Aston Martin Racing’s John Gaw believes the FIA World Endurance Championship shouldn’t “lose sight” of the opportunity that GTE has, amid radical changes to the globe-trotting series for next year.
The WEC will shift to a winter schedule, beginning with the 2018-19 “Super Season” which sees eight races over an 18-month period, while consolidating the LMP1 class into a single category and planning for a new set of technical regulations for 2020.
While LMP1 has taken a big hit with the withdrawals of both Audi and Porsche, Gaw, the Managing Director for Motorsport at Prodrive, said it’s crucial to find a way to put the production-based cars more in the spotlight.
“There’s five manufacturers racing in GTE,” he told Sportscar365. “It’s obviously going quite well because there’s more manufacturers coming. There’s more manufacturers interested. So there’s nothing broken about GTE, I don’t think.
“I think it’s important as the LMP1 issue gets sorted, we don’t lose sight of the opportunity that GT has, and we find a way to maximize the exposure of that to continue to attract new manufacturers.”
One of the proposals on the table was the introduction of qualifying races for next year, which, despite an agreement in principle having been made between manufacturers, has been shelved for next season in the wake of the revised calendar.
Gaw feels there could be other options to explore to help raise GTE’s profile.
“The qualifying race was one way to do that; whether the qualifying race itself was a perfect or great idea, I’m sure there’s other ideas or ways of doing that,” he said.
“The U.S. do GT-only races. I’m not saying that would work for WEC but there’s other ways of doing it.
“I’m in support of anything that improves the show for the manufacturers. Manufacturers go racing to sell cars and that’s how the race teams get budgets.
“Anything that helps that is a good thing.”
While in general support of the shift to a winter season, Gaw feels it won’t lead to as drastic of a cost reduction for some teams as initially projected.
WEC CEO Gerard Neveu said he expects the eight-round “Super Season” to be at the same costs to competitors this year, while projected to be 20 percent less the following year.
“Cutting costs is an interesting subject,” Gaw said. “The main costs are not the actual, physical racing costs. The main costs are development, overheads, people, equipment. The number of races really don’t affect that.
“For teams like Ford or ourselves and some of the LMP2 teams that are based at Silverstone, dropping the Silverstone race doesn’t really affect the budget for the year.
“But if it keeps the championship alive and progressing and going forward, I am. it does.
“LMP1 is part the World Endurance Championship. It’s part of the family and the way things work. It has to be kept and the Super Season will help it.
“I just think what we have to do at the same time is not just focus on saving LMP1. We have to focus on maximizing a brilliant GT [class].
“If there’s no show for them to activate behind and therefore sell cars, then the marketing budgets become tighter and you get less manufacturers. So you want to maximize it so the future is secure.”