The team principal of Hypercar and LMP2 program operator Signatech has suggested that it would be a “disaster” for the FIA World Endurance Championship to impose further restrictions on LMP2 cars ahead of this weekend’s Total 6 Hours of Spa.
Philippe Sinault, whose Signatech organization runs the ORECA-built Alpine Endurance Team A480 LMP1 and the LMP2-class Richard Mille Racing Oreca 07 Gibson, told Sportscar365 that the other option would be to increase the “level” of the Hypercars.
He added that the Hypercar teams also “have to be ready to accept” a challenging opening race for the new top prototype class.
His comments came after an LMP2 set the fastest lap of the Prologue pre-season test, beating the top-category Hypercar vehicles from Alpine and Toyota Gazoo Racing.
Toyota has already suggested that the outright lap time difference between Hypercar and the fastest cars from the second-tier LMP2 class “should be reviewed” after LMP2s led three of the four test sessions across Monday and Tuesday.
Comment from the WEC organization is forthcoming. Alpine and LMP2 chassis builder ORECA declined to comment on the comparative pace of prototype cars at the Prologue.
“There are two options: they increase our level with weight, power. Or they reduce again LMP2,” said Sinault.
“We can [reduce LMP2], but this weekend no. We have 14 or 15 cars in LMP2 so for sure it would be a disaster to say to them, ‘you have to reduce now’.
He continued: “One thing is sure: I don’t want to be the FIA and ACO people today. Because I think it would be difficult to change massively something before the race.
“It’s difficult to say that, but we have to be ready to accept that this first race could be a real first test of the new generation of endurance regulations.
“It’s not nice to say, but if you tell LMP2 today to reduce the level of power, Gibson is not able to manage this in 24 hours. We have a clear view about our package, the ACO and FIA also.
“With Toyota it’s not the case. Today I’m not sure we know exactly what type of package Toyota have. It’s difficult to say if Toyota have a margin or not, in terms of power or weight.”
Sinault said that he was “surprised that Toyota are surprised” about the LMP2 category’s overall lead in the Prologue, based on findings from private pre-season testing.
After Alpine’s first private test with its new LMP1 car at Aragon last month, Sinault indicated that the gap between the restricted LMP1 and LMP2 needed “fine-tuning”.
It’s understood that the Richard Mille Racing LMP2 car that ran during both of Alpine’s private tests at Aragon and Barcelona was running to the initial reduced 560 hp figure before a further cut was applied earlier in April.
“We have known this subject for a long time now, more than three months, because we have an LMP2,” he said.
“When we ran at Motorland [Aragon] three months ago, I said immediately, ‘guys, have a look at the subject’. Because we are the subject.
“I called Toyota to say that maybe we will have a new subject, not only BoP [but] LMP2.
“Since Portimao last year when they [LMP2] did the test with the first step of reduction in terms of weight and level of performance, they already achieved a huge lap time.
“Everybody knew that. It is not correct to say that we are surprised. Not correct. The wrong thing is that we expected that and we are not really enjoyed (sic) about this.
“We and especially the FIA and ACO have to manage this subject. It’s really difficult.”
When asked how the 600 hp Alpine LMP1 could be out-paced by a less powerful and heavier LMP2 around Spa, Sinault said: “Because the LMP2 is a fantastic car.
“It’s such a well-balanced car. Today with the BoP for Hypercar, especially with our car, normally on paper our car is faster than an LMP2.
“The level of performance is a little bit higher, the weight is about the same.
“We have more downforce compared to LMP2. But at the end, the balance of the car is not the same.
“And then the LMP2 car is like the perfect car. We have known that for a long time. It’s the reason why especially in sector two the car is so efficient.”
LMP2 Overall Win Would Send “Wrong Signal”
The results from the Prologue have led to questions about whether an LMP2 car might claim the overall pole position for Saturday’s WEC opener, or even win the race.
Sinault said that either of these outcomes would be bad “for everybody” at the beginning of a new era for top-level prototype racing.
“It will be a wrong signal for everybody, for fans, manufacturers, interest to come,” he said. “Because they will say: what is the problem with the management?
“If we are there to be behind the LMP2s, we are not there for that. In terms of credibility, for everybody and for all the system. It would be a wrong signal.
“Yes, maybe on one lap the LMP2 car is in front of us. And after it might be different, we are more normal. But on the face, for everybody, you have LMP2 there [in front].”