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24H Le Mans

Fehan: Regs Have Led to “Almost Preordained” Racing

Corvette Racing’s Doug Fehan, BMW’s Jens Marquardt speak out on Le Mans regulations…

Photo: MPS Agency

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.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

42 Comments

42 Comments

  1. steve F

    June 20, 2018 at 8:48 am

    BOP and result manipulation such as what has happened at LeMans the last 2 years is no longer racing , Ford runs away and is not challenged in the 50 anniversary win ! Porsche run away and win unchallenged in the 70 anniversary celebration year . 2019 is the 20th year of team Corvette entering the modern era LeMans as a factory team , does this mean that Corvette wins unchallenged in 2019 ? it seems like LeMans and the ACO is helping write history for its loyal competitors . BOP is ruining races and it looks like there are favors done could it be result manipulation ?

    • Jack

      June 20, 2018 at 9:06 am

      Ford did not dominate 2016, risi led a large part of that race, and if the other ferrari’s Didn’t DNF it would have been a very different result.

      • Paul

        June 20, 2018 at 10:23 am

        Ford WERE dominant on pace and #71 Ferrari was for some reason never on #51 & Risi pace. The winning Ford spent 4min more in pit than the Risi.

        • amg gt

          June 20, 2018 at 4:01 pm

          Mind,on the Risi,the third driver was Malucelli,nuff said

      • Mike

        June 20, 2018 at 10:44 am

        Don’t be fooled. Ford dominated 2016 on pace by a mile. Ferrari were only in the 2016 race because Ford let them in. The 68 Ford lost a ton of time and still caught and passed the Risi Ferrari which had a perfect race.

        Go on youtube, the lap when the 68 Ford passed the Ferrari for the lead in 2016 is there. The Ford pulled to the opposite lane down the Mulsanne and walked by the Ferrari on the straight. It wasn’t even close.

        • juneracer

          June 20, 2018 at 1:28 pm

          that was an obvious display of turning up the engine by Ford for that pass in 2016. Joey had talked about side drafting, bla, bla, bla…which is a bunch of crap. in 2016 Ford had pace well in hand. Risi was quick but Ford had it covered. just glad it wasn’t a 1-2-3 Ford. and this year the Porsche’s had a clear advantage in Pro and AM.

          • Paul

            June 21, 2018 at 3:45 am

            Please see my post of sub 3,52 laps below

        • danio

          June 22, 2018 at 3:38 am

          wow

    • mmmmmBoP

      June 20, 2018 at 9:57 am

      Porsche only ‘ran away’ with it due to the safety car. BoP was spot-on post qualifying (san Aston Martin) as all other GTE-Pro cars fastest laps were within 1-second of each other.
      We can use fastest laps as a comparison this year due to the max-stint length rule as well as minimum refueling time.

    • Rus'L

      June 20, 2018 at 12:12 pm

      Let’s not forget, the manufacturers WANT BoP. Fehan even implies that in his quotes.

      What Fehan and Marquardt are complaining about are the race regulations which are so restrictive, it doesn’t allow the teams any strategy choices. And these race restrictions also prevent anyone from making up time in situations where they got the wrong end of the deal in a safety car period. That’s why they say the racing was mechanical.

    • Davy

      June 20, 2018 at 1:14 pm

      Agreed. There is too much BoP meddling. I am all for equalizing horsepower, aero, mass balance, etc. but this is too much. LMP1 is even worse. “We’ll penalize you for going too fast!” ACO have completely ruined sportscar racing.

    • MalthusUnderstimated

      June 20, 2018 at 10:46 pm

      I must say, it’s refreshing to read a collection of comments that reflect viewer/spectator dissatisfaction with the increasingly contrived nature of Le Mans.

      In addition to Fehan and the other team principals – outside Toyota and those who mystifyingly agreed to show up and “race” their LMP1 non-hybrids against a pair of cars guaranteed by rule to be faster and run longer – most of the drivers regarded Le Mans 2018 as a farce.

