With LMP1 operating budgets on the rise, particularly due to the arrival of new cutting-edge technology to the class, the FIA and ACO have imposed a series of cost reduction measures that will begin to take effect for this year.
Manufacturers across the board have supported the changes, which initially sees restrictions in testing, engines, tires and number of crew, with additional initiatives already in the works for the years to come.
“There’s been a working group to reduce the costs,” ACO President Pierre Fillon told Sportscar365. “We’ve been [working] for one year with the manufacturers on how we can reduce the costs. The group has been working and they’ve made some proposals.”
At the core of the changes for 2015 is a limitation on testing, which sees a maximum of ten closed private testing days per car allowed, or 20 days for a new manufacturer entering the category. Additional days are allowed for public or shared tests.
Another change comes with the restriction of engines over the season, with no more than five allowed for each hybrid-powered LMP1 car, or seven for a new manufacturer, such as the first-year Nissan program.
In addition to tire limitations, which sees a maximum of six sets for most six-hour races, and four sets for practice, there will be caps made to the number of crew per car following the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with a maximum of 65 operational staff permitted for a two-car team.
According to Audi’s Head of LMP1 Chris Reinke, the changes are welcomed from within the German manufacturer, which is understood to currently be one of the heaviest spenders in the FIA WEC paddock.
“It’s obviously followed long discussions, so when you talk impact, it was foreseeable and we could adjust our demands,” Reinke told Sportscar365. “On the budget side, it does have a positive influence and we appreciate that.”
Reinke confirmed Audi will have to “slightly reduce” its trackside workforce following Le Mans, although others, such as defending World Champions Toyota, which has operated under a more modest budget, are not expected to be affected as much.
In fact, according to Toyota’s Pascal Vasselon, the Japanese manufacturer had been one of the major proponents of the cost-cutting measures.
“This is very important for us,” Vasselon said. “We had really pushed for that. The biggest item will be testing reduction. We are now forced to respect a total number of 50 car test days for everyone, as well as other items like five engines [per car per season].
“We’re happy to see this coming. It doesn’t impact us because we’re already below these limits. Since 2012, we’ve been testing a lot less than 50 car test days and last year we [used] five engines. So we’re happy that others are limited.”
Vasselon said the new five-engine rule does not change their approach either.
“It may be tough at some point but it did not change anything for us because last year we did not use more than five [engines in 2014],” he said. “One of the big things this year is that the regulations are reasonably stable.”
Additional cost reduction measures are in the planning stages for next year, according to Fillon, including limitation of wind tunnel time and other aerodynamic-related initiatives.
“There was a meeting [at Paul Ricard], so we’ll have to wait and see for a final decision,” Fillon said. “But there are other [areas]. We are working on that.
“We are working on wind tunnel [limitations] and there are a lot of different parameters we can make to reduce the costs.”
While it’s unclear the total amount of savings manufacturers will have, particularly as season-long program budgets are believed to be north of $200 million for at least two factories, the changes for 2015 are a start for what could become a more sustainable platform in the years to come.