The FIA World Endurance Championship and European Le Mans Series could have mixed grids in LMP2 next year, with existing prototypes to be grandfathered alongside the new-for-2017 models from Riley-Multimatic, Dallara, Onroak Automotive and ORECA.
However, with the 2016-spec LMP2 cars retaining its current performance levels, and the new spec Gibson GK428 engine set to deliver upwards of 600 horsepower — roughly a 20 percent increase over 2016 power levels — it’s unclear how many teams will remain with its tried-and-trusted package next year.
The difference in power, as well as advancements in chassis, will reportedly place the 2017 LMP2 cars at a 3-4 second advantage at normal circuits, and up to 8-10 seconds faster at Le Mans.
“We are aware of a performance gap between the cars,” ACO Sporting Director Vincent Beaumesnil told Endurance-Info. “There will not be BoP because the current engines are already at a near maximum yield.
“We will not set up a separate classification for old and new LMP2s. There’s already enough categories.”
Beaumesnil says the majority of LMP2 competitors will purchase new cars, or in the case of current Oreca 05 teams, upgrade their car to the Oreca 07, which reportedly comes at a cost of 200,000 Euros.
The fate of some teams, such as SMP Racing, which has run its self-built BR Engineering BR01 for the past two seasons, remains uncertain.
“Of course, [most] teams will instead turn to the 2017 LMP2,” Beaumesnil said. “Some teams have also entered LMP2 this season to prepare for 2017 with a new chassis.”
The grandfathering period — eligible for open and closed-top LMP2 cars — is for 2017 only in the WEC but for open for the next two seasons in the ELMS, while the Asian Le Mans Series will only begin accepting 2017-spec machinery for its 2019/2020 season.
A number of ELMS teams have already expanded into the Asian market, with Algarve Pro Racing planning a return this winter and others close to confirming programs as well.
“There is a real market opportunity for Asia,” Beaumesnil added. “The teams have cars to offer, which will see the number of cars [increase].”
Beaumesnil, meanwhile, still stands by the new LMP2 formula, despite the current healthy grids in both the WEC and ELMS, which will likely take a slight hit next year with the introduction of the new regulations.
“We initiated this change [two] years ago when the FIA WEC had only four LMP2 cars,” he said. “It may sound strange but I still think it’s the right decision.
“As is often the case with new regulations, it will be a transitional year for 2017.”