      The fact that there are a number who comment here consistently seeking to defend the ACO/FIA rulemaking (particularly in LMP1 and GTE) and the quality of the racing is bewildering. What they thought they were watching, I can only guess.

      Suffice it to say that mandated stint length, safety car procedures, fuel-flow rates, over-performance penalties (how dare you go faster than them!) and like exist to allow the FIA/ACO to “tune” the race to suit their desired outcome/commercial interests.

      Money has always influenced races/racing but when the regulations specifically impact results by limiting variability, strategy or flat out picking the fastest runners, things have gone too far.

      And people notice. Sure, there are anoraks who like to argue fine print in the rules and delve into the marvelous world of tightly controlled energy distribution/consumption but as enthusiastic (and often misguided) as they may be, they represent a minority. In a way they’re like some jazz fans.

      Straight-ahead jazz is a fabulous, rich, exciting music which suffers from limited exposure in part due to a subset of fans who like the “inside” nature of the music. Their perceived understanding of the nuances sets them apart, making them part of a clique “in-the-know”.

      But, as Duke Ellington famously said – “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.”

      Le Mans is no longer swinging…

      • getaclue

        June 21, 2018 at 10:28 am

        Posted by MalthusUnderstimated:

        “In addition to Fehan and the other team principals – outside Toyota and those who mystifyingly agreed to show up and “race” their LMP1 non-hybrids against a pair of cars guaranteed by rule to be faster and run longer – most of the drivers regarded Le Mans 2018 as a farce. ”

        The non-hybrids showing up to race was not so “mystifying” if one pays any attention.

        During the offseason, the non-hybrids were told they would be able to compete against the Toyotas.

        The rules that guaranteed the Toyota win did not come about until the season started at Silverstone so these guys committed in good faith and the FIA said “screw you” and just kept making it worse.

        The Prologue let the Toyotas run outside the EOT but FIA said they would dial them back in.

        Also, again, if you read this board, you would have seen where some of the non-hybrid P1 drivers were expressing their displeasure with the situation.

        So, maybe before you make disparaging remarks about the non-hybrid P1 teams, get a clue.

        • MalthusUnderstimated

          June 21, 2018 at 7:29 pm

          Well getaclue, I think you should apply your handle to your assertion that;

          “During the offseason, the non-hybrids were told they would be able to compete against the Toyotas.”

          Anyone who honestly believed that, given the machinations already underway to keep Toyota from bailing should have been told to “getaclue”.

          The non-hybrid teams who you say were “committed” to run could have justifiably backed away once what was obvious as far back as last fall became manifest at Silverstone. And at the Prologue. That was two months before Le Mans. Showing up for what any reasonably logical individual could see would be a non-race is mystifying.

          They could have backed out and taken a loss on the sunk costs already invested. That would have been better than accruing the additional tremendous cost of running the race. They had few meaningful sponsorship commitments so that would not – as I’d wager you’d say – be an obstacle.

          But let’s go further. Even if the playing field had been level, they were showing up to race a global corporate team with years of experience/development. Their own teams/equipment had almost no testing, one 6 hour race under their belts, and limited understanding of the new-build cars/systems. Any prudent team could have skipped the predictable mess at Le Sarthe and allocated the funding required to run the LM24 to further testing, refinement and “super-season” development/racing.

          I’ll repeat – What did they think they were playing at?

          Feel free to forward my comment to any of the team principals you know. (Of course, you don’t.)

          If you think that’s disparaging, that’s your affair. Your comment is all the proof needed that clues are not within your power to ascertain.

