While the American Le Mans Series may be no more, the relationship between IMSA and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest has not been broken. (En Français)
In fact, the ACO-IMSA link remains strong, with the ACO-spec P2 and GTE cars competing in the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, which kicked off in last weekend’s Rolex 24. Both ACO President Pierre Fillon and FIA WEC CEO Gerard Neveu were present at Daytona for meetings.
And after IMSA chairman Jim France got to wave the tri-colour flag at Le Mans in June, it was Fillon’s turn to give the start for the twice-around-the-clock endurance race.
With the launch of the North American championship, the future of the series and the third season of the FIA WEC, we caught up with Fillon to get his insight into all three topics.
Does the Rolex 24 starter have a special sentiment to you?
“This was a task that was not taken lightly. Our American friends gave me the honor of dropping the green flag. It’s very symbolic. For a kid from Le Mans like me, this was something special. For the first time, a new flag with the logo of the championship was created. With the new series, the spirit of the ALMS lives on. It’s important for the ACO to have one foot outside of France. We share the common vision of endurance.”
Was Daytona also an opportunity for meetings?
“Every year, we have meetings with our friends at IMSA. This is usually the case at Daytona, Le Mans and Petit Le Mans, plus Austin in 2013. We must move forward with our work together, including the equivalence of DP/P2. The 2017 deadline for the [new LMP2] is coming up. The ACO has proposed specifications. There are many similarities, some differences but no blocking point.”
What are the guidelines?
“It’s too early to reveal the outline. The main idea is to continue with the spirit of the current LMP2 [formula] while reducing costs compared to the LMP2 that we already have.”
If IMSA decided to give an invite to the 24 Hours of Le Mans to a DP team, what would happen?
“The team in question must comply with the [ACO] regulations. That’s to say that they must compete in one of the [existing] categories at Le Mans. This will no longer be a problem in 2017, however.”
What is your view on the DP and P2 equivalence established?
“We know how complex it is to implement a Balance of Performance that is as fair as possible. This can vary depending on track conditions and types of circuits.”
What is the ACO’s position on the arrival of a diesel-powered engine in LMP2, such as the Mazda SKYACTIV-D?
“Currently, the car is not eligible for Le Mans because we did not put diesel engines into the LMP2 regulations. We all have experienced the problems of equivalency and we don’t want to endanger the LMP2 category. The aim is that manufacturers race in LMP1 and only use LMP2 as a step, but just for the engine.”
Are there plans to implement the leader lights system seen in Daytona on cars at Le Mans?
“We tested a lights system a few years ago but had encountered a significant concern. A hole had to be made in the doors. Now the system has evolved and you [can just place them on the car]. You just have to find the right place on the different cars.”
Will we see the Corvette C7.R in GTE-Am this year?
“The regulations state that for an exception to the rule, all manufacturers must unanimously approve, which was not the case. So things remain as they were. This is also the case for the European Le Mans Series.”
Can we expect the same number of entry requests for the 24 Hours of Le Mans as we’ve seen in the past?
“To be totally transparent, I have not [monitored the entry requests]. We will wait for the deadline of entry requests and for the Selection Committee to make its decisions.”