Just days ago we ran an extensive piece on the future prospects for the lately beleaguered LMP1 Privateer category in the FIA WEC.
In the article we referenced a meeting, due to take place during the Bahrain FIA WEC weekend with current, and prospective near future teams and manufacturers and the ACO rulemakers in attendance.
That meeting duly took place, on the Thursday of the race meeting, chaired by the ACO’s Vincent Beaumesnil with his colleague Thierry Bouvet and the FIA Technical Delegate Denis Chevriet in attendance.
From the current WEC entrants Bart Hayden and Ian Smith represented Rebellion Racing, Boris Bermes for ByKolles.
Also in attendance were Strakka Racing (Dan Walmsley), BR Engineering/ SMP Racing (Benjamin Durand & Farida Zadi), Greaves Motorsport (Tim and Jacob Greaves) and Oak Racing (Jacques Nicolet and Philippe Dumas).
A range of issues were raised and debated including:
Potential ‘Easy-win’ Cost Savings:
These included, questions over whether there was a need to employ fuel flow metering for the privateer LMP1s, approximate cost is €100k per year per car with the potential replacement being to defer to the previous (much cheaper) tech of air restrictors.
Fuel flow metering has a knock on effect on the cost for the Magnetti Marelli ‘Marshal in the cab’ system, the identical system installed in all other classes cost €8,000, in an LMP1 Privateer car the cost is more than double at €20,000, the difference made up by the staffing and systems required to monitor the fuel flow metering.
Torque Sensors, another expensive piece of tech, c.€25,000 per car and far less relevant to the much lower powered Privateer cars
All told that adds up to a substantial potential saving per car with other potential ‘wins’ on cost control potentially to be added to the wish list.
With the CLM and Rebellion/ Oreca chassis the only currently active chassis there are questions from others, principally the BR Engineering and Strakka (Dome) camps over the future eligibility of their current, soon to be outlawed for LMP2, monocoques.
Those questions arise because of the current debate over the timing of the next step for LMP1 monocoques, a debate fuelled by the recent near vertical development curve for the factory cars which have seen lap times tumble and speeds increase causing concerns over the safety viability of the current chassis in extremis.
More than one meeting participant pointed out not only that this would preclude any chance of some new LMP1 Privateer programmes getting off the ground, but also that the potential step forward for the monocoques would simply be irrelevant to the current (and predicted near future) breed of Privateer cars with around half of the power of the factory P1s
Raised in two contexts:
To open up the current marketplace to additional currently available engines that can be made to work effectively with air restrictors and,
To consider opening up the class to production based GT3 engines, readily available powerful and reliable and offering the potential for tie-ins and branding with OEMs. OAK Racing have made it clear repeatedly to DSC that if they can secure such a deal they would move forward an LMP1 Privateer programme, based on the Ligier chassis, very rapidly
Questions were also asked about the potential to keep near future LMP1 Privateer cars sufficiently well ahead of the new for 2017, more powerful P2s with bigger tyres and likely better aero than the current breed.
“At least 100 bhp more” was cited by one participant as the minimum separation with current LMP1s around 30bhp in advance of the planned output of the new for 2017 ‘spec’ Gibson V8. That, coupled with the likely introduction of more young and talented drivers in LMP2 in the coming years is simply not enough of a separation.
The lure of some form of LMP2 Pro sub class is still a regular talking point in the WEC paddock, but there is no public movement in that direction at all, there is still nervousness in abundance about the potential future numbers in the LMP classes and everyone, it seems, is correctly cautious about public statements of options or proposed direction.
Value from WEC
Comments from participants were also made about the need for senior WEC management to be publicly supportive for the class with requests for further consideration being given to adding value in terms of media exposure, to the class.
All participants contacted by DSC made it clear that they felt they had been listened to with Vincent Beaumesnil commenting that the ACO would respond to the points raised “before the end of the year.” Participants made it clear though that time was of the essence with potential 2016 plans already advancing, and budgets for longer term plans requiring clear answers as soon as possible.
The ball it seems is now in the hands of the rule makers. A multi-car LMP1 Privateer entry is still possible, but common sense must prevail on both sides of the debate, from the teams/ manufacturers, and from the ACO.
Here’s hoping we get a clear plan of action to help support, encourage and preserve a very important part of the show. History teaches us that there may very well come a time when they become very important indeed!