    • Alan D

      June 21, 2018 at 7:01 am

      Yeah Steve, 2018 seemed to me like it was a preordained “Porsche will win”. They hosed the field in the pre-race the week before and everyone else gets down-ticked on the BOP. What?
      2016 was revolting in that Ligier or Oreca delivered more chassis by the start of LM than the allegedly homologated Ford GTLMP, which other manufacturers [graciously>] allowed to race on their 50th, they sand-bagged practice, and then ran away. It was obvious at qualifying. A 10 kg tweak wont equalize 2.5 seconds. Risi made a valiant run, but looking at Fords making up time, it was cat and mouse.
      But, kudos to Velocity/Motor Trend. I haven’t had the luxury of being able to tune since Speed Channel.

  2. Mike D

    June 20, 2018 at 8:58 am

    I think one of the biggest mistakes that GTE made was with the issuing of the 2016 technical regulations.
    Before that there were restrictor tables, specified minimum production, and other elements which on their own partly equalized the cars. They weren’t perfect by any means, but at least there was some kind of baseline.
    Now the whole thing is an “as-homologated” formula, which basically means – anything the ACO approves of is OK. This then requires inane about of BoP to try and get the formula right as the boundaries of the regulations are constantly pushed.
    that said, the cars don’t need to be balanced in every way, shape and form. You can try to win it in different ways, that’s what makes this form of racing great. The current pit stop/stint lengths don’t allow for that. Either you’re BoPed the fastest or you aren’t.
    In their incessant pursuit of equality, I think the ACO has lost the plot.

    • Rus'L

      June 20, 2018 at 12:15 pm

      “…the cars don’t need to be balanced in every way, shape and form. You can try to win it in different ways, that’s what makes this form of racing great. The current pit stop/stint lengths don’t allow for that. Either you’re BoPed the fastest or you aren’t.
      In their incessant pursuit of equality, I think the ACO has lost the plot.”

      This! You nailed the issue perfectly.

    • amg gt

      June 20, 2018 at 4:06 pm

      Mmmh,Blancpain Endurance has maximum stint lenght,and minimum pit time and is not exactly a boring series.

      • FlyingLobster27

        June 20, 2018 at 4:39 pm

        This kind of restriction makes more sense in SRO GT because it’s a customer-competition series – especially the pit stop delta time, I don’t know the rationale behind the stint length limit so well. Even so, the regulators have decided to put some strategy and pit lane performance back in with the joker pit stops during the longest races, so Spa should be an interesting watch.

        • amg gt

          June 21, 2018 at 4:15 pm

          At the Spa24,is not a customer competion,makers are heavily involved.Correct,every six hours u can throw a pit as fast as u can,as seen at the Ricard 6h. Sro introduced minimum pit time to stop costs rocketing about ref systems

  3. David Pring

    June 20, 2018 at 8:59 am

    Couldn’t agree more. As a LM24 follower since the original GT40, last weekend’s race had the life squeezed out of it by a lot of dumb BOP and racing reg decisions. Participants may complain, but don’t forget that the spectators and viewers ultimately pay for the whole show and expect better entertainment. The race was essentially processional and the “happy” ending revealed from the beginning. Lessons to be learned from IMSA!

    • Andy Flinn

      June 20, 2018 at 10:53 pm

      David Pring, the spectators and viewers do NOT ultimately pay for the whole show.

      You have it exactly backwards.

      The participants, manufacturers and organizations “pay for the show.”

      If spectators and viewers were required to pay, they wouldn’t be able afford it and the whole show would go bankrupt.

      This is a lesson spectators and viewers need to learn.

      • David Pring

        June 20, 2018 at 11:48 pm

        And where do you think that money comes from? Ultimately the sales of sponsored and advertised products that I, and presumably you also, buy. Ford doesn’t budget for the GT out of charity it is factored into their P&L! Also look at your cable bill, Velocity pays the WEC in order to televise the race, they change your cable company and you pay a bill to the cable company. Racing is an entertainment business funded by the sale or goods and services to consumers. Yes it is questionable if it is profitable for many and if sponsorship actually has much impact and yes there is a lot of funny money.

