Nico’s hope

Motor Sport News - - Racing News - ROB LAD­BROOK

Re­tired world cham­pion Nico Ros­berg wanted to see Fer­nando Alonso as his re­place­ment at Mercedes this year. Ros­berg, who called time on his F1 ca­reer af­ter win­ning last year’s world ti­tle, said: “OK, be­cause I’m now a fan, and on that side of the fence, it’s very easy to re­spond. Ev­ery­one says [they’d like to see] Alonso and I say it too, be­cause there would be fire­works with Hamil­ton. As a fan it would be nice, but for the team it wouldn’t work.”

Imay not make many friends with this col­umn, but I can’t help but be dis­ap­pointed with this year’s FIA World En­durance Cham­pi­onship en­try list.

I love the WEC, and have been around it since its re­birth in 2012, but I find this year’s en­try both lack­ing and trou­bling.

Yes, ev­ery­body ex­pected just two man­u­fac­tur­ers in LMP1 with Audi pulling out. That’s noth­ing new in en­durance rac­ing. I came into this sport as a pro­fes­sional jour­nal­ist dur­ing the days of Audi v Peu­geot, and when the WEC be­gan it only had Audi and Toy­ota be­fore the golden era of 2014 when both Porsche and Nis­san (OK, Nis­san was rub­bish, but at least it was there...) came knock­ing.

But what’s miss­ing this year is a com­pelling sup­port cast. In the days of Audi v Peu­geot the rac­ing was al­ways backed up by a healthy pri­va­teer en­try. Look at 2009, be­neath the works teams you had Pescaro­los, ORECAS, Ginetta-zyteks and Cre­ations all fight­ing it out and set to ben­e­fit if any of the big play­ers hit trou­ble. It pro­vided a great sub­plot.

This year, if one of the four re­main­ing ‘big player’ cars hits trou­ble, we’ve got a sin­gle Bykolles to look for. A car run­ning in a class of one, and a car that’s barely set the stage alight in its past cam­paigns. That’s pretty de­press­ing, and makes the en­try feel thread­bare.

Sure, it’s got Robert Ku­bica and Oliver Webb in it, two great driv­ers, but their year is es­sen­tially go­ing to be re­duced to a grand track day.

Things are chang­ing in pri­va­teer LMP1 though, with Ginetta set to come in all guns blaz­ing in 2018. That can’t hap­pen soon enough if you ask me.

I also have con­cerns about LMP2. Back in 2015 a good friend of mine said to me in the La Sarthe me­dia cen­tre: “Have you seen these new rules? They’ll make LMP2 ba­si­cally a sin­gle-make cat­e­gory. It rips the heart and soul out of what is a great for­mula.”

Two years on and he’s right. Look at the en­try – 10 cars (dis­ap­point­ing in it­self), all of which are the same, just in dif­fer­ent colours, or with Alpine stick­ers and a dif­fer­ent name...

This isn’t what LMP2 was sup­posed to be. The ACO had to act to cut costs, and de­cided lim­it­ing chas­sis sup­ply was the way to do that. Why?

The ACO wanted to cut out the ex­pen­sive one-off or small-time man­u­fac­tur­ers to stop costs creep­ing up. But they of­fered va­ri­ety, and it’s not like those en­tries ran off and dom­i­nated any­way.

Ligier has been at the front in re­cent years, and that’s a com­pany with a busi­ness model based around sell­ing cars in great vol­ume, but at low cost.

The re­sult of the lim­i­ta­tion is that ORECA – the first brand to run a 2017 car – has got­ten the jump and dom­i­nates the en­try. I have no doubt that P2 will still pro­vide great rac­ing, but the lack of va­ri­ety and teams does act as a turn-off.

Let’s hope this year’s WEC sea­son is a tran­si­tional one, and we’ll see the com­peti­tors come flood­ing back soon. Be­cause, in my mind, they need to.

Va­ri­ety in pri­va­teer LMP1S sup­ported Le Mans

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