ACO President Pierre Fillon has confirmed that grandfathered LMP1 cars will be “at the same level” of performance as the new Le Mans Hypercars when it debuts in 2021.
The development comes in the wake of Alpine’s recently announced commitment to run a modified Rebellion R13 Gibson in next year’s FIA World Endurance Championship and initial pushback from Toyota on the terms of the Balance of Performance.
Toyota Gazoo Racing technical director Pascal Vasselon told Sportscar365 last week that putting LMP1 cars on the same level as the new-for-2021 LMH cars would “kill the new category before it starts”, stating that manufacturers or teams would have no incentive to build and develop new machinery.
Fillon has defended those claims, stating that LMP1 cars would currently only be allowed for one “transition” year.
“When there is a change of regulations, we always have a year of transition,” said Fillon.
“This is not the first time that we will have some grandfathered cars on the track, with the case of Audi and Pescarolo in 2005. It was the same in 2012.
“It’s the same idea. Of course, we will introduce the Balance of Performance for Hypercar next year, and this BoP will work also for LMP1. We will put the LMP1 at the same level of performance as LMH.”
When asked if he anticipates any friction from LMH entrants on LMP1s being able to fight for overall wins, Fillon said “we will see.”
“I am confident that Toyota works a lot to develop the car,” he said. “I think we’ll have a good competition and it’s just for one year. It’s a transition year.”
Signatech team principal Philippe Sinault, whose team will be operating the Alpine Endurance Team entry next year, said he’s “very confident” the FIA and ACO will find a “fair and good way” to manage the BoP.
“I am confident about the sporting managed by the ACO,” Sinault told Sportscar365. “We must be credible. It would be an interesting benefit for everybody to have a real fight in the [top] category.
“If we want to have some manufacturers in the future like us, it’s the only way to manage it and say, ‘Look guys, Alpine are able to fight for the victory with a view in the future to join [LMH/LMDh].’
“It’s the reason I’m confident.”
Both Fillon and WEC CEO Gerard Neveu were non-committal on whether LMP1 cars will be allowed in 2022, only confirming its eligibility for next year.
“If you already see the schedule, we know that Toyota will be on track next year, the same with Glickenhaus and ByKolles, from my understanding,” Neveu said.
“Peugeot has said they will be there during 2022, not necessarily at the beginning of the season but during [the year].
“Of course if COVID-19 is getting worse and worse this winter we’ll have to reconsider many things. But if it’s like it is today that we should have a clear vision for 2022.”
Alpine to Begin Testing in November
Sinault said they expect to begin testing their LMP1 car, which will be Alpine-badged, around the end of the November.
“We made the choice of the package because it’s really reliable and [has good] performance,” Sinault said of the ORECA-built car, which is coming off a second place finish in last weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans with Rebellion.
“As you can imagine the timeline is short. If we want to run the car in November or December, you can’t imagine to make a big development of the car.
“For sure we will do [something] because I’m sure Alpine and ORECA will have some ideas. But it’s not the key point. The key point is to adapt this package with the new regulations.”
The driver lineup for the single-car effort will be “definitive” by Christmas, meanwhile.
“I want to take time,” said Sinault. “We have a fantastic group and that’s why we’ve been so successful in the past with LMP2 with Alpine.
“My main concern is to continue with this kind of group because the human value of this group will be the main force of the project.”
Sinault confirmed that Alpine will not continue in LMP2 next year although Signatech will still be involved in the class through the operation of the Richard Mille Racing Team car, which is set to remain in the European Le Mans Series in 2021.
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report