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GTE-Am Future Uncertain Amid Pro Class Growth

Neveu admits GTE-Am could eventually be eliminated…

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

The future of the GTE-Am class in the FIA World Endurance Championship will hinge on the success of GTE-Pro, according to series boss Gerard Neveu, who revealed the category would eventually be dropped if the Pro class continues to grow.

Neveu said space limitations, with roughly half of the full-season grid reserved for GTE cars, would come into play should the Pro class gain additional manufacturers in the coming years.

The GTE-Pro class currently features eight entries, following the return of Porsche, and is expected to expand to at least ten cars next year with the addition of BMW, and potentially a rumored factory backed Corvette program.

New manufacturers, including Lamborghini and McLaren, are understood to be evaluating joining the GTE-Pro grid by as early as 2019, which Neveu admitted could tip it over the edge.

“So far we have the space on the grid, so there’s no reason [for change],” Neveu told Sportscar365. “But if one day we have 15 or 16 GTE-Pro, I don’t see a way you can keep GTE-Am, honestly.”

The growth of the GTE-Pro class coincides with its promotion to World Championship status this year, along with a planned format change, believed to be a sprint-style qualifying race added to six-hour race weekends in 2018.

GTE-Am, meanwhile, has continued to dwindle in car count, with five full-season entries this year, down from seven in 2015 and six last year.

Neveu, however, stressed no changes are on the immediate horizon. 

“One more [GTE-Pro manufacturer] will not change the story but if you have two or three more [manufacturers], you start to ask the question,” he said.

“The day it starts to be around 15, it will be time to ask the question. We know the average number of the championship is between 30-32 [cars]  and we have to keep a balance.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

46 Comments

46 Comments

  1. Dan

    April 18, 2017 at 10:34 am

    Best be careful, factory efforts come and go. Getting unhealthy dependent on factory teams and money doesn’t tend to end well. Striking a balance between factory and privateer is key. Also please stop with the factory corvette in WEC rumors they are beyond old at this point we all know how GM is.

    • DeHawkwood

      April 18, 2017 at 11:30 am

      I get what you’re saying, and I agree, but if that happens it’s much easier to bring the AMs back though and revive the AM class.

      • Dan

        April 18, 2017 at 6:08 pm

        Not really, If tell people “No your money isn’t enough we prefer factory money” it’s going to alienate drivers and potentially team owners. If a factory team wants in they pay to get but if you run the paying AMs off they’ll be much harder to bring back. This according to a rather prominent AM hint Canadian with an Aston.

    • Spyderman

      April 18, 2017 at 12:17 pm

      AM cars come and go too. It is a myth that private entries stay longer than factory entries.

      • Dan

        April 18, 2017 at 6:03 pm

        AF Corse and proton and Risi beg to differ, they’ve been running cars longer than factory teams bar corvette. Christian read intends to buy at least 4 new Porsches for WEc/ELMS runs. Imagine if they decide to end the class one of the series longest entrants won’t be there.

    • GR88

      April 18, 2017 at 12:31 pm

      Larbre were very close to a Pro Corvette program. So close they didn’t have an Am program lined up. String rumours they run Pro cars in ’18.

      Also, Pro isn’t just for factories. Proton, Larbre and others have all run all Pro entries. You can even be competitive with a Pro-Am lineup.

      • Larry

        April 18, 2017 at 2:22 pm

        Labre were NOT very close to a PRO class ‘vette. They were begging GM, but it was never gonna happen and this rumored “factory backed” PRO is a pipe dream.

        • GR88

          April 18, 2017 at 8:00 pm

          It’s great how confident you are in your statement.

          As a (presumably) Corvette fan, you should be welcoming a WEC expansion. It won’t be at the expense of the IMSA program, and will only help the brand at Le Mans and beyond.

        • CookieMonsterFL

          April 18, 2017 at 8:32 pm

          Quoted.

        • Alex

          April 19, 2017 at 4:36 pm

          This 100%. Gr88 I’m sure we would all love to see it, but personally id rather them dump money into an already successful programme like the C7 GT3. They literally built it themselves (Callaway), had no factory support and almost won a title their first year (2016). Whereas Larbre havent won a SINGLE race in their C7R GTE……Not to mention its pointless from a Marketing standpoint in EU….

    • Matt

      April 19, 2017 at 1:57 am

      This shouldn’t even be a problem. There’s definitely space for more than 32 cars but the FIA always creates some really stupid rules in the name of “safety”. The Silverstone race was unwatchable… ever since the track got destroyed it’s been too dull to watch for more than 5 minutes. I’m so glad the only track we have like that in the US is COTA.

      • N8

        April 19, 2017 at 9:59 am

        There’s space in the paddock, but there isn’t space to transport more than 32 cars for the rounds outside of Europe.

    • Alex

      April 19, 2017 at 4:33 pm

      Finally someone else said it! Like, come on….John must not read my comments as I’ve always stated why it wouldn’t happen, but he persists in stating it. GM is solely focused on IMSA and LM. Logistically & financially it doesn’t make sense to waste money in WEC for maybe 3-30 additional sales….low volume market outside US, so they don’t bother….

