Porsche and Ferrari have voiced their support for the FIA and ACO’s plans to focus on customer racing in the World Endurance Championship’s future GT3-based category.
The WEC organizing bodies last week announced that the current GTE formula will end after the 2023 season and be replaced by cars based on the internationally successful GT3 platform from 2024.
As part of an aim to keep costs more manageable, manufacturers are set to be prevented from entering races with all-pro lineups and full-factory operations, in contrast to what is currently allowed in GTE-Pro.
Porsche’s head of factory motorsport Pascal Zurlinden, and Ferrari’s Attivita Sportive director Antonello Coletta, have each expressed their approval at the idea to limit factory involvement in the WEC’s future GT division.
The two GTE-Pro entrants are currently in the process of shifting their works sports car racing focus over to prototypes starting in 2023, with Porsche working alongside Multimatic to develop an LMDh car and Ferrari building a four-wheel-drive hybrid LMH.
“Our view is that as LMH and LMDh becomes a global platform for prototypes, having a global platform for GT is also the right way to go for costs and strategy, both for manufacturers and customers,” Zurlinden told Sportscar365.
“So having something based on this global platform, GT3, is the right thing to do in our opinion.
“In our opinion, GT3 is customer racing, customer-oriented.
“When you look at how many Bronze drivers are in this [Le Mans] field, we have 23 cars. You can’t tell Bronze and Silver drivers to stay home.
“These guys have made Le Mans and the WEC what it is now over the last few years, and they need to have their place.
“I see that GT3, GT3-Am or however you will call it, is a step which is really important, to keep a place for these guys.”
According to Coletta, limiting the involvement of factory GT racing programs will ensure spending is kept down to prevent the emergence of “another GTE.”
Like Porsche, Ferrari already has an extensive GT3 customer racing network and does not see the need to race with a factory GT team in WEC once its LMH program comes online.
“Honestly I hope that the future of the GT class will be just for customers,” Coletta told Sportscar365.
“If we start with help from the manufacturers, the costs will go and go. In two or three years, we will have another GTE.
“Probably we can do some help with the drivers, like one Platinum or Gold driver for example. But in my opinion, the best way will be if the others are Silver and Bronze.
“But if we seek to organize another GTE-Pro with the new GT3, in two or three years we have the same problem with costs. The category for the manufacturer is Hypercar.”
Although the WEC and IMSA are introducing the same GT3 platform for their future top-level GT classes, they currently diverge on the point of allowing factory entries.
IMSA had stood by its creation of the GT3-based GTD Pro as its new top GT class from next year, despite the FIA and ACO emphasizing a customer racing focus.
According to Zurlinden, this won’t be an issue if manufacturers like Porsche – which ran a factory GTE effort in IMSA until this year – only focus on customer racing.
“In IMSA, for us it’s customer racing,” he said. “There will be no factory team, next year or the year after.
“If a customer decided to go to [GTD] Pro, like some did at Le Mans to go in GTE-Pro, we will support them and give them the best materials so they can win races. That’s our philosophy.”
The customer-focused nature of the WEC’s future GT category has registered concern from General Motors’ Corvette Racing camp.
GM’s sports car racing program manager Laura Wontrop Klauser recently said that it would be “disappointing” if Corvette is unable to run a full-factory program at Le Mans.
Factories Won’t Pursue GTE-Pro Entries in ’23
Porsche and Ferrari appear to be sticking to their guns regarding the end dates for their factory WEC GTE-Pro entries despite the class apparently being eligible through 2023.
GTE-Pro was initially expected to end after 2022 based on past comments from both manufacturers. However, last week FIA Endurance Commission President Richard Mille and ACO President Pierre Fillon indicated that it would continue with GTE-Am into 2023.
“We thought that GTE-Pro will stop at the end of 2022,” said Zurlinden.
“But it’s a chance for customers. We have had two Pro cars with customers [at Le Mans] so if they continue the concept of GTE-Pro they could do one more year. It’s a good return on investment.”
Asked if the official Porsche GT Team could continue in GTE-Pro for an additional year, in the WEC or at Le Mans, Zurlinden replied: “I don’t think that’s realistic.”
“At the end, in 2023 we will be in the top class and that’s what we will concentrate on,” he said.
Coletta added that Ferrari is prepared to support GTE-Am entries in 2023, adding a year to its initial commitment through 2022, but does not expect Pro to be given an extra year.
“I think that GTE-Pro will finish at the end of 2022,” he said. “And then in 2023 it should be GTE-Am for one year.
“Then in 2024 we will start with the [new] GT class. I don’t know if it will be Pro-Am, Am or whatever. But in any case I think that we have nothing to define, just GT3.
“I spoke with the ACO and FIA: the intention is to move to GT3 but the details are not defined. I spoke with the other manufacturers, and I understand that we are in the same boat.
“We need to decide all together what will be the best direction. In any case, it’s clear that the future of GT will be GT3.”