FIA World Endurance Championship CEO Gerard Neveu believes the LMP1 class will have a “good number of cars” next year in its restructured format, despite questions still looming over Toyota’s future beyond this season.
Wholesale changes have been announced to the globe-trotting championship, in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 exit, including a consolidated LMP1 class that will see hybrid and non-hybrid prototypes balanced via an Equivalence of Technology.
While not being drawn on a car count target, Neveu believes the revised format will attract new privateer teams, and potentially manufacturer-supported efforts to LMP1 as well.
“My idea is to have a good quality grid with a good number of cars,” Neveu told Sportscar365.
“We have made the platform what we proposed. We’re discussing of the backstage with a number of privateer teams and manufacturers. Let’s see who will be ready to finalize and be there.
“I will say the idea is to build something sustainable.
“I prefer to have seven very competitive cars with a long-term view of making a great show on the track than have 12 cars and have four or five of them in the back.”
While SMP Racing is set to enter with at least one new Dallara-built BR1 prototype and ByKolles likely to return with an updated version of its CLM P1/01, no other firm commitments have been made for the class.
Plans for a two-car effort utilizing Perrinn chassis have fallen through, while Ginetta has yet to confirm sales of its LMP1 car and rumors of potential ORECA and Onroak Automotive-built cars haven’t materialized.
The big question, however, is whether Toyota will return, with a decision from the Japanese manufacturer set to be made by next month.
With no direct manufacturer competition, and a potential limited grid of non-hybrid entries, Toyota Gazoo Racing team director Rob Leupen said the category’s future outlook, with new regulations on the horizon, will be among the items that will play a factor on its decision.
Should Toyota continue, it would have to commit to the entire 2018-19 season, according to Neveu.
“Everything can have an influence on our decision,” Leupen told Sportscar365. “If we’re going to change major parts on our car, we need to invest in this. It would mean where is the cost-savings aspect?
“If you have a transition season, there’s no other manufacturers, are we creating more costs or not?
“We need to see what they are going to do and whether it’s becoming more attractive for us or not. If not, then you might make a very crude decision.
“It’s difficult to say. We can hope of a positive outcome.”
Under the current plan, hybrid performance levels will remain unchanged, with non-hybrids getting power and fuel increases to put them closer in performance.
According to ACO Sporting Director Vincent Beaumesnil, the allowances provide an attractive opportunity for privateers to potentially fight for overall wins.
“It will never be such a great opportunity for [privateer teams] to come as now,” Beaumesnil told Sportscar365.
“We give [privateers] the same potential of performance, then people will have to work and make a good car and achieve it.
“Based on that, I think it provides quite a lot of opportunities to the private teams. You can join a ‘Super Season’, something that’s never happened, with two Le Mans, and you can win.”
With the revised LMP1 regulations locked in for the next two seasons, and an all-new set of rules expected for 2020, Beaumesnil indicated he’s unsure if any new full-fatory efforts would enter in the short-term.
However, the interim ruleset now permits manufacturer efforts with non-hybrid prototypes, which could include works-supported engine programs.