Neveu: “We Regret the Departure of a Major Player in the WEC”

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

FIA World Endurance Championship boss Gerard Neveu and ACO President Pierre Fillon have vowed for the WEC to move on, despite facing a significant loss of a “major player” to the championship in Audi, which announced Wednesday its withdrawal from top-level prototype racing at the end of this season.

Audi’s departure leaves just Toyota and defending World Champions Porsche as the only LMP1 manufacturers in the series next year, which now could see up to five cars in the top prototype class for the season, including at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“We understand this decision, although obviously we regret the departure of a major player in the WEC,” Neveu said. “Audi has been involved in endurance racing for 15 years, and more particularly in the first five seasons of the FIA World Endurance Championship.

“Today we spare a thought first for everyone at Audi Sport and at Team Joest… Drivers, engineers, mechanics and team members for whom this news is painful. We offer them our admiration and gratitude for their extraordinary sporting performances in the WEC since 2012.”

Rumors of Audi’s exit began during the recent WEC round in Fuji Speedway, following a report from German publication Auto Motor und Sport, which indicated that the manufacturer was poised to leave at the end of the 2017 season.

However, Audi’s Chairman of the Board of Management Rupert Stadler announced Wednesday that it would forgo next year altogether, ending its 18-year factory involvement at the end of this year.

“Although prepared for this, we regret the departure of a major figure in endurance racing for a different adventure,” Fillon said. “More than a competitor, the marque with the four rings has been a real contributor in recent years to the tremendous growth of endurance racing across the world.”

Fillon said the ACO will continue cost-cutting measures in the top prototype class, with the hope of attracting new manufacturers, although it’s understood none are on the immediate pipeline for the new phase of regulations that are set to debut in 2018.

While Audi’s exit was arguably influenced by VW Group’s “dieselgate” scandal, and the diminishing focus on diesel road car technology, annual LMP1 budgets are said to range from $100-200 million.

“To reduce costs for manufacturers is a major focus for the ACO, in partnership with the FIA,” Fillon said.

“Furthermore, these two organizations have clearly set the course for the coming years: stay at the forefront of innovation while offering the best possible platform for new technologies in preparation for the cars of tomorrow.

“Hybrid technology and electric motors are already part of our daily lives in endurance racing. The changes to the technical regulations towards hydrogen-electric power responds straight away to the energy requirements of this new era.”

Next year will see the WEC return to a two-manufacturer race for the first time since 2013, prior to Porsche’s arrival, although Neveu still feels confident in the overall product.

“The WEC is made up of a grid of 32 cars, 20 teams, with four categories and six manufacturers entered,” he said. “In a week’s time, in Shanghai, Porsche and Toyota will be battling on track for the 2016 LMP1 world title, as Ferrari and Aston Martin will be for the GTE title.

“One manufacturer is leaving, others will soon be arriving. This is the life of a championship.”

17 Comments

  1. Jacob Curtis

    October 26, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    Who steps up to the plate with a new factory program?

    • vanillachinchilla

      October 26, 2016 at 1:33 pm

      My guesses, he’s referring to BMW, Merc, or maybe Ford. Wouldn’t count on any of them for 2017 though, going to be a bit lean….

      • jCage

        October 26, 2016 at 1:52 pm

        Several more decades will have to pass before Mercedes even considers Le Mans again. Too many people still remember ’99.

      • JamieR

        October 26, 2016 at 2:29 pm

        Won’t be Merc at all, or Ford for the time being. BMW have show interest in a Garage 56 entry, but with their announced GTE programme, I doubt an LMP1 programme is near.

        Surely collaboration with DPI tech in some capacity must be considered, as with Nissan and Mazda putting resources in there, that could be an avenue to attract another manufacturer. GM not so as they (correctly) focus their efforts on the Corvette programme.

        I still think decent cost-capping will bring Peugeot back into contention though, judging by comments coming out of that camp.

        This year has not been a good one for the ACO.

    • kv

      October 26, 2016 at 2:56 pm

      PEOGEOT has made some noise about returning if measures were taken to cut costs !

  2. Doug

    October 26, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    A more interesting question is will Team Joest be involved in something else?

    • kv

      October 26, 2016 at 3:06 pm

      Team Joest is German and OPEL is a German brand GM sells in the EU . So it is not a stretch to think GM COULD run an OPEL LMP !OPEL DID MOST OF THE ENGINE DEVELOPEMENT IN 2002 ON CADDYS LAST EFFORT AT LeMans, Joest could really enhance that effort as OPEL has righted the ship financially !

      • Susafan

        October 26, 2016 at 4:21 pm

        Opel hasn’t got the bucks for LMP1. Eben if they would habe, they’d rather Go to the DTM, because that’ll get them a Far netter Media exposure. Coming from Germany i’ll Tell you, if they’d ever come back, the Internet will explode

    • Helmut

      October 28, 2016 at 9:20 am

      Reinhold Joest is almost 80 years old, maybe they just go out of business. He has a son, but I have no idea whether he is involved in the racing team.

      • Juandefoldgit

        October 28, 2016 at 1:59 pm

        Joest is hiring so they have something in the works.

  3. Nige

    October 26, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    It might be worth drawing Neveu’s attention to the fact that Audi is still very much fighting for the 2016 FIA-WEC titles…

  4. Tobin Smith

    October 26, 2016 at 4:53 pm

    I’d love a Ferrari entry at this level. I’d also like a reuben sandwich that didn’t fall apart in my hands after the 3rd bite. A man can dream.

    • 996corsa

      October 26, 2016 at 6:58 pm

      LOL …best comment!

    • Richard Reeves

      October 26, 2016 at 7:45 pm

      What, you’re hoping for a Ferrari LMP1 team featuring their former F1 driver “Reuben” Barrichello piloting one of the cars?

  5. Evan

    October 27, 2016 at 12:43 am

    I think Peugeot will strongly consider if cost cutting steps and weight reduction are in the fold. I’d would personally like to see perhaps Hyundai,Mazda,or perhaps another European manufacturer, like Jaguar, Volvo, Alfa Romeo etc.

    • JamieR

      October 27, 2016 at 6:15 am

      Hyundai-WRC
      Mazda-DPI
      JLR-Something I had hoped for, but they have committed to an electric power future, hence the move to Formula E
      Volvo and Alfa don’t seem likely personally.

  6. Luna

    October 27, 2016 at 7:50 am

    Lmp1 is a dead category. Too expensive. Just done to satisfy the egos of the ACO.

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