The current uncertainty and lack of manufacturer commitments to the top class of the FIA World Endurance Championship is having a “knock-on effect” for up-and-coming drivers in the prototype ranks, according to United Autosports managing director Richard Dean.
Dean, whose UK-based team runs LMP2 and LMP3 machinery in multiple ACO championships worldwide, has raised concern over the state of the sport, notably where young drivers can graduate to once they reach success in the pro-am-enforced LMP2 ranks.
Currently, only a single manufacturer in Toyota has remained in LMP1, which will be replaced by the WEC’s yet-to-be-named Hypercar class that has so far has only seen commitments from Toyota and Aston Martin on the OEM front.
“I honestly believe, unless they sort the top class out to attract manufacturers in, it will have a knock-on effect right down LMP2 and LMP3,” Dean told Sportscar365.
“An aspiring, career-minded driver who wants to end up in a factory team, where are they going to go?
“It’s crucial for all of us that they sort the top class out.”
Dean has cited one of its rising stars, Phil Hanson, as a driver who is facing a questionable future beyond LMP2.
“You can take somebody like Phil, who is still new to racing,” he said. “He’s only just turned 20 and he’s ambitious. He wants to end up in the top class.
“There’s no opportunities that I can see in the top class. Hypercar needs to actually get its sh** together to offer someone like that hope.
“For me, the continual uncertainty and lack of clarity and lack of numbers and commitments from the people in the top class will start to damage LMP2.
“If you’re a young driver, you’ve got a few routes to take to reach the pinnacle of your chosen ladder.
“If it’s Formula 1, it’s the single-seater route. If it’s sports cars, the end game has to be getting paid as a factory driver.
“If it’s prototypes, it sort of ends at LMP2 at the moment.”
Dean said he feels there’s few opportunities in the LMP2-based DPi category in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, which currently features three manufacturer-supported programs.
“What’s crucial for here in the paddock and any young driver that’s looking for a route to being a factory driver in prototypes, has got to see where the end game is,” he said.
“Until 2022, there really isn’t one, either in IMSA or unless Hypercar gets its sh** together, or they decide that Hypercar was a bad idea all along and come up with something better.
“It will start to have a knock-on effect for younger drivers when LMP2 is the pinnacle and it’s teams like ourselves and everybody else.”
Dean “Definitely Not Presuming Anything” in Hopeful Two-Car LMP2 Le Mans Effort
Dean confirmed the Anglo-American team will return to the European Le Mans Series and Michelin Le Mans Cup with multiple LMP2 and LMP3 entries, with the anticipation of a two-car Oreca 07 Gibson LMP2 effort for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
However, he’s “definitely not presuming anything” on the entry front for the French endurance classic, after the team initially was granted only a single entry through its auto-invite for winning the Asian Le Mans Series championship.
“My experience from last year, it would be wrong to presume anything,” Dean said.
“But I would hope that seen as have a full-season WEC entry, that’s one car, and I hope we’ve demonstrated enough in ELMS with our two cars over 2017, 2018 and 2019 that we might get one entry from our ELMS team without having to go to Asia.”
A decision on its ELMS LMP2 driver lineups are expected to be made “really soon”, in regards to whether Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque will continue to undertake programs in both series.