  2. seth

    April 18, 2017 at 11:19 am

    This is silly, not having a pro-am GT catalog is nonsense. The WEC could disappear by 2020 with no new LMP1 programs also.

    • NaBUru38

      April 18, 2017 at 11:32 am

      There’s ELMS and AsLMS. A World Championship shouldn’t feature amateurs.

      • seth

        April 18, 2017 at 12:28 pm

        Its not sustainable over the long term to have it all pro. Car counts are low now, imagine what would happen if you got rid of paying AMs

        • GR88

          April 18, 2017 at 12:39 pm

          The season long entries stand at 28 – the limit is 30-32. Ginetta expect a minimum of 3 P1 cars, SMP plan 2, BMW will bring 2 GTE-Pros and Proton will order 4 new 911’s (2 for WEC, 2 ELMS).

          It’s very easy to see how the class limit could be exceeded, even if others leave.

          But this is all theoretical. We’re talking 2, 3, 4 years into the future.

    • hmm

      April 18, 2017 at 1:23 pm

      It would seem the ACO would much rather be a prototype only category sometimes. I imagine Ideally they would rather be p1,p2,p3 and not have to worry about gt cars.

      • tracer

        April 18, 2017 at 2:47 pm

        How on earth did you come to that conclusion? The WEC show runners have made it abundantly clear that they are committed to not only growing GTE-Pro but increasing its visibility with a stand alone qualy race on saturdays.

  3. Jason

    April 18, 2017 at 11:20 am

    The article is just speculation but it does provide good conversation. Why they are so stubborn about turning GTE Am into a pro-am GT3 category who knows. IMSA did it by the way.

    Dan is correct about the manufacturers coming and going. I feel less nervous about GTLM/GTE than GT1 in the past though. Remember that the costs are still a fraction of LMP1. Even when running both a WEC and a IMSA Weathertech GTLM team side by side which is what Ford and Porsche are doing now. And BMW will do in 2018 I think. Plus there is the BoP factor which as much maligned as it is when it is off. Does work for the most part. IMSA in particular has done BoP pretty well lately.

    • Susafan

      April 18, 2017 at 12:03 pm

      To be honest I’d rather see a Privateer Team Trophy instead of a GTE-Am category. But I don’t think that’s economically doable at the moment.

    • guest

      April 18, 2017 at 1:09 pm

      I think it’s political. ACO doesn’t seem to like Ratel.

      • Bakkster

        April 18, 2017 at 2:11 pm

        The dislike is mutual. I believe it goes back to when the ACO made a surprise announcement to end the GT1 class at Le Mans without letting Ratel (who ran the BPR series for GT1 cars) know about it, leading to the cancellation of BPR.

    • tracer

      April 18, 2017 at 2:52 pm

      Simple answer is there isn’t enough space on the grid to open up the series to GT3 cars… it’s the underlying point made throughout this very article. And while I love GT3 just as much as the next guy, we have more than enough series running GT3 worldwide. Keep the WEC focused on GTE only. 10+ manufacturer GTE entries next year and 12+ the year after is an embarrassment of riches for us GT fans to watch.

      • juneracer

        April 18, 2017 at 3:43 pm

        problem is GT3 with the same tires as GTE would make the GT3s faster. IMSA struggles to make it work with Conti tires in GTD. ELMS stopped running the two classes together for good reason. but everything evolves, we’ll see where it goes…

        • tracer

          April 18, 2017 at 10:26 pm

          Just not true. Look at Long Beach PWC vs IMSA for apples to apples proof that the contis aren’t the pile of rubbish so many claim them to be. There is no struggle to maintain the performance delta between GTLM and GTD in IMSA either. Look at timing and scoring, on boards, or whatever metric you like and GTLM is faster all the way around every track on the calendar. GTE machinery are a cut above GT3 and that’s a fact no matter which way you cut it, regardless of tires. There’s a reason why BMW has struggled in GTLM ya know…

  4. WEC Sucks

    April 18, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    WEC is such a joke now. Nissan flop two years ago, Audi gone, a spec LMP2 class, a shit GT Pro class and now this lol. IMSA for the win!

    • Bakkster

      April 18, 2017 at 1:54 pm

      There’s stuff to be critical of, but I have no idea how anyone can spin this into a bad thing. They might have too many GTE-Pro cars to fit a fourth class, that would be pretty awesome. Doubly so since more GTE manufacturers benefits IMSA and ELMS as well.

      • tracer

        April 18, 2017 at 2:52 pm

        Exactly.

    • Larry

      April 18, 2017 at 2:31 pm

      NASIMSA has the opportunity to have the best racing in the world.

      So far, with the new cars, they don’t seem to be interested in drawing manufacturers to the P class.

      They don’t get “for the win” unless they wake up.

      I will say with GTLM and GTD, they probably have the best GT racing already and do the BOP for that pretty well.

