“The WEC will re­cover from Audi Audi” P4

Two-team cham­pi­onship will shine again in 2017 ac­cord­ing to ex-audi ace

Motor Sport News - - Headline News - By Rob Lad­brook Pho­tos: LAT

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

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