It would be difficult to underestimate the level of bewilderment, shock and anger amongst a large number of manufacturers, suppliers and teams over the scope of the 2017 LMP2 proposals tabled by the ACO at the LMP2 manufacturers’ meeting at Daytona in January.
DSC has spoken to a large number of such parties. Perhaps understandably sources willing to talk on the record are near non-existent with a selection process looking imminent and widespread concerns that public comment on the new proposal might be viewed negatively, but a number of current and planned future players have made it clear that they think the current proposals are potentially disastrous for several long-term players in the sportscar racing industry.
It ranges from chassis constructors who believe their long term investment is about to be devalued completely, teams irritated that their market choices are about to be culled, and component suppliers that see their developmental opportunities about to disappear.
Here are a selection of quotes, anonymised at the request of those who supplied them:
“No sensible and justifiable reason has been fielded to explain why such a swingeing set of proposals has been made so there remains more than a whiff of self interest here.”
“There is the definite potential for most of the current chassis, engine and tyre suppliers involved in the class to be counted out of future competition at a stroke. That’s a huge step to take in the commercial interests of one or two larger constructors and suppliers.”
“I am stunned that this is even being considered without a full disclosure to all concerned about the reasoning, and worse still with zero involvement of the teams, who, after all, are spending the money and are actually the ACO’s customers!”
“I have been working for many months on a commercially sustainable P2 project that would be rendered immediately defunct by this plan. It’s staggering that the organising body is turning away new blood from their series, ending a formula that can only be seen as a success with a leap into the unknown with a formula that nobody has asked for and which few have had the chance to even discuss with those proposing it.”
“There are very few potential winners here. One or two chassis manufacturers who are strong in any case and the governing body themselves through any potential sanctioning fees for their fixed suppliers.”
“It seems we are, in effect, being blamed for Oreca’s inability to make enough money in LMP2. The penalty for this is likely to mean our exit from the industry. How wrong can they get this?”
“Competition on as many levels as possible is a good thing for the whole sport and the whole industry. The more ‘spec’ you make something the less relevant it is for more and more people. This doesn’t work on a developmental, promotional, or competitive front. It brings a formula that has been well thought out and delivered by the ACO down to the level of a mid ranking single seater championship. And we know how successful they are at the moment don’t we!”
An ACO source has told DSC that the meeting of the LMP2 working group next week is intended to finalise the proposal, with likely only minor changes from that tabled at Daytona’s meeting in January.
Thereafter the chassis constructor’s selection process would be finalised almost immediately with the four selected constructors to be announced by this summer.
Separate but near parallel processes would be undertaken to competitively tender for both a tyre supplier and engine supplier.
One aspect of the proposal that may be under reconsideration is the proposal that A V8 version of the 4 pot turbo Global Race Engine concept should be used:
“The money involved there would be phenomenal in development terms alone. Unless there is a pre-determined answer to the tendering question It’s unlikely to be a sustainable concept for a cost-capped LMP2.”
Amongst the competing teams there is, if anything, even more anger:
“Not a word has been said to us by the ACO or FIA about these proposals. No information, and certainly no consultation. It does not exactly get you to the point of being considered as a valued stakeholder.”
“When I read your story (on DSC) I checked it wasn’t 1 April! From what I can see there is no benefit to the teams aside from a vague potential reduction in some peripheral costs. That’s not enough to offset the massive reduction in choice for us in the future marketplace.”
“With young drivers with budget being attracted here as part of a development curve leading potentially to LMP1 things were looking up but this removes, immediately, much of the justification of that. No tyre development, a single engine and a supply chain that are not exactly going to be rushing to develop the cars. This set of proposals is more ‘P3’ than the actual LMP3 regulations are!”
“There’s a theory in the business that this is designed to force more of the bigger teams to move up to LMP1. That’s just not going to happen. And certainly not in these circumstances. An opportunity to spend twice as much after having your principal racing assets devalued is not an appealing proposition for anybody.”
“There seems to be an assumption that we will all tag along and go wherever the regulations take us. All I can say is that one of my customers told me that this makes a move to GT3 very much more likely for us and them where we have a wide choice of cars and tyres around the world. It seems to me that there’s been a fundamental failure to understand the motivation of many of those pouring huge amounts of money into the sport, and it stands to lose them as a result.”
Supporters of the proposals have been few and far between with Oreca’s Hugues de Chaunac alone thus far in confirming to DSC that the proposals have his support: “It is a very tough marketplace, made more difficult when there are teams that build their own cars and effectively ignore the cost cap. We need to sell more cars to justify the big investment you need to develop one of these cars.
It’s a perfectly justifiable point from Hugues, whose duty is to the profitability of his company. The question to the rule makers is though whether that is a good enough basis to make such a huge series of steps in a currently well populated class.