The FIA and ACO have announced the planned tweaks to the technical regulations for the LMP1 class of the World Endurance Championship set to come into force for 2018, in response to the dwindling manufacturer interest in the class.
Porsche announced in July that it would be closing its LMP1 program at the end of the season in order to enter Formula E, leaving Toyota as the lone manufacturer racing in the WEC’s premier class.
Efforts have been made by officials from the FIA and the ACO to stimulate interest in the series and cut costs for current competitors, revealing a new ‘Super Season’ winter calendar for 2018/19.
From 2018/19, there will be a sole LMP1 classification in the WEC, moving away from the current two-tier model to differentiate between hybrid (LMP1-H) and non-hybrid (LMP1-L) cars.
The FIA and ACO plan to align current non-hybrid LMP1 regulations with the current LMP1 hybrid regulations via Equivalence of Technology, as well as ensuring that “each competitor entered in LMP1 will have the same potential of performance independent of the type engine power used.”
A statement from the WEC does however note: “very clearly there will always be a slight advantage for the hybrid engine in terms of autonomy related to lower fuel consumption.”
No changes are planned for the current chassis regulations in LMP1, but a greater choice of engine power options will be made available to interested parties in a bid to facilitate their entry.
“Depending on the selected criteria, an Equivalence of Technology will be implemented between turbo compressed and normally aspirated engines (as done in the past between petrol and diesel),” the statement regarding the new regulations adds.
While further decisions regarding LMP1’s regulations are still to be firmed up regarding issues such as testing, officials did concede “the 2020 LMP1 regulations will be substantially altered as compared to the model presented during the last 24 Hours of Le Mans.”
However, both the ACO and FIA knocked back criticisms that the hybrid era of the WEC is drawing to a close, albeit not to any lengths.
“The ACO and the FIA remain wholeheartedly convinced that technology including hybrid systems must keep its place of honor in endurance racing, but not at any price,” the statement reads.
“The budgets invested over these last years in LMP1 Hybrid are no longer sustainable and a return to reasonable budgets should allow all manufacturers to compete in this discipline.”
“We would like to sincerely thank Jean Todt, President of the FIA and Sir Lindsay Owen Jones, President of the Endurance Commission and all the commission members for their support,” ACO president Pierre Fillon said.
“Many decisions, essential for the future of the WEC, have been made in record time. With all these decisions, we are confident of seeing a full and very competitive grid next season.
“We are already discussing with several manufacturers and privateer teams who are investigating very seriously entrance from 2018/2019 season in LMP1, taking into consideration that the LMP2 and GTE grids are already strong with a high level of commitment for the future.”