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Vasselon: “General Interest” from WEC, IMSA for Common Platform

Pascal Vasselon believes there’s “general interest” to make LMP1, DPi compatible…

Photo: Toyota

Toyota Gazoo Racing technical director Pascal Vasselon believes there’s “general interest” from manufacturers in both the FIA World Endurance Championship and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for a common prototype platform, despite the series’ different philosophies.

The Japanese manufacturer, along with nearly a dozen other automakers, have continued joint discussions, with the goal of creating a global set of LMP1 regulations that would initially launch in the WEC for the 2020-21 season.

With a significant reduction in budgets proposed, through highly controlled development and a single, potentially off-the-shelf hybrid system, Vasselon believes the gap can be bridged between the two current formulas.

“I think there’s a general interest to make it compatible,” he said. “It’s true that the fan base seems to be different.

“For example, in last year’s WEC fan survey, when fans were asked to list what makes WEC and Le Mans attractive, technology was coming in position three, which for sure in the U.S. would not come that high.

“For sure the fan base is different but let’s see if we can get the best out of the two worlds.

“For the manufacturers, there is an interest to have the same regulation base between IMSA and WEC.”

While an off-the-shelf hybrid system has been among the “ongoing” discussions, Vasselon admitted its participation in the WEC wouldn’t necessarily prove its purpose if a spec electric powertrain was to be introduced.

“Obviously we know [some] teams are not really keen with hybrids and they may do some compromises,” he said. “At the moment it’s really a work in progress.

“We are in WEC to be technology-driven. This series offers the possibility to showcase your technology level.

“For sure, our choice is to keep developing powertrain and hybrid systems and engines. Otherwise, for us, WEC wouldn’t be attractive any more.

“If we want a category which is not technology-driven and more spectacular-driven, we have the WRC and we are in WRC. So for us to participate in two series, WRC plus WEC, the WEC has to offer the possibility to develop technology.

“For sure the hybrid system will be smaller. The question is how much smaller and how much simper and will it be spec or not.

“These are the discussions that are ongoing at the moment.”

Delay in Regs “Not an Option”

Vasselon has insisted that a delay in the introduction of the new regulations, currently scheduled for the 2020-21 WEC season, is not an option.

It has been suggested that the championship could extend the current LMP1 hybrid/non-hybrid class for an additional season to better time the new platform’s launch in the WeatherTech Championship, which series boss Scott Atherton said cannot occur until 2022 at the earliest.

The Toyota technical chief indicated that a “staggered” launched has been discussed between the two series.

“Already we have two seasons of transition, we cannot have three [in WEC],” Vasselon said. “So the new rules must come in 2020; we cannot wait another year.”

He said the FIA and ACO’s target of releasing the general guidelines by June should give prospective manufacturers enough time to prepare.

“For everyone targeting to enter the series in 2020, the earlier the better,” Vasselon said. “But we are probably the one that can afford to wait a bit because we have the baseline ready.

“But for newcomers like Aston Martin, McLaren, Ferrari, who are considering the new regulations, they obviously need the rules as early as possible as they have to set up an entire operation.”

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

25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. ben

    April 12, 2018 at 9:06 am

    First I’ve read Ferrari is considering…

    • AF

      April 12, 2018 at 9:26 am

      It’s interest from the Fiat Chrysler group, so it could be Alfa or Maserati also. The latter is going to be the brand that represents them in Formula E, and Alfa have been noted as interested in DPI before, they’re waiting for an international platform though.

      • ben

        April 12, 2018 at 9:36 am

        Interesting. Thanks.

    • Steven

      April 12, 2018 at 6:13 pm

      Ferrari is using it as a threat against Liberty to leave F1 if they don’t like the way the new regulations that are being made for 2020 or 2021.

  2. Old Trombone

    April 12, 2018 at 10:41 am

    Take it from an Aussie living my 12th year in America…

    “in last year’s WEC fan survey, when fans were asked to list what makes WEC and Le Mans attractive, technology was coming in position three, which for sure in the U.S. would not come that high.”

    For a start, Americans have excellent universities that understand statistical analysis, one important part of which is that if you haven’t gethered the stats, you shouldn’t guess. Second, Americans who don’t like Hybrid tech are not necessarily anti-tech, they are just anti-hybrid. Admittedly, those two positions are equally stupid, but they are very different.

    Look at the Corvette’s pushrod block. Ancient, right? Well Maudsley had an overhead cam in 1902, so that’s not ‘advanced’ sorry. However, heavy double cams on two separate heads with the necessary gears and chains for racing reliability lifts the Center of Gravity up very high. Pushrods are good tech, as well as old tech, in some particular applications.

