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Ford Continues Push for Global Prototype Regulations

Ford continues to push for global prototype platform amid continued talks…

Photo: Drew Gibson/Ford

Ford has continued its push for a common set of global prototype regulations that would allow the American manufacturer to step up to the top levels of both the FIA World Endurance Championship and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Talks have continued this week at Sebring between manufacturers and officials from the FIA, ACO and IMSA on the concept of a single platform that would debut by as early as the 2020-21 WEC season, and potentially by 2021 in the WeatherTech Championship.

With the factory Ford GT program currently confirmed through the 2018-19 WEC and 2019 WeatherTech Championship seasons, Mark Rushbrook, Ford Performance’s new Global Director of Motorsports, admits that a move to prototype racing remains a key discussion point.

“That’s what we’re looking at,” Rushbrook said. “What makes sense, whether it’s continuing the GT program, whether it’s a prototype program, whether that’s in IMSA with DPi or WEC with LMP1 or ideally [both].

“What we would like as a global company, candidly, is a global program just like the GT so we can take the same car and same investment in the car design and development and apply it racing in IMSA and WEC around the world very efficiently.

“That’s what ultimately we would like to see in prototype. That would then make us more interested would be a common set of rules so that we could take that same car and run it in WEC and run it in IMSA and run three or four cars at Le Mans.”

While discussions are understood to not have made significant headway in the latest manufacturer meeting on Thursday evening, Rushbrook believes there is still a common goal from the majority of parties.

“Most people have the same goals, especially the sanctioning bodies between IMSA and WEC and ACO and FIA that would like to get to the common set of rules,” he said.

“But a lot of manufacturers approach their racing globally like we do.

“I think there’s a lot of people trying to push it in that same direction, it’s just a matter of can it all be boxed properly.”

Hybrid Debate Among Question Marks

One of the biggest holdups, Sportscar365 understands, deals with hybridization, with the FIA and ACO’s latest proposal aiming to retain current LMP1 performance levels, potentially with similar levels of hybrid power seen today.

In light of Ford’s recent electrification plans for the road, Rushbrook stressed the importance of at least some sort of hybrid technology in the new-gen platform.

Ford’s view, however, is believed to differ from the majority of current IMSA DPi manufacturers, who are in favor of remaining with a more cost-effective approach, potentially without a hybrid component at all.

“It certainly makes sense to help with what our future cycle plan is with our road cars to have hybridization and/or full electric as part of our motorsports plan moving forward,” Rushbrook said.

“We’d like to see at some point, when it makes sense either in prototype or in GT, some level of hybrid so that we have the opportunity for that transfer.

“Whether it’s hardware or software, it’s all a good opportunity for that transfer.”

Rushbrook said he would like to see a mix of common/spec and bespoke components, in order to control costs yet also help drive development to its lineup of production vehicles.

“That’s part of that discussion in finding that balance,” he said. “If you make it totally wide open you’ll have the LMP1 budgets of today and there’s no progress made there.

“If you go everything fully spec then it’s obviously gone too much.

“It’s finding that balance of where can you still have the innovation but still have the costs at a reasonable level.”

While it’s still unclear if the FIA/ACO and IMSA will find common ground for a shared platform, Rushbrook has ruled out Ford running a dual LMP1/DPi program utilizing different regulations.

“If we don’t get a common set of rules, then I think it would be a hard decision of whether we do one or the other or none,” he said.

Should it commit to a prototype effort, Rushbrook hasn’t ruled out an extension of its current Ford GT program to help “bridge the gap” prior to the launch of the new regulations in 2020 or 2021.

“If it makes sense to bridge into something, either as a factory program or a customer program, then yeah,” he said.

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

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Jenner

    March 16, 2018 at 12:43 pm

    Spec?

    Oh-no, let’s not open that can of worms discussion again.

    • Kirk

      March 16, 2018 at 1:28 pm

      I think some form of spec hybridization will be the only way to get any sort of unified WEC/IMSA P1. We all know how unlimited technology has worked over the years. It doesn’t. Conversely any spec series is unattractive as well. Somehow they need to come up with a middle ground that allows a manufacturer like Ford to show off its technology while also insuring a level playing field and reasonable costs.

