The list of 13 cars on the invitation list confirmed today for the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours brings a looming issue into sharp focus.
After the topsy turvy nature of last year’s Le Mans entry list the ACO opted to postpone the building of new garages which had been intended to facilitate an increase to a 60 car maximum grid in 2015.
That may prove to have been a premature decision.
DSC expects that the full season FIA WEC entry for the coming season will be at the 32 car full season maximum, plus a smattering of cars looking to complete a part season and potentially the situation where aspirant WEC entries may have to be turned away, albeit in small numbers.
WEC full season entrants are, of course, automatically accepted as Le Mans 24 Hours entrants.
Of the 13 teams invited today we expect to see the Factory Audi and GTE Am SMP Racing Ferrari on the WEC entry together with AF Corse and Aston Martin Racing.
That means that the current potential number of confirmed entries, assuming the estimate of 32 for the WEC is correct, sits at around 40 from a 56 car potential field.
There is no Garage 56 car in 2015.
From that total of c.16 available entries we can assume that third cars from the Audi, Nissan and Porsche LMP1 factory teams would be accepted together with a two car team from Corvette in LM GTE Pro.
That leaves c.11 spaces available.
However those 11 spaces must be shared between remaining aspirant entries from the teams which contested the 2014, or will contest the 2015, qualifying Series.
Lets look for now simply at the European Le Mans Series:
In 2014 the full season LMP2 entry for the European Le Mans Series numbered c.10 cars. Of these 2014 cars only Signatech Alpine and Jota Sport are currently guaranteed an entry, though Morand racing are expected to seek a full season WEC entry with SARD.
That leaves seven current full season 2014 cars, and there are a number of teams stepping into LMP2 in 2015, and other existing teams with aspirations to field second cars.
And that’s before we get into any analysis of the situation in the LM GTE ranks of the ELMS, which had a full season grid into double figures with some significant teams involved.
And that does not include teams from either the Asian Le Mans Series or the Tudor United Sportscar Championship that might choose to file an entry request! (We expect small numbers from both).
There are certainly enough cars to fill the Le Mans entry, plus the LMP and GT reserve lists and still leave some significant players disappointed.
Of course things can change rapidly, as they did in 2014, but it seems sensible to offer the flexibility of a bigger entry, rather than to potentially disappoint and in some cases deal a heavy commercial blow to some privateer entries that have proved themselves loyal to the ‘Spirit of Endurance’.
The only solution is to expand the grid or more particularly the pitlane, or give the flexibility and or potential to do so. If it happens then that’s another sign of the current purple period for the endurance racing discipline, if the entry numbers fail to appear then the worst that can happen is that the course cars have some undercover accommodation!!
There is time to get this done, the message to the ACO is, if you build it, they will come!