        • Andy Flinn

          June 21, 2018 at 4:56 pm

          David, viewers don’t pay for the racing by subscribing to cable.

          Also, there is no requirement that viewers purchase ANY of the products offered by IMSA’s or the WEC’s sponsors on the cable TV broadcast. Many don’t.

          This is CERTAINLY true for people who watch these races on a pirated stream or You Tube.

          Many of them don’t even HAVE cable.

  4. Paul

    June 20, 2018 at 10:28 am

    Nice to hear that those in it agree with frustrated fans.
    About BOP: it would be great fun for maybe two seasons, then we would be down to maybe two manufacturers due to spiralling costs and the fun would be over.

  5. Mike

    June 20, 2018 at 10:35 am

    IMSA lost me when they adopted joint fueling and tire change rules,…… This over manipulation by the WEC is threatening my enjoyment there as well. Strategy that plays out over many stops is one of the things that sets endurance racing apart from other racing. I found myself praying for rain in order to make the race interesting 😔

    They need to fix this,…. I fear that the overall show will be just as boring and full of feelings of manipulation once they have the new top class,…. Mandated L/D values,… Required refueling times, stint lengths,……. Next; they’ll be looking a spec chassis to eliminate possible advantages,…. Then body work,…… Before you know it; it will be a spec class with stickers on the cars to try to make them look like the mfr cars.

    • Mkay

      June 20, 2018 at 11:24 am

      The joint refueling and tire changes made you turn away from IMSA? lol

  6. Paul

    June 20, 2018 at 11:11 am

    Maybe the problem wasn’t entirely cured?
    Best lap Sub 3,52 laps:
    #63 3,49,45* 66 (in 342 laps) (39/22/5 garcia/magnussen/rockenfeller) *best GTE lap
    #64 3,51 26 (in 259laps) (14/6/6 gavin/fässler/milner)

    Garcia had the most sub3,52 laps in GTE, 4 Ford and 2 Porsche drivers also having more than 30.

    The winning Porsche had 75laps below 3,52 (Porsche best), Ford #68 had the most with 89, the best Ferrari (#51) 41laps, the finishing M8 38, but the other M8 had 36 in only 223laps. The #52/#71 Ferraris had only 29 and 9 sub3,52 laps, compared to the “slowest” Ford (51laps) and Porsche (36).

    • Paul

      June 20, 2018 at 11:14 am

      Sorry, this reply ended in the wrong thread somehow, it was about early suspension problems in #64.

  7. FlyingLobster27

    June 20, 2018 at 11:26 am

    The maximum stint length was absolutely jarring during the race. Particularly the ridiculously short P1 stints, I remember listening to RLM and they’d say “Rebellion or Toyota are due a stop next lap”, and I’d go “they just pitted!”
    As I said before the race, Le Mans has several great stories of going long vs going hard. It’s a basic, ground-level strategic freedom. It’s even a design freedom. Without it, yes, all the cars end up doing the same thing, and they do it over and over in a predictable pattern. There was no way to catch the #92 because there was no way to outsmart it in the pit cycle.
    I rate this year’s Le Mans very poorly, and the lack of diverse strategies contributes predominantly towards that.

    Also, I agree that changing tyres should be separate from refuelling. It puts a cost on changing the tyres which makes it a really strategic call, and it’s interesting for the audience to guess and watch these calls unfold.

  8. Sean

    June 20, 2018 at 11:29 am

    I have to admit this was the most boring LeMans race I have witnessed over the last 15-20 years. I do agree, almost pre-ordained winners. Let the teams have more control on strategy and get out of the way.
    Most disappointing.

  9. The Esses

    June 20, 2018 at 11:52 am

    it needs to be opened up similarly to how the P1 class is going to be regulated. Just enforce a power-weight-drag ratio and take your hands off it and let them fight on merit.

