In the minutes before the re-timed, and weather shortened 4 Hours of Spa Francorchamps DSC sat down with United Autosports co-owner Zak Brown to chat about a range of current issues of interest for the team (a second item covering his McLaren remit will follow later).
The brief summary of that conversation before the detail that follows below is that United remain fully committed to the European Le Mans Series with LMP2 and LMP3, the wider United LMP3 programme is also set to continue, notional future plans to develop a DPi programme though have fallen short of the level required for the team to green light, but instead they look set to join the FIA WEC in LMP2 in the 2019/20 season.
The open question though is whether the team will continue in LMP2 with Ligier, and Michelin?
With the double win at Spa in the immediate future there was a little irony that Zak’s assessment of the ELMS season so far.
DSC: There is talk that there may be another LMP2 ‘Joker’ process to come, is United’s position with Ligier in LMP2 in any question?
“We need to know what the FIA may say. We need a little more pace out of the Ligier. When the Jokers were submitted, not everything got approved, it was a difficult job. We’re disappointed to go from Vice Champion, with race wins, to this, but things just haven’t gone our way.
“There’s discussions around another change, we’re pushing for it as there’s stuff that we can improve. When you freeze something for five years it’s difficult, because if you’re in the car that’s not on the top level… We’ve been vocal to the FIA and ACO, I hope they address it.
“I’m a fan of having multiple chassis, it should be the teams, the car and drivers that’s the combo. It’s not just a teams championship, it should require all three ingredients to win.
“We won’t race with any manufacturer we don’t think we can win with. Let me put it this way, whatever we race next year, and we intend to be with Ligier, it’s because we think we can win with it. If we thought we wouldn’t be competitive in a Ligier, I’d make the change.”
Where is future of United?
“I love the European Le Mans Series. I see us as a fixture in this paddock for many years to come. I’d like to see us do the World Endurance Championship too, in addition to the ELMS, not instead. And we’re making progress with that.
“With the DPi rules and them splitting the classes in IMSA, unfortunately, there’s two separate directions. And I think honestly we’re more likely to do World Endurance than run a team in America, because of where we’re based too, it’s not an anti-IMSA thing. We’d do all three if we could…”
Would you consider running LMP2 cars in the big IMSA enduros on the side?
“Nah (we wouldn’t want to do the big races) we’d want to be in the top class. I know we probably wouldn’t in WEC. But there’s a difference between LMP1 and LMP2, and DPi and LMP2 in my mind, LMP2 is now DPi light.”
So for WEC that would be for 2019-20?
“Yes, that’s the aim. We haven’t hit the bullseye yet but that’s the aim. Ideally we’d like two cars, but realistically one car, one step at a time.”
And what about the LMP3 programme going forward, that’s been very successful in a number of ways for United?
“Definitely, everything you see how we go racing today, is how we’d like to continue, with the add-on of WEC. That would be the goal.”
Is it fair to assume that United are not looking to work with McLaren on any potential future ‘Hypercar’ programme in WEC?
“I will never combine United Autosports and McLaren in any way shape or form. I don’t know if it’s a conflict of interest, but people will say it is so I won’t go there. With drivers, like bringing Fernando or Lando over? Sure that’s fine. But United will never be a McLaren (factory) team.
“In the instance though, where there could be a McLaren customer programme and United was racing and McLaren was an option, then of course that could be a consideration.”