      • jason

        April 18, 2017 at 3:15 pm

        Agreed. GTLM and GTD is as good as it gets right now short of the large manufactures fee that keeps McLaren out now. But GTD does feel much more complete with Mercedes being there.

        Its awesome that there is TWO all GT races this year. Would love to see more or even an all GTD race. John Dagys said he would love to see a split DPI/GTLM and GTD races at Long Beach one day.

        I would love to see GTE get their own stand alone thing going. A qualifying race may not be the way to do it though. I would like to see the shuffle up the European races (Silverstone, Spa, and Nurburgring) in 2018. With GTE Pro, GTE Am, and GTE-ELMS run together. Ditto for the prototypes. So Euro races (other than Le Mans) would be split Prototype and GTE races. The Non-euro races can go back to traditional WEC fields.

        • Olly

          April 18, 2017 at 4:39 pm

          Elms GTE is GTE Am pretty much, but I see what you mean; I’d love to have those teams compete in this series as well.

    • Mike S.

      April 18, 2017 at 3:19 pm

      Well all series have ebb and flow. IMSA a few years ago was transitioning and WEC was pretty good. Now its reversed. I think getting rid of P1 hybrid will have to happen unfortunately at the cost of losing Toyota. Short term loss for longer gain. There are a lot of moving parts in WEC through 2020 new regs, P1 costs, Pro-Am sustainability. I think a globetrotting Pro-Am series is hard to keep steady as costs are huge to travel so not getting into long term factory vs Pro-am longevity in a globetrotting series as its more costly travel budgets anyway than a regional series (WTSC, ELMS,ALMS etc). Also, 6 hour races and LeMans is more racing than regional series as well so expenses are more no matter the backers. Returns have are probably pretty minimal.

  5. Toma0

    April 18, 2017 at 5:58 pm

    It’s an interesting talking point this. On the one hand I’m all for as many GTE manufacturer backed programmes in the WEC as possible.

    However the purist in me knows the endurance racing is built on privateers and gentleman drivers, ignore them at your peril. When the manufacturers lost interest and leave the gentlemen remain… unless you piss them off!

  6. Antonio Miles

    April 18, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    Has anyone heard anything about a potential Spyker GT effort? Last one was in 2010 w/Spyker Squadron. Then there was the 2012 announcement of a new Spyker GT car. What happened to that?

  7. Steven

    April 18, 2017 at 8:18 pm

    Kill off GTE and just bring in GT3 as the premier GT category.

    • tracer

      April 18, 2017 at 10:17 pm

      No.

    • Matt

      April 18, 2017 at 10:39 pm

      No there’s actually an oversaturation of series for the silent GT3 cars. GTE is much better.

      • Helmut

        April 19, 2017 at 5:19 am

        In which way better? It’s the same boring stuff as long as they use BoP.

  8. Raphael

    April 19, 2017 at 12:52 am

    They need to take a hint from IMSA’s Weathertech series, and embrace GT3 as a Pro-Am class. However, Unlike the Weathertech series, the GT3 Pro-Am will be Open Tire Makes.

  9. Helmut

    April 19, 2017 at 5:18 am

    “believed to be a sprint-style qualifying race ”

    Who cares about a qualifying race when it’s a qualification for an endurance race? I’m not sure whether teams would want to push (and possibly destroy their cars) well before the proper race. But it might be nice for the spectators at the tracks.

    • tracer

      April 19, 2017 at 10:49 am

      Manufacturers will care about having only their cars on track and on the screen, and spectators will appreciate having an unobstructed GT race to watch on Saturday. That being said, you do raise a good point about the inherent conflict presented by having a sprint race on the day before a 6 hour enduro… gonna be a long weekend for the pit crews.

      • N8

        April 19, 2017 at 4:38 pm

        To me, a race with 12-14 cars on these big circuits doesn’t sound that appealing. If the field gets strung out, it’s going to get painfully boring for everyone watching.

        Who is this geared toward? WEC fans are mutli-class endurance racing fans. We’re not looking for endurance cars to go sprint racing as a weekend sideshow. I saw plenty of GTE action from Silverstone, so I don’t get the argument that the category isn’t getting enough exposure.

  10. Jeebus

    April 19, 2017 at 7:40 am

    Drop LMP2, it is so pointless now.

    Make GT Am based on GT3 for variety.

    How is this complicated?

    • tracer

      April 19, 2017 at 10:55 am

      LMP2 is pointless? How? Did you watch either of the ELMS or WEC races from Silverstone?

      And if you want to watch more GT3 racing you can always check out Blancpain Sprint or Endurance, PWC Sprint or Sprint-X, VLN, IMSA, ADAC GT Masters, etc etc

  11. Alex

    April 19, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    Again John, with the “Rumored factory backed Corvette” speculation? GM does not want to waste millions of dollars in money for non US territories that barely sell Corvettes. Main reason why the Callaway GT3 was allowed, as its outside of their “field of vision.” Its LM and US…nothing more…

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