  10. juneracer

    June 20, 2018 at 1:36 pm

    they need to rethink the SC and slow zone applications. 3 SCs makes the track time between SCs about 80 seconds. the gain and lose on track is a bit random. with 9 slow zones you can loose over a minute if you get the 1st mulsanne one, and your competitor doesn’t. you can have a perfect race, great pace and spend the least time in the pits and still lose the race from random bad luck. that’s just not right. i’m ok with stint length and min fueling time if its enforced, where the fueling wasn’t in the race.

  11. N8

    June 20, 2018 at 1:43 pm

    We heard a lot about stint lengths being part of the EoT for P1, but what was the rational for mandating a stint length in a BoP category like GTE?

    • Paul

      June 21, 2018 at 3:53 am

      Good question, since they are still jugling with fuel tank sizes even after qualifying. Might part of it be a culture of control-freakishness at ACO/FIA? After all Beuamesnil called the prospect of privateer LMP1s running at Toyota pace “loss of control” and “a mess” (!)

  12. Sam Wilkinson

    June 20, 2018 at 3:26 pm

    I agree that this year’s race was a great disappointment. It was so contrived and clearly structured for Toyota to win. They have been loyal competitors over many years but I wonder if they themselves found it a rathe hollow win.
    I first went to Le Mans in 1956
    Sam Wilkinson

  13. Dave

    June 20, 2018 at 6:30 pm

    BOP equals SOCIALIZED Racing. Release these cars. They can be close and super fun to watch.

    • Paul

      June 21, 2018 at 3:46 am

      The cost can spiral in two seasons to the point where only two manufacturers are left and the fun is over…

  14. speedy

    June 20, 2018 at 9:44 pm

    Went people stop coming to this nsacar style lemans racing then and only then went these aco/fia wake up. This has nothing to do with corvette racing, fehan etc,etc. This has to do with a grand sporting event that’s know around the world, being ran by fool’s that will run into these ground, if it keep’s going like this. That race last week was these worst.

  15. MikeK

    June 21, 2018 at 9:19 am

    LeMans has become one of the most grueling and difficult races to date. When I say grueling and difficult, I’m talking about figuring out the rules, not the actual racing itself. If that’s not enough, the race goes on linger than 24 hours because who knows what post race penalty will be assessed. I can’t figure out if LeMans or the Daytona 500 has more rules. Both have turned into equally boring races due to the huge amount of rules.

    I don’t mind a certain amount of BoP but now it’s BoP of everything in racing. More BoP just equalls more boring racing.

  16. goodgrief

    June 21, 2018 at 10:09 am

    Good grief. Do you BOP bitchers even read?

    Even Fehan says the BOP was good. Not a GM fan, but he is a class act, a lot moreso than the GM BOP bitchers here who screech about “BOP screwed mah curvettes”, totally ignoring something that was pointed out in this thread many times: The Corvettes had the fastest laps. If they were so “screwed”, that would have never happened.

    The Porsches were as fast as they were because they were using a low downforce setup, a cause for most of their mishaps in practice.

    What Fehan, and most posters here, are saying is that the “sporting regulations” is what is so screwed. No strategy allowed, stints mandated, etc.

    Before you bitch about BOP, maybe you should learn to comprehend English.

  17. Rmiller

    July 12, 2018 at 4:00 pm

    Too many rules and tweaks, not enough racing. They are basically trying to turn SPORTSCAR racing into a spec car series. The point of SPORTSCAR racing is for the fastest driver/car/team to win. The point of a spec car series is to reduce that to only the driver and close racing. And they had a class for that with PC.

    Personally, what I want is pure, classic, simple SPORTSCAR racing where the fastest driver/car/team wins. Enough with this bs nonsense to try to manufacture what happens. What purpose does all that nonsense serve? There are only one of two outcomes. Either the fastest driver/car/team wins, in which case, what was the point? Or, someone else with a slower driver/car/team wins because the actually faster one was hobbled by the rules designed to hobble the faster one, then that’s something other than racing.

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