FIA World Endurance Championship CEO Gerard Neveu has admitted that it would be “impossible to imagine” the upcoming set of LMP1 regulations without hybrid technology, amid talks with manufacturers on the scope for 2020 and beyond.
Neveu, ACO President Pierre Fillon, as well as other leading representatives from the FIA and ACO have continued discussions with current and prospective LMP1 manufacturers on the 2020 regulations, which are due to be released, conceptually, at Le Mans next month.
“Clearly if the question is, ‘What do you feel about hybrid technology?’ It’s impossible to imagine that we’ll cancel hybrid technology in LMP1 at this moment because it’s in the DNA of endurance and the reason why this championship is so attractive and exciting for the people,” Neveu said.
“This is also the story of Le Mans, since the beginning. Le Mans is the starting of the story of the championship.”
The biggest change on the horizon, Neveu said, is a larger focus on cost reduction, although not necessarily by reducing the level of technology currently seen in the class today.
He stressed that an “intermediate way” has to be achieved between technology and costs.
“We cannot continue with an idea that this championship can cost more than $100 million Euro [per year] because you have to develop and do a lot of R&D,” Neveu said.
“You have to take into consideration the global economic situation, the fact that you have to be ready to attract other manufacturers and if it’s too expensive or difficult, and there’s a very limited number [of manufacturers], we’ll stay in the fragile position as this is the case today and this is also not a good way.
“We have to find something very reasonable. That [doesn’t mean] it’s not interesting. Reasonable means accessible.”
Fillon said they’re aiming to give an equal chance to varying levels of hybrid technology, unlike the current regulations, which slightly favors cars in the 8MJ hybrid subclass.
If achieved, it could allow a manufacturer such as Peugeot an easier and more affordable entry point into the class.
The French manufacturer is understood to be nearing a decision on a possible return to the LMP1 ranks for the new wave of regulations.
“The question is not the number of hybrid systems,” Fillon said. “The question is how you can spend with the same performance and same chance.
“The idea is for the new rules is that, ‘OK you can spend X million if you want to… but you will take no advantage.’
“But two hybrid systems is not double the price of one hybrid system. That’s important.”
Neveu added: “The question is, ‘How much do you have to spend to be competitive and to continue to improve the new technology?'”
Fillon and Neveu said other measures, including a further reduction in testing and introduction of a Formula One-style “token” system are also ways to reduce costs but fell short of confirming that either measure would be implemented.
“At the end, we are here to try to help the different competitors, any level, LMP1, LMP2, GTE, to find the best average to have a long story for us,” Neveu said. “At this moment, the main concern from the top of the different brands… is budgets.
“The market is working not so bad currently but they have to be careful with the budgets and we have to listen and understand that.
“So we have to adapt and find all the different process to help them to do it.”