Toyota Gazoo Racing technical director Pascal Vasselon believes that balancing grandfathered LMP1 cars into the same performance window as Le Mans Hypercars next year would “kill the category before it starts” stressing that the FIA and ACO must make LMP1 non-hybrids slower than the new-for-2021 prototype platform.
Vasselon’s comments come in the wake of Alpine confirming a LMP1 entry into the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship season, with a modified version of the Rebellion R13 Gibson set to compete alongside new LMH machinery from Toyota, Glickenhaus and ByKolles.
Alpine is the first confirmed LMP1 entrant for 2021, which could still see an entry from Ginetta should it find a customer willing to run its G60-LT-P1 AER.
“We knew for quite a long time that this grandfathering will happen because the LMP1 non-hybrid had three years of homologation,” said Vasselon.
“When the new category would start in 2021, we knew there would be one season of grandfathering of LMP1. This was clear.
“Normally what was planned is that LMP1 grandfathered would be a bit slower than the other category. Otherwise it would kill the new category before it starts.”
The FIA and ACO have yet to outline where the grandfathered LMP1s will fit in performance-wise to LMH machinery, particularly with a manufacturer entry now confirmed for 2021.
It is also unclear if LMP1s will be allowed to race for one or two seasons, especially if the rollout of the joint ACO-IMSA LMDh platform is delayed until 2023, as widely believed.
“I cannot elaborate more because it’s up to the rules makers,” Vasselon said. “What has been discussed from the beginning of the grandfathering is that cars will be grandfathered and will be brought in the same pack but not be as quick as the new category.
“If you put LMP1 at the same level as LMH, it would kill all incentive for new teams to commit to the LMH category. Because obviously it will be a lot cheaper to go with a LMP1 instead of developing a LMH.
“From the logic and creation of the new category, you cannot grandfather the previous category at the same level.”
Vasselon, however, admitted that it’s “very good news” to see another manufacturer join the WEC’s top class, in what could be a first step towards a more long-term involvement with either an Alpine LMH or LMDh car in the future.
“We heard about it a while ago and we were hoping it would materialize and it has. So It’s very good news, of course,” he said.
“We know that Alpine is looking at the next step in their commitment, which is to enter the category with LMH or LMDh. This is really what’s the best part of the news.”
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report