The concept of upgraded GTE machinery competing in the top class of the FIA World Endurance Championship and at the 24 Hours of Le Mans has resurfaced, with discussions ongoing between current GTE and GT3 manufacturers amid the FIA and ACO’s rapidly closing deadline for regulations.
Sportscar365 has learned that the concept, dubbed ‘GTE Plus’ or ‘Super GTE’, has again been suggested by manufacturers in recent working group meetings, potentially as a supplement or even a replacement for the so-called ‘Hypercar’ regulations that are due to debut in the 2020-21 WEC season.
While details are scarce, it’s understood the concept entails current GTE-spec cars with significant power increases — in the range of 200 horsepower — along with aero and bodywork modifications that would enable the production-based machinery to achieve the ACO’s recently revised target of 3:30 lap times at Le Mans.
It’s understood the majority of the current GTE manufacturers are on board with the concept, although a formal proposal is not believed to have been made to the FIA or ACO and is just in the discussion stages.
A representative from a GTE manufacturer told Sportscar365 that the concept is technically feasible for existing turbocharged cars although manufacturers with normally aspirated powerplants, such as Porsche, could face issues in extracting the necessary output, which is in the range of 700 horsepower.
It’s understood Porsche’s new-generation 911 RSR, which is set to debut in the next GTE regulations refresh in September, is again normally aspirated.
Both McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown and Head of Lamborghini Motorsport Giorgio Sanna have acknowledged the recent ‘GTE Plus’ discussions, with Brown in favor of a production-based hypercar formula instead of modified GTE cars.
“I think it needs to be a supercar [like a Ford GT],” he told Sportscar365. “For Porsche, you’d rather have it be the 918 [than 911], and more the La Ferrari than the 488.”
Lamborghini, which had put its GTE prospects on hold, is waiting to see how the regulations pan out.
“We will see how, in the next few months, [how] this kind of new potential category will become,” Sanna told Sportscar365. “First of all, we need to have a clear vision on the technical rules independently on the categories that today we are evaluating.”
This development comes nearly a year after the GTE Plus concept was initially floated to the FIA and ACO as a possible successor to the LMP1 class, which instead saw the adoption of prototype-based hypercars, as announced at last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The yet-to-be-named top class has since seen the addition of production-based hypercars to the mix, per the wishes of prospective top-class manufacturers, including Aston Martin and McLaren.
May Deadline to Enact ‘Plan B’?
Despite the recent expansion of the regulations, not a single mainstream manufacturer has yet to formally commit to the latest Hypercar formula, casting questions over its feasibility and readiness for the 2020-21 WEC season.
WEC CEO Gerard Neveu told media last month at Sebring that a ‘Plan B’ is in place should they not achieve their targets with the platform.
While it’s unclear what ‘Plan B’ may exactly be, it’s believed the ACO has established a deadline of next month to finalize its top class regulations, which would come less than 16 months prior to the planned first race under the ruleset.
Possible GTE Developments Could Impact IMSA
A decision to push GTE-based cars to the top class in the WEC could have a ripple effect in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GT Le Mans class, which currently utilizes GTE regulations.
It’s understood IMSA has continued down its path of a prototype-based set of top-class regulations for its next cycle in 2022, with a recent agreement having been made internally to include hybrid powertrains in the so-called DPi 2.0 regs.
Hybrids would not likely feature in any kind of upgraded GTE platform, meaning the series could face a significant change in its class structure should a ‘GTE Plus’ concept move forward globally.
Jake Kilshaw contributed to this report