    Another problem is the type of American at stake here. The tribal-focused coal-rollers and gas-burners are only one part of the American culture. In every state (increasingly not just California) there are Hipsters developing all kinds of shed-tech, and these folks are very interested in electric mobility and alternative solutions. The next Silicon Valley could quite easily be Chantilly Virginia (near DC’s Dulles airport), Durham North Carolina with its excellent university culture, New Orleans Louisiana with its energy-sector funded start-ups, and Seattle Washington is the world leader in Carbon Fibre structure tech. Not one of these places is in California. Now can you see that America is more diverse than you think?

    Unknown outside of America, there is a significant proportion of the population that not only doesn’t like their current President, but also didn’t like the alternative either. I know this is hard for non-Americans to wrap their heads around. Maybe Vasselon should have taken the time to talk to Dan Gurney about how to make race-winning Toyota’s, hmmmm?

    • George 917-30

      April 12, 2018 at 11:57 am

      All good points, and thanks for an interesting perspective. Vasselon seems rather clueless and biased about racing in the U.S., and the widely varied audiences and forms of competition, as is traditional with the ACO and FIA. But I am unfamiliar with the WEC fan survey – if technology only came in third with the supposedly more sophisticated anywhere-but-North America audiences, what were first and second?

    • kv

      April 12, 2018 at 11:57 am

      IT is about time the FIA/ACO STOP MANIPULATING the regs to give EURO manufacturers an edge at LeMans!only the VW GROUPE and Toyota are willing to spend mega bucks,and at the same timekill the very series they run !

    • TF110

      April 12, 2018 at 12:06 pm

      Ok you are going on about things that have little relevance. Vasselon spoke about the wec survey which multiple regions and countries took part in. He’s privy to North American information because he is a high positioned person within Toyotas racing. What makes you think he’s guessing anything? Sounds like you’re guessing. The crowd that is into this type of racing has spoken. The wec isn’t Nascar or f1, it has a specific following. But lots of f1 fans also watch the wec. The issue is trying to remain current but relevant to both sides of the world.

    • NASCAR/DPs Suck

      April 12, 2018 at 4:46 pm

      Great points, at first I thought I was reading statements from some of the other French bureaucrats from the FIA. His assumptions seem off base at best and at worst insulting to American fans.

    • Rmiller

      April 12, 2018 at 7:45 pm

      It does leave open – so what exactly were #1 and #2. It’s almost as if they’ve decided hybrid, #3, is most important so #1 and #2 don’t count.

      That being said I don’t know that Americans are necessarily anti-tech. Myself I do like tech. But tech does not = hybrid, nor vice versa. INMO what is more important in terms that one might be anti-tech is being anti-cost.

      For illustration, I think the old days of IMSA GTP was the best time for racing. You had a number of privateer (non-factory) teams that could buy a Porsche 962 and mix it up to be contenders for excellent racing action. Then more factory aligned teams started getting more involved and that’s when things started to fall apart.

      So for example, I actually find LMP2 more interesting than LMP1. I would have been fine if they just dropped LMP1 and made LMP2 the premier class.

      Which also goes to my previous point – notice that all teams but Toyota dropped out of LMP1. It rather specious to claim it’s about an interest in tech/hybrid but all the teams pack up their marbles and go home. That should tell you something about tech for tech’s sake as a viable dogma. It’s not just about the fans – you still have to have teams that actually want to play in your sandbox too.

  3. Zach

    April 12, 2018 at 12:10 pm

    Here’s the link to the results of the WEC Fan survey. https://goo.gl/5ni9Kw
    I participated and I think it was sent directly to their streaming subscribers and I believe autosport provided access as well. I don’t know which chart shows that technology is 3rd. I see one that shows 5th behind Exciting racing Close competition Overtaking & on track action and Features fastest cars. Either way, Mr. Vasselon is probably way off regarding the attraction of technology for US fans. I’m guessing he’s basing that off NASCAR’s historic popularity and maybe the lack of hybrid racing in US? Who knows.

  4. Joe

    April 12, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    Wait, let me get this right. So you survey wec fans, get a result, then assume what the results of an imsa survey would be, then make conclusions. One could easily argue half of imsa fans, at the very least, would also say technology is important, since half of those fans would have come from ALMS… Which definitely was a technology-based fanbase…. How hard is it to do an extra survey?

  5. Dave

    April 12, 2018 at 2:25 pm

    The main problem with this process is that the WEC is trying to figure out how to get fans to like what the WEC wants, not how to deliver what the fan wants. I think from a marketing perspective, the first thing they need to do is come up with a way to make P1 look different than P2. There were some great classes of racing cars in sports car racing’s past that gave us wild looking cars. Most people remember the cool looking cars because of their cool looks, not because of their drive train. Although I am sure some people geek out over that too. I wish Nissan had stuck with their P1 car – it may have been doomed from the start, but it was different and, well, cool looking. The 919 Evo looks like a Porsche race car – 917-ish IMO. The 919 we saw racing looked like the Toyota which looked like the Audi which to the casual observer looked like the P2 cars – except for the last iteration of the R18 – that thing was wicked looking. I think this is something that DPi is trying to do in bringing manufacturers design queues into the cars making them distinguishable – Mazda and Acura particularly. I get that technology is interesting, but racing (from the fan’s perspective) is visual, and they should focus on improving this aspect.

