Endurance-Info’s Laurent Mercier caught up with ACO Sporting Director Vincent Beaumesnil to discuss the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship season and look ahead to 2016 and beyond, which will mark the arrival of new machinery and regulations.
How would you sum up the 2016 season for LMP1?
“The Equivalence of Technology (EoT) is now in place. It took a year and a half. In 2014, we went into year one of a [new] system. We were no longer in this situation this year, since we had the 2014 data.
“The big surprise has been the lack of performance from Toyota but the leap from Audi and Porsche. Everyone was surprised. However, I don’t think we will see the same leap [in overall performance] over this winter.
“Since this year’s Prologue, we have been in discussions with the technical teams to reduce the performance of the cars whose limit has been reached.
“It’s based on a proven system. Everything is well-oiled and reliable, which is a great satisfaction for us. Many technical means have been deployed with a big job to everyone.
“For example, we have implemented an RFID system that improves the monitoring of tires. The system will be further simplified in 2016.”
Is the reduction of costs in LMP1 still one of the priorities?
“We keep working on the costs. Between staff reductions, reduction of wind tunnel tests and track tests, the FIA and the ACO must ensure that the costs do not explode.
“For the future, we are working on other options. LMP1 should not scare away new manufacturers. We’ve asked for the limitation to two cars but this was not accepted immediately.
“We wrote a LMP1 roadmap with a vision for the next 7 or 8 years. The new monocoque, which is set to arrive in 2018, will be a real novelty in safety. Fuel allocation will also be modified with an additional increase in the hybridization.
“We’re also evaluating on what type of new technology could have a fit. Garage 56 can help with this.
“Controlling costs may be of interest for other LMP1 manufacturers to come. Peugeot has not hidden his desire to return to LMP1 even if nothing has been set.”
Does the LMP1 non-hybrid class also taken into account for the future?
“For us, the private teams are very important. The teams must understand that they have the support of the FIA and the ACO.
“A meeting was held in Bahrain and we will begin the work in detail in 2016. The new LMP2 rules allow manufacturers to move to LMP1.
“However, the rules remain the same in 2016 but the performance cutback of LMP1 hybrid should help bring everyone [in line], especially the private teams, as they keep the same fuel allowance.”
LMP2 has seen a resurgence in WEC, but changes are in the works for 2017…
“We said the current cars were eligible for five years [from 2010] and had been warned that the concept would evolve. I remain convinced that this is a very attractive category.
“LMP2 is doing well and in 2017 we will have more efficient cars for a reasonable cost. Synergy with the U.S. is good even if the chemistry is not simple.
“We must create a concept with the three governing bodies, each with a different vision. We have to keep the perspective of customer teams unlike our American friends.
“The concepts with the four manufacturers have been validated and we’re entering the last phase in the regulations.”
More and more young drivers are showing interest in LMP2…
“The category is a strong alternative for drivers coming from GP2 or World Series by Renault. We saw in Bahrain where the GP2 and GP3 championships were present with the WEC. Young drivers have shown great interest in the WEC.”
There’s been a lot of debate over the future of driver ratings. Has there been any consideration to remove them in LMP2?
“Personally, I am not opposed to the removal of [driver ratings] for WEC, but leave it for ELMS. The concern is how to manage it for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where the two [series] meet.
“To attract new drivers, though, I think it will go that way. You have to study between 1,500 and 2,000 drivers, which gives an idea of the work. We must do independent work of politics. The changes are decided on specific data, not the client’s head.”
The GTE-Pro class will undergo a revival of sorts, with new regulations and the arrival of Ford. Does this give you satisfaction?
“It’s great for the fans who will see more aggressive and more efficient cars. The arrival of Ford is important to us. The project is ambitious.
“There is a true collaboration between the FIA, ACO and IMSA for the BoP. We have a dedicated person on this. All information is crossed and the process must be as transparent as possible.
“The concept is that the competitor must declare [the performance they have]. If the information is false, we can stop a car in the race if the need arises.
“We’re in contact with other manufacturers interested in GTE. One of the great regrets, though, was the abandonment of GT Convergence, but [maybe it could happen one day in the future].”
Where do you see the future of LMP3?
“What the ACO had in mind was to do something good. Formula Le Mans [LMPC] was a success in the U.S., unlike Europe. There was a big job on the evaluation [of the platform] and having a very safe car.
“The ACO hopes to not only conquer the American market but also Asia. Eventually, LMP3 could become a world-reknowned prototype by the FIA. The car has a universal purpose. The only change being made in the short-term concerns the transmission.”
Could we see LMP3 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the future?
“It’s not on the agenda. Today we have something that works very well but no one knows what the future will bring. We want to have two strong LMP1 classes [hybrid and non-hybrid] and LMP2 reserved for private teams and the drivers to have a promising future. LMP3 must be a stepping [stone] for young drivers.”