“The WEC will recover from Audi Audi” P4
Two-team championship will shine again in 2017 according to ex-audi ace
Le Mans legend Allan Mcnish believes that the World Endurance Championship can continue to thrive with just two LMP1 manufacturers, but has played down the chance for both to run extra cars at Le Mans.
With Audi Sport ending its 18-year stay in top-level prototypes this year, it leaves just Porsche and Toyota to fight it out for both the world championship and Le Mans success.
Mcnish was part of the Audi line up from 2000 through to 2013, winning Le Mans three times with the Ingolstadt team and lifting the 2013 WEC title.
The Scotsman has also raced for both Toyota and Porsche before, having made his Le Mans debut with a 911 GT1 in 1997 before moving to Toyota for a solitary season in 1999.
He says that while Audi will leave a hole in the grid, both remaining brands will go all-out for this year’s championship.
“Audi had been the mainstay of endurance racing for 18 years, but it had to end some day,” Mcnish told MN. “It had been there so long that Toyota had left, done Formula 1, and then come back again. It’s a huge brand to lose from the grid, but I don’t get people saying the world championship won’t work with just two teams.
“For many years Le Mans was all about two teams – Audi and Peugeot – and they created some of the best years between them. And when you look back to the entry deadline for the first ever WEC [in 2012], Peugeot pulled out just before and it was just Audi and Toyota. But the series was great and Porsche joined and it recovered. Audi pulling out is a speedbump for the world championship, not a wall or a dead end.”
Mcnish pointed to the WEC’S decision to delay its scheduled technical regulations change from the end of this year to the end of 2019. The new regulations would have forced LMP1 brands to develop more powerful hybrid systems – up from eight megajoules to 10MJ – complete with fitting a third energy recovery element.
“The freeze in rules will definitely help the competition,” Mcnish added. “Changing the hybrid systems that much would have been a huge expense, both in terms of time and money for manufacturers. Delaying it opens the door for extra development and I expect Toyota and Porsche to be incredibly close next season.
“Both brands have a point to prove. Porsche wants to be dominant, but Toyota will go all-out for Le Mans this year having come so close last year [when its lead car failed on the last lap when leading].”
There have also been suggestions that both Toyota and Porsche may field a third LMP1 entry as early as this year to make up the numbers in LMP1.
Mcnish said the further into the year it gets without confirmation of this, the less likely it will become.
“I can see both brands doing it [expanding to three cars], but it’s actually a huge task,” he said. “You’re essentially creating a new team for each extra car. You have to order your tyres for Le Mans months in advance, so adding a third car places huge strain on companies like Michelin to create and bring the tyres, and the spares dept to make extra bumpers, bodywork and engine components. You can’t just dust a third car off and go racing at short notice. In terms of resources it’s a huge commitment.
“It’s also one thing to run a third car, and quite another to run a competitive third car. Winning takes even more input, and extra testing and rounds. It all takes a lot of time. In my view, the further we get into the new year, the less chance of us seeing three-car teams at Le Mans we have.”
Audi and Peugeot were Le Mans for many years Mcnish has backed the WEC