FIA World Endurance Championship boss Gerard Neveu has admitted they have to stay “humble and prudent” as the series faces a decreased full-season entry this year amid Audi’s withdrawal from LMP1 competition.
The ACO revealed last week a 28-car entry for the sixth season of the globe-trotting championship, down from last year’s 32 cars, featuring an all-Oreca 07 Gibson representation in the new-look LMP2 class, but stability in the GTE categories.
Endurance-Info caught up with Neveu to get his thoughts on the entry list and forecast the year ahead.
Are you satisfied with the number of cars committed to the WEC?
“When you think about the general context of motorsport, you cannot complain.
“That being said, you have to have a lot of humility and be prudent. You have to make up for the departure of Audi and welcome new LMP2 cars.
“I believe we have a very good grid, considering many had predicted [only] 20 to 22 entries.”
Do you feel it’s a handicap for having only two manufacturers in LMP1?
“I cannot deny that we would like to have three or more [manufacturers].
“The first two years of the championship, we witnessed an Audi and Toyota duel with animated races, and having two manufacturer does not mean [it will be less exciting].
“LMP1 Privateer is in the process of being restructured and the recent announcements are going in the right direction. This season will be somewhat complicated but the arrival of Robert Kubica is an added value.”
Does LMP2 meet your expectations?
“The fact that there is only one [constructor] is a situation of timing, due to the departure of a few teams, but you [still] see the profile and level of the teams and drivers.
“The performance of the [new] cars is quite spectacular, if you believe the first tests.”
Is the arrival of a world title in GTE a real plus?
“It’s true that having a FIA world title will motivate the manufacturers even more. BMW will arrive next year and we hope that others will follow.
“Since the announcement of the world title, discussions have begun with other brands, but with no specific deadlines. GT convergence can also be part of the parameters.
“On the GTE-Am side, we can speak of consistency, and that level of committed entries.”
There is renewed interest in the GT with five manufacturers in 2018. Will GT take precedence over prototype?
“GT and prototype are two parallel stories. But the budgets are not the same. GT is a market focused in road models, while prototype has a long history.
“We have the advantage of having these two families in the championship.
“The four brands currently present in GTE have produced a great show and have quickly adapted to the new rules. The reward is now the world title. Other manufacturers will follow.”
Is the Mexican round in jeopardy given the country’s economic situation?
“I cannot deny that the situation between Mexico and the U.S. is not the most comfortable. But the race is still in place.
“We have to assess the risks involving the race, as it takes place in eight months [from now].”
With 28 full-season cars registered, do you anticipate additional cars on the grid in select rounds?
“If there are requests, why not? We’ll look at it on a case-by-case basis depending the [track] capacity.”
Has the off-season been more complicated for you than in recent years?
“Our team has not stopped working since the Bahrain finale. We’ve had to adapt to the departure of a manufacturer and organize ourselves accordingly.
“But we’re prepared for this type of situation. The WEC is prepared and has adapted accordingly.”