    • AudiTT

      April 12, 2018 at 7:06 pm

      The GT Proto regs will be far more radical in the looks department than DPI. The idea is to have free ‘road car’ looks above the waistline of the car. Below that it will be pure LMP1 aero. The aero of the cars will be performance balanced to allow manufacturers to style them ala late ‘90’s GT1’s.

      On the hybrid front there will be a smaller ‘spec’ system, but manufacturers will also be able to build them (same energy, size,weight).

      • Davy

        April 13, 2018 at 8:31 pm

        They should use the Japanese Super GT series as a template for the P1 regulations. Give them a nice engine without air restrictors and they could do a 3.25-3.30 at Le Mans. They look so much better than what these ACO prototypes have turned into with their fins and holes above the wheels.

  6. Steven

    April 12, 2018 at 5:40 pm

    In my opinion, if IMSA would’ve split DPi/LMP2 from the get go, the merging of DPi/LMP1 could’ve already happened. But IMSA wanted a larger, single P category instead and that was a short term win, but hurt them in negotiating.

    • Davy

      April 13, 2018 at 12:45 am

      Doing one single prototype class was a genius move by IMSA. There are way too many classes in the WEC. One P, one GT, one for slow, rich gentlemen drivers. It’s all you need.

    • Tyler Sanders

      April 13, 2018 at 2:46 am

      Dpi’s would need to be built off of Lmp1 chassis’s instead of LMP2 one’s. LMP1 cars are much faster than LMP2 and have slightly different aerodynamic rules compared to LMP2.

  7. Degner

    April 12, 2018 at 8:33 pm

    As another post mentioned, Hybrid does not = technology. There are many technologies which could be fielded in P1.

    The hybrid argument is B.S. This isn’t about “technology” it’s about *the technology* some manufacturers want to push for profit hidden behind the asinine mask of political correctness.

    Want technology in your prototype racing? Then open it wide to ALL technologies. That might actually bring about some useful development for outside applications. If your argument is that WEC needs hybrid “because technology” you’re missing the crucial point. Or you’re just full of it.

    The WEC is a hotbed political infighting, not a racing series.

    • Dave

      April 13, 2018 at 8:18 am

      When the ALMS became the Tudor series and did away with top European spec cars, many people rightly said it was the end. Where can I go to see the likes of an RS Spyder or a Pug 908 (insert favorite car here)? And it may have been, but the WEC couldn’t get out of it’s own way and IMSA managed to get an interesting top class back in the field. I think that Tudor/Weathertech/IMSA has a good record going against what the WEC espouses. As an American fan of sportscar racing I have life by the balls. Featuring the best, fan-friendly tracks, the series not only a 24 hour premier event, but a 12 hour one and a 10 hour one in the series. Do I wish that more races than the Glen were 6 hour races? Yes, it is endurance racing after all, but on the whole there is a variety of tracks and events. IMSA’s formula is working.

  8. Davy

    April 13, 2018 at 12:50 am

    To me this looks like the beginning of the end for this current chapter of American prototype racing. IMSA will adopt whatever trash the ACO demands, privateers will disappear, the grids will quickly dry up, and we’ll be left with field solely of GTLM and GTD.

    • Tyler Sanders

      April 13, 2018 at 2:57 am

      What privateers will disappear?

      • Davy

        April 13, 2018 at 8:45 pm

        Everybody currently racing a P2 in IMSA, most likely the Caddy teams as well. They are not likely to be able to afford the extra personal to run the stupid hybrid systems.

  9. Mazda Greg

    April 13, 2018 at 6:11 pm

    Off the shelf hybrid,The issue just pure ego. The WEC is just the redheaded stepchild of formula 1. If they would just put some common sense into the regulations they could make this happen. My only though would be than IMSA teams just want to race at LeMans and this would steel the thunder for the full WEC teams. WEC/IMSA weekends were fantastic, but unfortunatly nobody showed up.

  10. Metalitubby

    April 17, 2018 at 3:43 pm

    Go back to a “box” rule. Specify tire counts, fuel allotments, and allow teams to build a prototype that showcases their own signature technology. Politics belongs elsewhere.

    Want a fire-breathing 8.0l V12? Do it on the same fuel allotment as the hybrid.
    Want a super sleek aero-efficient car? Do so with the same tire count.

    Spec the consumables. Not the technology. Fans will follow.

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