room for GT racing, for LMP racing if the regulations are in the right way. I’m very glad that manufacturers are joining Formula E, but I think in the market there are enough manufacturers and racing opportunities for everyone.”

Buemi echoed di Grassi’s thoughts, noting how Formula E not only offered more future road relevance but also came at a much-reduced cost.

“In the WEC it’s very complex. You have to build your car from scratch, it’s going to cost a huge amount of money, and then the manufacturer always looks at the outcome of that,” Buemi said.

“I think the success of Formula E is also down to the regulations. You can enter it, you can have good exposure for not so much money now. It is the future because we promote electric powertrains and developments here to enter Formula E.

“In WEC, you need a huge team. In our [Formula E] team we have 30 people altogether. In WEC, you have no team in LMP1 with less than 300. It’s impossible. It also scares people to go into the championship.”

Buemi agreed that the regulations for LMP1 should be reviewed, suggesting that ditching hybrid systems may be a good resolution.

“Like Lucas said, they need to adapt the regulations,” Buemi said. “I think five years ago, everyone was thinking we need to be in hybrid cars. What they did was amazing.

“The regulations were really within its time, but now it’s… not outdated, but they need to think of something else to give it a new boost.”

Luke Smith is a British motorsport journalist who has served as NBC Sports’ lead Formula 1 writer since 2013, as well as working on its online sports car coverage.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. JT

    August 1, 2017 at 7:27 am

    I think the 1000hp performance window is a huge mountain to climb for R&D. Yes, the speeds are impressive, but I’d rather see LMP2 performance levels with electric tech with more open regulations. Allow all electric drivetrains, fuel cell tech, hybrids, whatever.

    • iracecars

      August 1, 2017 at 9:13 am

      They should probably just make an electric class.. You can keep your GTE/LMP2 an lmp1 L and then a basically R&D class that is electric only. Separate it from everything else and allow manufactures that want to push the endurance envelope of electric automobiles a place to do so.

      You can cheapen it up some by giving them a spec chassis like Forumla E does for the time being.

      I would find that palatable personally.

  2. Stan Hall

    August 1, 2017 at 8:29 am

    Adopting what is basically F1 powertrain regulations with even more technical freedom is a recipe for disaster. How many OEM’s can justify the expenditure and how many privateer teams can afford it?
    The VW Group could until they screwed up with diesel-gate, resulting in both Audi and Porsche withdrawing and we have 1 privateer team this year.
    All-electric or fuel cell cars racing at Le Mans is a great idea but it is years away in terms of technology.

    Keep it simple, dumb it down a bit technically and you will still have great racing at a fraction of the cost. Ban diesels, have a maximum engine size, max boost for turbos, minimum car weight and off you go.

  3. Gabriel Medina, The Other

    August 1, 2017 at 8:38 am

    Get back to regular powertrains for P1s and add only one OEM hybrid system, put something like DPis to be the middle of the grid and leave all the high complex car for Garage 56 regulations, but made it race all year long.

    • kv

      August 1, 2017 at 12:56 pm

      GREAT idea GABE !

  4. N8

    August 1, 2017 at 9:00 am

    Spoken like a pair of true manufacturer representatives.

    Look, motorsport doesn’t exist to absorb x% of OEM marketing budgets. Not everything has to be an R&D experiment, particularly racing that’s geared to the fans. You know, the people who make the whole endeavor viable for all involved. We’re all still here.

  5. fourloko

    August 1, 2017 at 9:43 am

    is driving for 1km on all electric power out of the pits safe with the other classes of cars being faster?

  6. Anonymous

    August 1, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    I think they need to simplify the cars period!
    AND
    Get rid of the Hybrid drivetrains and concern them to the dustbin of history.

  7. EMG

    August 1, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    Kill electric tech and bring back Group C which was about saving fuel.

    • Kurt M

      August 1, 2017 at 11:36 pm

      Yep, I agree.

      • The Brad

        August 2, 2017 at 11:56 am

        Agreed. I don’t need no stinkin Hybrid

    • Joel

      August 3, 2017 at 9:42 am

      Sounds great if you don’t want manufacturer involvement

      • Me

        August 6, 2017 at 1:09 am

        They will come if it is popular. Toyota still races NASCAR because millions watch it every weekend.

  8. Brakes

    August 2, 2017 at 5:52 am

    The first hydrogen prototype will race soon in Assen.
    This engine is build in a lmp3 chassis.
    Aco should create a zero emission class with open rules.
    This is the future and we should accept it(sadly conventional engines are something from the past and i don’t like it but it’s true).

  9. dkm455

    August 3, 2017 at 10:47 am

    LMP1-H is dead. We might see Toyota run next year at LeMans so they can finally claim a LM24 title – hollow though it will be. And it looks like the proposed 2020 regs have been met with thundering silence by the OEMs.

    LMP1 privateer has how many confirmed entries? One or two? Electric only and fuel cell technology capable of running endurance races is certainly not technically feasible currently – and probably will not be for quite a few years.

    Simplified hybrids may be possible, but none currently exist and will take development time.

    It’s looking more and more like the top class at LM for the next few seasons will be the spec LMP2 cars.

    Unless of course the ACO wises up and invites the only prototypes in the world that are drawing manufacturer interest.

    • Brakes

      August 4, 2017 at 2:45 am

      I agree with your post.
      Hybrids are dead and electrical and fuel cell technology is not ready yet for lm24.
      On short term dpi’s are the best option but aco should think about the future and the best way is by creating a new lmp class for zero emission drivetrains and they should do it now.
      They will not be the fastest cars and won’t win races but they will be in the future.
      Dpi could run from 2018 till 2025 as it is at this moment but will manufacturers enter wec with dpi cars,lm24 yes because it is the biggest race but i don’t think they will for the other events.
      Dpi is working in the states but will not in europe and ACO knows this,that’s why ACO didn’t want them,it won’t work.
      Big engine prototype’s,you can sell cars in the States.
      But in Europe,you sell cars if you have a green image and Dpi’s don’t have it.

      • Brakes

        August 4, 2017 at 2:56 am

        Maybe the best solution would be if wec got cancelled for the next few years.Go back to Elms.
        Le Mans should then be a non championship race(it will survive this easy).
        Allow Dpi’s and Super Gt to race in Le Mans for the next 5 years.
        Create a working group with experts and fans for the future of sportscar racing and build the best rules around those zero emission wave that’s killing racing at this moment.

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