Toyota Gazoo Racing technical director Pascal Vasselon believes there’s “general interest” from manufacturers in both the FIA World Endurance Championship and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for a common prototype platform, despite the series’ different philosophies.
The Japanese manufacturer, along with nearly a dozen other automakers, have continued joint discussions, with the goal of creating a global set of LMP1 regulations that would initially launch in the WEC for the 2020-21 season.
With a significant reduction in budgets proposed, through highly controlled development and a single, potentially off-the-shelf hybrid system, Vasselon believes the gap can be bridged between the two current formulas.
“I think there’s a general interest to make it compatible,” he said. “It’s true that the fan base seems to be different.
“For example, in last year’s WEC fan survey, when fans were asked to list what makes WEC and Le Mans attractive, technology was coming in position three, which for sure in the U.S. would not come that high.
“For sure the fan base is different but let’s see if we can get the best out of the two worlds.
“For the manufacturers, there is an interest to have the same regulation base between IMSA and WEC.”
While an off-the-shelf hybrid system has been among the “ongoing” discussions, Vasselon admitted its participation in the WEC wouldn’t necessarily prove its purpose if a spec electric powertrain was to be introduced.
“Obviously we know [some] teams are not really keen with hybrids and they may do some compromises,” he said. “At the moment it’s really a work in progress.
“We are in WEC to be technology-driven. This series offers the possibility to showcase your technology level.
“For sure, our choice is to keep developing powertrain and hybrid systems and engines. Otherwise, for us, WEC wouldn’t be attractive any more.
“If we want a category which is not technology-driven and more spectacular-driven, we have the WRC and we are in WRC. So for us to participate in two series, WRC plus WEC, the WEC has to offer the possibility to develop technology.
“For sure the hybrid system will be smaller. The question is how much smaller and how much simper and will it be spec or not.
“These are the discussions that are ongoing at the moment.”
Delay in Regs “Not an Option”
Vasselon has insisted that a delay in the introduction of the new regulations, currently scheduled for the 2020-21 WEC season, is not an option.
It has been suggested that the championship could extend the current LMP1 hybrid/non-hybrid class for an additional season to better time the new platform’s launch in the WeatherTech Championship, which series boss Scott Atherton said cannot occur until 2022 at the earliest.
The Toyota technical chief indicated that a “staggered” launched has been discussed between the two series.
“Already we have two seasons of transition, we cannot have three [in WEC],” Vasselon said. “So the new rules must come in 2020; we cannot wait another year.”
He said the FIA and ACO’s target of releasing the general guidelines by June should give prospective manufacturers enough time to prepare.
“For everyone targeting to enter the series in 2020, the earlier the better,” Vasselon said. “But we are probably the one that can afford to wait a bit because we have the baseline ready.
“But for newcomers like Aston Martin, McLaren, Ferrari, who are considering the new regulations, they obviously need the rules as early as possible as they have to set up an entire operation.”