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Perrodo Set to Defend Am Title Despite Renewed LMP2 Interest

Francois Perrodo weighing up options for GTE-Am title defense; slowed LMP2 also of interest…

Photo: Ferrari

Francois Perrodo plans to return to the FIA World Endurance Championship GTE-Am ranks next year despite the recently-crowned class champion’s renewed interest in the slowed down LMP2 formula.

Bronze-rated driver Perrodo won the 2019-20 GTE-Am title with Nicklas Nielsen and Emmanuel Collard after a second-place finish in last weekend’s 8 Hours of Bahrain.

The championship victory came in Perrodo’s first season back in a GTE Ferrari after he switched to the LMP2 class for the 2017 and 2018-19 campaigns.

When asked about his outlook for the 2021 WEC season the Frenchman told Sportscar365 that while GTE remains his focus, the less powerful LMP2 cars for next year have also piqued his interest.

“At the moment it’s not 100 percent confirmed, but the idea would be to carry on with WEC in a GT,” he said.

“I have followed with interest what’s happening in LMP2. The big changes are a sub-category for Bronze drivers and the cars being slower with less power and less grippy tires.

“It would have been nice to try them in that configuration, but I understand it won’t be possible before the start of the season unless you commit with a team.

“The idea would be to continue in a GT and maybe at some stage get a drive in an LMP2, get a test somewhere to see how they compare to the 2017 spec. That could be interesting.

“I haven’t ruled out LMP2 completely, but it was a struggle when I tried it. I loved it and they’re incredible machines, but I’m having a lot more fun in the GT. It’s just more inside my comfort zone.”

Perrodo would not confirm which manufacturer he intends to run the 2021 season with but indicated that he has had discussions with Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin.

“I have had contacts with other manufacturers and maybe I’ll squeeze a test in early January,” he said.

“I’ve been speaking to both Aston and Porsche. Those two cars look nice. I have a pretty good idea of what I’d like to do but I can’t say more.

“We have until early January [to file a full-season entry] so clearly the decision will need to be made soon.

“The GTE-Am class is stronger than ever. We’ve done well this year, but the level compared to when I was in the category in 2015 and 2016 is a lot higher.

“There are lots of super-fast Silvers and really good Bronze drivers.”

Perrodo identified several factors that will contribute to his final decision on what brand of car he will be driving in the WEC next year.

“Obviously cost is important, but also knowing the team,” he said.

“That’s clearly a plus for Ferrari because I know the mechanics, the engineers and [AF Corse director] Amato Ferrari, who is a really top team owner. They’re great.

“The results are really important. The Aston has been really strong, and I think they’ve managed to make the Michelin [tire] work for them this year.

“Having said that, the RSR-19 coming into the category looks beautiful. It’s a nice position to be in but a hard decision to take.”

Perrodo plans to dovetail his WEC GTE-Am program with a handful of European Le Mans Series appearances after he contested two of this year’s races in a GTE Ferrari.

He also hopes to return to the NLS in a GetSpeed Performance Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo but ruled out entering the Nürburgring 24 due to its placement one week before Le Mans.

Perrodo “Not Surprised” by High GTE-Am Demand

The WEC GTE-Am class looks set for a bumper grid next year with several of the 2019-20 season’s competitors expected to stay on and be joined by entrants from other series and categories.

Perrodo noted several reasons for the uptick in GTE-Am interest, including the increased caliber of the racing over recent seasons and the cost analysis of the WEC’s move to a single calendar year season for 2021, with six races instead of the usual eight.

One LMP2 team principal estimated that the cost difference between running a WEC program and an ELMS program has dropped from 30 percent to around 10 percent.

When asked about the state of the GTE-Am market, Perrodo said: “I think it’s always been like this in the history of sports car racing: whenever the top category is struggling, gentleman drivers come in to fill the grid.

“We’ll see. It looks like they’re on track to have a fantastic rebirth in Hypercar from 2022. We hear rumors of Porsche, Ferrari, LMDh and LMH, which would all be awesome.

“But in the meantime, I think they’re good with LMP2 and GTE-Am.

“I’ve heard some strong [potential grid] numbers for next year. They’re all rumors, but it’s fantastic. The gents have done the maths, and with six races it’s working out to be marginally more expensive than an ELMS season plus Le Mans.

“So you’re paying 10 to 15 percent more but I’m guaranteed to do Le Mans, and it’s the world championship. I’m not surprised that they have a lot of demand. It should be exciting.”

AF Corse “Really Had to Fight” for Title

Perrodo, Nielsen and Collard secured the 2019-20 GTE-Am crown by beating the TF Sport Aston Martin squad in Bahrain, despite having the largest success ballast penalty.

Their No. 83 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo went a lap down in the first half as the hot conditions combined with the weight impacted the car’s pace before it recovered to finish second.

A brake change for the TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GTE of Charlie Eastwood, Salih Yoluc and Jonny Adam then paved the way for the AF Corse trio to overturn their points deficit coming into the season finale.

“It started out very bad in qualifying and we were one lap down, but we were saved by the safety car,” Nielsen told Sportscar365.

“It was a combination of the weight and the heat. It was pretty hot at the start of the race, so Francois struggled, and Manu also did in his first stint.

“The other stints to come were definitely better and this was due to the heat coming down which was a benefit to us.

“We’ve been fighting so hard for the title this season. We had a small setback on the points after Le Mans, so we’re really pleased to have taken the championship.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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