The ACO has reaffirmed the importance of LMP1 privateers and will take decisive measures to ensure their competitiveness in the FIA World Endurance Championship this season.
However, on the debut race weekend of the Rebellion R-One, the first — and only — new-for-2014 LMP1-L car to run, ACO Sporting Director Vincent Beaumesnil revealed they have yet to gather enough information to get a full representation on where the Balance of Performance stands.
“We are not in a comfortable situation right now because we’ve seen the car for the first time this weekend,” Beaumesnil told Sportscar365. “For sure, by tomorrow night, we will not have a clear idea of the condition of the car for Le Mans. We are working long-term to have time to evaluate the car.”
Rebellion has been off to a challenging start with its pair of ORECA-designed prototypes, which have completed only a handful of laps in Friday’s two practice sessions, with a best lap nearly 10 seconds off the setting factory entries. The Anglo-Swiss squad has declared its debut weekend to be more of an extended test in preparation for Le Mans.
However, team manager Bart Hayden hasn’t hidden his intentions of being able to eventually take the fight to the factory LMP1-H squads, with the goal of achieving three overall podium finishes by the end of the year.
Whether that comes entirely with improvements from the car, BoP changes, or a likely mix of both, remains to be seen.
“You cannot give an artificial advantage to win the race,” Beaumesnil said. “You can just give some help to be in the game and if something happens in the front, they will be there and will be much closer than last year for sure.”
Beaumesnil would not reveal the target percentage they are looking for the LMP1-L cars to be within of the works entries. He also admitted it would be difficult to say if any performance adjustments would be made between the Le Mans Test Day and race.
“We are really on the learning process now,” he said. “We need to take the experience of the first races to evaluate. Performance is not only a question of lap time. It’s a question of top speed, ability to manage the traffic, tire management, etc. It’s many parameters.
“For the moment, we want to get experience of the cars. It’s the first time we have them this weekend so it’s still new at the moment.”
With the R-One being the only new LMP1-L car to surface, and the status of the Lotus T129 AER currently unknown, there are still question marks over the platform’s future.
However, Beaumesnil said he’s remained committed to the privateer class, despite the slow start.
“We have to protect them because manufacturers come and go [in a snap],” Beaumesnil said. “If you remember in 1999, we had six manufacturers on the grid [at Le Mans]. In 2000, there was only one remaining.
“We need to keep privateers in LMP1.”