      • AudiTT

        March 16, 2018 at 1:44 pm

        The plan isn’t to demand spec hybrids, but have size, weight and performance benchmarks. Within that framework you can run what you like. If someone doesn’t want the expense of designing their own hybrid, they can run an off the shelf unit, or not run one at all.

      • AF

        March 16, 2018 at 2:14 pm

        If you’re looking for some sort of ‘spec’ hybrid powertrain option, then I’d suggest you keep your eyes open for a press release coming in the next two weeks.

      • alexander

        March 17, 2018 at 8:52 am

        What about having some kind of KERS like those F1 powered cars in 2013 , whitout MGU-k /h -bulls**t?

  2. Redcap

    March 16, 2018 at 1:18 pm

    Here in turn 15 at Sebring it’ Unanimous. We don’t need no stinking hybrids!

    • Alfaxa

      March 16, 2018 at 3:25 pm

      So everyone in Turn 15 do want hybrids? Double negative means positive.

  3. AudiTT

    March 16, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    Nothings ever simple.

    But 2018/19 WEC gives you an idea of how we can have joint LMP1/DPI regs.

    If they can balance the extravagant LMP1 hybrids we have today with LMP1 non-hybrids, there’s no reason why the new regs can’t have balanced performance, whether you run no hybrid, 2MJ, 4MJ, 6MJ, 8MJ or more. Toyota themselves have stated they are happy for all specifications to be equally competitive, they simply want the opportunity to develop their hybrid. A manufacturer like GM may not want any hybrid, while Ford could go for a mild hybrid. It doesn’t matter so long as all have equal performance.

    New LMP1 tub rules could also be the basis for the next generation LMP2. That would give current DPI manufacturers the option to continue using a LMP2 tub.

    LMP1, LMP2 and DPI all have more in common than not.

  4. A seralena

    March 16, 2018 at 2:42 pm

    You mean you wouldn’t want to hear a pin drop during the race turn 15

  5. Sorc

    March 16, 2018 at 4:22 pm

    So Ford would rather continue with the GT than do the current DPi rules. If you read this site before you would have thought they were this close to announcing a 2019 DPi car.

  6. Luna

    March 16, 2018 at 7:44 pm

    Ford has already Prototypes. Those GT have raced before any road car was built. ACO, FIA and IMSA accepted to close the eyes.

  7. Av

    March 16, 2018 at 8:52 pm

    We have to accept hybrid. It is going to happen sooner or later.

    • jaysfan

      March 17, 2018 at 4:41 am

      Why, because bunch of fat,unelected, unaccountable fat bureaucrats at FIA/ACO will shove them down our throats?

  8. Iwish

    March 16, 2018 at 11:42 pm

    There is a huge gap between LMP1 and DPi, 10 seconds to be exact at COTA. The investment to close that gap is tremendous, one that IMSA’s attendance figures simply cannot support.

    • Steven

      March 17, 2018 at 8:36 am

      Don’t worry, IMSA closed the 5+ second gap on the DP/LMP2 by giving them the horrid Conti tires, giving the DP $500K in upgrades, and detuning the LMP2 to be uncompetitive.

      This is pretty much the manufactures want to play in the top class but don’t want to spend any money on it.

  9. MikeT66

    March 21, 2018 at 2:19 am

    I think this would make perfect sense for any global manufacturer interested in racing – one car/design for IMSA/WEC. To have differing build/performance parameters for the two series only makes them both weaker, (IMHO, of course).

    I hope a plan can be found that suits all parties and brings the likes of Ford, McLaren, etc. into sportscar racing at the very top end.

  10. VanillaChinchilla

    March 23, 2018 at 9:46 pm

    Whats wrong with having some sort of hybrid – non hybrid EOT like we will see this year in LMP1? Just please no spec chassis or anything. Make the damn manufacturers build their own cars and power plant. There a lots of other ways to control costs, but costs dont matter if there is no value in the product!

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