The increasing enforcement of regulations at the 24 Hours of Le Mans has led to “almost preordained” racing according to Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan, who along with other manufacturer representatives, have spoken out on the current state of the class.
The winner in GTE-Pro in last weekend’s around-the-clock enduro was essentially decided following a fourth-hour safety car period, which gave the class-leading No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR a two-plus minute lead.
It was compounded by new-for-2018 pit stop regulations, as well as minimum refueling times and maximum stint lengths, which Fehan believes eliminated many elements of race strategy.
“I don’t think it’s intentional, but I think that we’re going to find that we have really gotten close on a BoP situation and now we need to focus on a sporting regulations situation,” he told Sportscar365.
“I think the sporting regulations have made the race almost too mechanical, almost preordained, and not real racing. And that’s not a criticism.”
GTE-Pro cars were limited to 14-lap stints in the race, with the exception of the opening stint, which was capped to 11 laps, and 13 laps for the final stint.
Additionally, for the second consecutive year, refueling times were controlled, with a minimum of 35 seconds for GTE-Pro and 45 seconds for GTE-Am.
Similar rules were enforced in LMP1, which saw 11-lap stints for the race-winning Toyota TS050 Hybrids and ten laps for the non-hybrids, which if shown increased performance to the benchmark hybrids, were subject to a stop-and-hold penalty.
Fehan, who praised the work the FIA and ACO achieved in the Balance of Performance for GTE-Pro, said its revised pitstop regulations has reduced the team’s role in the race.
Refueling and tire changes are now done simultaneously, in a similar format seen in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
“I am a huge advocate of separating car work and fueling,” Fehan said. “So the emphasis comes on to the crew. I want to see the same thing in America.
“I like it when the pit stop plays a role in how effectively you compete in the race. Where it’s more than just a driver in the car, it’s the whole team that has a role.
“The unintended consequence of that is that it encourages less tire usage. Because now you really have to ask yourself, ‘Should I keep the set of tires on, or should I take the time to put a new set on?’… I like that.”
BMW Motorsport director Jens Marquardt believes the “overall package” needs to be looked at, particularly in the wake of last weekend’s safety car-impacted race.
“I think some of the things are necessary so that you get a proper balanced field,” he told Sportscar365. “We all know how difficult that all is.
“Obviously, from a sporting point of view with a safety car and everything, the way things went in our category meant that there was such a gap from the lead car to the rest – clearly there was no chance that it could be made up, without any issues.
“That’s something to review. At the end of the day I think we really need to look at the overall package.”
The strictly controlled regulations, however, has arguably produced closer racing on track, which Fehan believes to have been one of positives to have come out of Le Mans.
Despite Porsche’s runaway class win, four manufacturers finished in the top-five in GTE-Pro, with the fourth-place finishing No. 63 Corvette C7.R setting the race’s fastest lap.
It came following two revisions to the BoP following the Le Mans Test Day, including wholesale changes made after qualifying on Friday.
“I want to see the data because, I think I know where it’s going, but I think I’m going to be really impressed when I see it,” Fehan said. “I think it’s going to be way closer than anyone expected.”