With the 2017 FIA WEC season, the first without Audi, fast approaching, Audi Sport ambassador and FIA Endurance Commission member Emanuele Pirro has a very positive outlook on the future of sportscar racing. In talking to DSC, Pirro was keen to stress that Audi’s LMP1 exit is not a sign of prototype racing and top-line endurance racing struggling.
Instead, Pirro believes that it’s a speed bump which will aid the ACO and FIA into making necessary changes to keep it healthy and sustainable.
“Audi leaving is what it is, nothing lasts forever in life,” Pirro told DSC. “The Audi period at Le Mans has been an incredible journey and those who lived it feel incredibly privileged. We have to respect the decision, you have to change direction and programme sometimes. All our friends, drivers team members, there was a feeling of sorrow but of satisfaction as well because what we have lived in the 18 years was incredible.
“It doesn’t mean endurance racing has been any weaker. I’m actively sitting in the Endurance Commission trying to contribute to the development of the category. I believe Le Mans will last forever, it’s too important as a race for the manufacturers and participants.”
Behind the scenes Pirro has been working with the FIA to help shape future seasons and ensure that sportscar and endurance racing is viable for generations to come. His views however are very traditionalist, and cautious when it comes to technological advancements in the cars which will shape the future.
“Personally as much as I love technology, it’s not the right time now to push technology too far,” he continued, when asked about his view on the future of the sport. “It’s so expensive, that I’d rather have more participants with less boundary pushing. The difference between now and the old days is that before there was absolute freedom, they could use their brains to come up with solutions that would become standard in road cars a few years later.
“Now there’s so much technology around the world that I think motorsport should change a little bit, it doesn’t need to have the mission to develop new technology. It’s racing between drivers and teams, to slow down the pressure to evolve is a must nowadays.
I would rather see 10 manufacturers spending less money, than two with super high-tech cars
“Now the R&D budgets are very high for manufacturers, they don’t only have motorsport to try new things. I would rather see 10 manufacturers spending less money, than two with super high-tech cars. This is a conflict with my passion because my wish was always to be an engineer. I am in love with technology and every time I tested a new car I felt it was a great privilege.
“But you have to be realistic, it’s so expensive, you can’t push that under the rug.”
For Le Mans Hall of Fame member Pirro, IMSA’s DPi solution to its top prototype class is far more viable and forward thinking. From what he’s seen of the new cars so far, he has been left impressed.
“DPi is lower levels of tech, and that’s good because I think motorsport is more a sport for men than machine. Priority number one should be given to close racing, teamwork, driver quality and then some technological advances, because if you leave engineers to go off on their own then they would produce cars humans can’t drive. That’s not motor racing.”
In talking more specifically about the work of the FIA Endurance Commission though, he feels confident that the FIA and ACO are doing what’s best for the sport. The Endurance Commission, which holds regular meetings chaired by its President Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones, features representatives from the FIA, ACO and various other parties.
“The goal of the Endurance Commission is to find and determine the best route to help the sport survive. We have manufacturers, senior people, engineers, everyone you’d expect is involved,” explained the 55-year-old Rome native.
The aim and target of endurance racing shouldn’t always be to reflect what is seen on the road
“I feel privileged to be a part of this group. It’s an open discussion about the what’s to come, to find the best compromise between affordability and technological freedom.
“It’s really cool to be there, you feel you are a part of shaping the future of a very important form of racing.
“The feeling is positive. The Le Mans people are involved and I’m happy, because the new rules should have started in 2018 but because of circumstances they have been pushed back. This is the downside of advanced tech in cars. As with anything in life there’s a compromise, you have to find the right balance to attract people.
“Manufacturers bring drivers and teams and make the battle more intense and attractive.
“This is not the view of the Endurance Commission, it’s my personal view, and keeping someone like me in there with different opinions I think is healthy. There’s always a way to bring in new technology, but personally I like racing to be racing. I don’t think the aim and target of endurance racing shouldn’t always be to reflect what is seen on the road.
“It’s why I love historic racing, it has character, passion and charm. We need more of that.”