With Porsche winding down its LMP1 operation, after four years of action, it’s easy to forget just how far Porsche’s commitment not only in the WEC but in other areas of sportscars, extends.
In light of that, DSC, together with other members of the media sat down with Dr Frank Walliser (above), head of Porsche’s GT operations, at Shanghai last weekend, and discussed the GTE programme going forward, as well as the current and future status of its GT3 and GT4 customer based efforts.
Stefan, let’s get BoP out the way first. Are you in favour of ‘Automated BoP’ being rolled out in GTE Am next year, after its successes in Pro?
“GTE Am is a little bit different in the judgement to Pro, as you have a bigger driver impact. You have to have a closer look at the influence of the drivers, it’s a little bit more tricky. We discussed with the FIA and ACO, that the current method is fine, we’ll work the same way.
“The algorithm is the same, it’s just who is in the car should be judged whether it’s a valid lap, you have to look at the average of the drivers. Take away the Bronze driver, as the idea in Am is that the Brzone driver can make the difference.”
What’s your thoughts on a cap on how many cars each manufacturer can have in Am?
“I consider racing as a market, there’s always a demand and an offer, and that defines the price. All these cost cutdowns is like every market, it depends on the customers and entries.
“I think (it should be left to the demand of the market to decide).”
I want to talk about the seventh car for Porsche. Has that been sold and is there a plan for it?
“At the moment we are closing the books on everything. Once that happens we will decide whether it’s six or seven cars from us. The decision was made six weeks ago, after looking at opportunities. We looked at whether the customers would be there and wether we can do it or not.”
There’s potential for as many as five of those Porsche being filed as entrants for the WEC next year, if they did cap that and turn cars away, what would Porsche’s stance be?
“We will see what happens, I don’t see the point in rejecting Am cars being rejected. We’ll see when the entries are there. As you know in the silly season so many ideas are thrown around. You can only count when the forms are filled in and the down payments are made. Before that it’s all rumours and speculation.
I don’t see the point in rejecting Am cars being rejected
“The ACO won’t and shouldn’t, be turning cars away.”
How about the ELMS GTE field? Is there a worry that it could get pretty thin next year with so much migration to the WEC from current teams?
“No, I have no worries. It will be a strong class, with more cars. From Porsche we expect around two.”
And how many customers do you envision will compete in the WEC?
“In WEC I expect three to four. It looks good. And at Le Mans I can’t tell you, as it’s the decision of the ACO.”
Do you agree that Aston Martin should have been allowed to bring its new Vantage to Am next year, as the season is 18 months long?
“The rule says you introduce the car in Pro, and then a year later in Am. Everyone, even the British have to accept that. No exceptions. Why? The car is still competitive, it was on pole position this weekend.”
You said that it’s “logical” for Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber to join the IMSA GTLM ranks next year after the LMP1 programme finishes. That will be at the cost of two other drivers? There won’t be a third car?
“There’s not going to be three cars, we stay with two cars for both championships.”
Is there the potential for a third car at Le Mans?
“At Le Mans, it’s the decision of the ACO committee, we will see, it’s not finally decided. We will see.
We are looking to expanding what we do in GT racing, but that’s not just GTE, that’s also GT3 series
“We are looking to expanding what we do in GT racing, but that’s not just GTE, that’s also GT3 series, things like VLN, IGTC, things we consider as important. We have more activity here in China and Asia too.”
Is there a chance you could bring CORE along for Le Mans? (NB – despite inferences in reports elsewhere Dr Walliser was NOT asked specifically about the potential for four cars at Le Mans – DSC Ed)
“Could I do? Yes. Will I do? I will not tell you. As every year you look at the options worldwide.”
Are you disappointed that the proposed idea of GTE qualifying races in the WEC has been shelved?
“Disappointed? It was very close but the focus of the WEC was a little bit on the LMP topic and the general calendar and everything, so that was second priority. I don’t think the idea is done forever, so that’s ok for me. As an idea it’s good, but If you overstretch the management of the series, they can fail. They need to do it properly.”
How does the switch to a winter calendar affect the development cycles of GTE cars? As in IMSA it would be a normal calendar year, and the WEC will start at the end of the year every year.
“It’s not been decided if the agreement will be to start the new car starts with a homologation period postponed by six months. So a new car would come by the first WEC race, because it’s FIA homologated, so the IMSA car would be introduced after the WEC starts. The IMSA start should come a calendar year later, six months later. We would not have a car for Daytona 2019, it would be a Daytona 2020 car. Then you have properly homologated cars in Daytona for the first time, which is nice.
“Usually cars are homologated in March/April. This is a better solution.”
So the new cycle of GTE will start in September of 2019?
“Or July (After Le Mans). That’s the proposal, it’s not finalised, but I think that makes sense. Most competitors will not have a new car, and if you look again on the racing, as everything is so close, why change it? Ford considered an ‘evo’, and will not bring it. This is really cost effective, the three years of homologation period and the BoP process means you don’t develop performance, just drivers and tyres. If the car is properly homologated you can’t change it and that saves money.”
Do you envision a WEC with only GTE cars in the future (after the recent developments in LMP1 H)?
“I would more say it’s to have a sustainable grid it’s important to have private entries and available cars that private entries can buy. Prototypes and GT cars are a big part of the hstory of Le Mans and sportscar racing, this is not wrong. There’s always the question how many prototypes and how many different categories. I’m a big fan of one prototype category and one GT category, like we did with GT, pro and Am with more or less the same car, with the difference being the drivers.
I’m a big fan of one prototype category and one GT category, like we did with GT, pro and Am with more or less the same car, with the difference being the drivers
“Maybe the same is one day possible for the prototypes or for the top category. If we run GTE only this will be the overall winner category the game changes again because the effort goes up. Le Mans is still extremely attractive, so maybe a manufacturer makes a homologation car to win Le Mans, we have one here in the GT grid and it gets sometimes not so cost effective. Developing a street legal car costs more than a race car.
“A GT only World Championship is something different to WEC and Le Mans.”
So with GT3 car sales, will there be additional customers next year?
“We’ve sold some additional cars. But it’s not a big number as it’s the last year of the homologation period, we did a small update on the car which you could see on the last VLN race. It’s good an stable, the car is very reliable, we’ve won a lot of races this year, everywhere and had very good results.
“It’s homologation ends in 2019, we are allowed to make a new car from 2019.”
What’s your thoughts on the Intercontinental GT Challenge right now, we’ve just had confirmation that that round at Sepang has been cancelled?
“I think Sepang was always on the edge, Stephane (Ratel) made that transparent to us. He made a logical decision, we were informed up front. It’s not nice that it couldn’t be held, but if the quality of the grid would not be good then it makes sense. Having Suzuka next year is great, there’s a growth in the quality of the events.
“Sometimes a decision to stop something is strategically better, if you proceed and the quality of the event isn’t as good then there’s no point.”
What’s your thoughts on the current state of GT4 and where it’s heading?
“In general the growth and interest in GT4 from customers and manufacturers, is really good. We have to be really careful though to not repeat what happened in the development of GT3.
“I won’t say it was a mistake because GT3 is healthy, really stable, but to keep the difference between GT3 and GT4 is important. GT4 needs to stay on its current playing field.
“The Cayman will stay the basis for the next two years on the performance side.
GT4 needs to stay on its current playing field
“I think it’s a very interesting category. We have a huge interest world wide, it’s good as an entry level. I hope it stays like this for the next three, four, five, six years. And if you have five, six, seven brands offering cars, it must say pure customer racing. It doesn’t make sense to send pro drivers there.”
Featured image courtesy of Porsche