The ACO is targeting a rebound of LMP1 Privateer entries in 2018, despite admitting next year could see only a single non-hybrid prototype taking part in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Rebellion Racing’s announcement that it would move to LMP2 has left the subclass with only ByKolles Racing’s CLM P1/01 AER, casting further doubt over the category’s future.
“Clearly the target is to have cars back on the grid in 2018,” ACO Sporting Director Vincent Beaumesnil told Sportscar365.
“For 2017, Rebellion is going to P2 but in their communication they have made clear that they still have the intention to be back in P1 at some stage, so I think it’s very important for us.
“Next year, maybe we will have ByKolles [only]. We will not have many cars for sure. But in 2018, several customers and car manufacturers are working on projects.”
SMP Racing is understood to be a potential candidate to run a LMP1 program in 2018, alongside the possible return of Rebellion. Strakka Racing, which had evaluated an effort at one stage, now appears unlikely.
Nissan, Gibson and Judd, meanwhile, all have LMP1 customer engine options on the table, in addition to the existing AER turbo unit that’s been used in the Rebellion R-One and CLM.
“There are very good engines that will be available on the market and they are really committed to deliver proper service and support,” Beaumesnil said.
Beaumesnil stressed the importance of keeping LMP1 Privateer alive.
It could be especially crucial to the WEC’s future, amid rumors of Audi’s departure at the end of 2017.
“LMP1 is not LMP2,” Beaumesnil said. “LMP1 is a category where you build and develop a car. LMP2 is a customer car. When the car is homologated, it’s a question of drivers, setup and strategy.
“In LMP1, we want to give the ability to some teams and manufacturers to make developments to their cars. This is possible in LMP1.
“If you look at the figures today and the simulations of the potential of the rules we’ve announced [for 2017], the potential is huge.
“People need to realize that someone coming with a project of building and developing a car with the budget of a privateer, we give the potential of being competitive.
“If a manufacturer used these rules, they would be easily in front of the current hybrid cars, for sure because of the fuel allocation, the weight, the extra things we allow in aerodynamics.
“I think it’s something very clear and it’s very fair from the manufacturers to accept this principle that we give this help to the privateers to be in the game.”
Beaumesnil said the technical regulations for 2018 are being discussed, with the proposal to implement DRS sill under investigation.
“There are pros and cons,” he said. “Honestly at the moment I can’t say the final plan on this.”