A number of FIA WEC GTE-Am drivers and teams have proposed a freeze of the current regulations through the end of 2017, in the wake of the planned introduction of 2016-spec GTE-Pro machinery into the Am class for next year.
The category, which currently sees involvement from six teams and four manufacturers, could dwindle in car count should new-generation cars, such as the Ferrari 488 GTE be allowed, according to GTE-Am stalwart Paul Dalla Lana.
“There’s a lot of talk in the paddock about do we just freeze the class for a little bit, and keep these cars and get some longevity out of them,” Dalla Lana told Sportscar365.
“Otherwise, everyone would have to go to a turbo car, and what would you run?
“There’s an opportunity to get the championship a year [further] in and then you’d have lots more cars and a variety.”
The GTE-Pro class has seen new and upgraded machinery this year from Ford, Ferrari, Corvette, Aston Martin and Porsche in the factory ranks.
But with no plans to sell customer versions of the Ford GT and the Corvette, Aston Martin and Porsche all being upgrades from its 2015 cars, the only competitive option, according to competitors, would be the Ferrari 488 GTE.
“For sure if there’s a 488 in GTE-Am, it makes no sense for us. We would then stop,” Proton Competition team owner Christian Ried told Sportscar365.
“We’ve seen this year in the Pro class, with the BoP… There’s no customer who wants to do the program [with a Porsche], and also for myself, it doesn’t make any sense.”
Fellow Porsche entrant Michael Wainwright, of Gulf Racing, said he has no interest to change manufacturers, leaving his UK-based team in a challenging situation should the new regulations be adopted.
“If the Ferrari comes down, I think it will be a bit of a problem,” Wainwright told Sportscar365.
“Certainly Porsche is pushing to keep the same car and for me, it makes no sense to upgrade for one car with a new car coming in 2018.”
The one party that’s in favor of the planned move is Ferrari.
AF Corse team principal Amato Ferrari said he’s planning a 1-2 car GTE-Am program next year with the Ferrari 488 GTEs that are currently competing in the GTE-Pro class.
“It’s clear that the rule states one-year old [GTE-Pro] cars are in GTE-Am,” Ferrari told Sportscar365. “I’ve already sold my 458s to collectors.
“The rules cannot be changed now at this time of year.”
Antonello Coletta, Head of Ferrari’s GT racing activities, meanwhile, said they’ve already set their business model around the aspect of one-year old GTE-Pro cars being eligible for GTE-Am.
“We are also close to signing some deals with customers for 2017 and for this reason I see the possibility of sticking with 2015 cars as illogical as it’s now definitely too late to change the rules,” Coletta told Sportscar365.
Any potential change in WEC would likely have to also be made in the European Le Mans Series, which could further complicate the situation.
“There’s no easy answers,” Dalla Lana said. “I’m sure manufacturers want to sell cars.
“You’ve got the whole ELMS thing as well, because whatever happens there will happen at Le Mans, so we need to make it all work.”
While ACO Sporting Director Vincent Beaumesnil has not yet returned a message for comment on this matter, it’s believed a final decision on the 2017 GTE-Am regulations will be taken within the next month.
For Dalla Lana, who has spent the last four years in the class with Aston Martin Racing, the Canadian admitted he may look elsewhere next year should the current GTE-Pro cars be adopted in the class.
“If they get it right, you’ll get more than six cars and a lot of different manufacturers, which is what people really want,” he said.
“If they get it wrong, it goes to two, three or four cars and then it becomes a single-manufacturer series and that kinda defeats the purpose.
“I’d love to come back [to the WEC] as the racing is great. If that lines up, I’ll be back for sure but if it doesn’t, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll do GTD in America.”
Wainwright, a first-year WEC competitor, feels there’s other issues in the class that need addressing as well, in order to avoid GTE-Am’s extinction.
“They’ve also got to get the driver ratings right,” he said. “The problem with the driver ratings is that they come out in January.
“How can you get a budget together when you don’t know who is going to drive in your car?
“All these little things, I think, are problems. They’ll be stupid if they let the Am category disappear because it’s what brought GT racing back.”