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24 Hours of Le Mans

Le Mans Press Conference: 2012 and further

© Planetlemans – Brecht Decancq

The Automobile Club de l’Ouest and the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile used the annual press conference at Le Mans today to announce their plans for the FIA World Endurance Championship.

Five years ago the FIA and ACO started to work together to harmonise regulations. After Jean Todt, an avid endurance racing supporter, was elected as the new FIA President he realised that a great endurance championship was missing. Soon after he sat down with Jean-Claude Plassart and the result of those talks was more appeciation between the FIA and the ACO and the birth of the World Championship.

After three races in 2010 and seven races in 2011 as part of the 2011 Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, the partnership between between the ACO and the FIA sees the birth of the new World Championship. The initial contract between the ACO and the FIA will last for three years, with a new contract linking the parties for another ten years afterwards.

Even though no calendar was announced yet the current calendar will be the base structure of the new series. The 24 Hours of Le Mans will be the backbone of the new series, although the event itself will remain the exclusive property of the ACO. Joining Le Mans on the calendar are two events in Europe, two events in Asia as well as two events in the Americas. Pierre Fillon, ACO vice-president added to this that the costs for the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship will be like the 2011 Intercontinental Le Mans Cup.

Frédéric Henry-Biaubaud, the ILMC general manager said: “We are focussing on seven events in 2012. Two of them will be on the American continent, not necessarily two in the United States. In 2013 we’ll be looking at other continents. We are looking at South America, India and Russia, in no particular order. The calendar could be a bit larger, but not too large. One or two extra races would be good.”

All races will be at least six hours and the final calendar will be confirmed at the FIA World Motor Sport Council later this year.

In accordance with the regulations in place for the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup the new championship will be open for the LM P1, LM P2, LM GTE Pro and LM GTE Am categories, while the point scoring system will be equal to the other FIA World Championships.

Titles in the World Championship will be awarded in six categories:
Manufacturers’ Endurance World Champion
Drivers’ Endurance World Champion
GTE Pro World Cup
FIA LM P2 Trophy
FIA GTE Am Trophy
FIA Trophy for the best private team (open to all categories)

With regards to television coverage it was made clear that the ACO will be the promotor and will be in charge of the TV rights. Henry-Biaubaud is looking at a TV deal “that will bring not only racing to the fans but also a good look behind the scenes.”

Despite the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup becoming the World Endurance Championship this doesn’t mean the demise of the regional series like the Le Mans Series and the American Le Mans Series. Henry-Biaubaud made it clear that the World Endurance Championship required the strong bases that are these series.

When asked Patrick Peter, the Le Mans Series promotor, said: “There certainly a future for the Le Mans Series. After everything is finalised things will be more clear, but clearly we will exist. There are several options for the Le Mans Series in the future; one without LMP1 cars and one with LMP1 cars, possibly not factory efforts. The Le Mans Series would become a feeder series to the World Championship. We currently have around 35 cars, the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup has 26 and I think they aim at 30-35 cars.”

Scott Atherton, CEO of the American Le Mans Series and currently in charge of operations in North-, Central- and South-America, did not have many answers yet after having spent most of his time on the Mosport sale that was confirmed last week. He said: “We have not had the opportunity to sit down with the ACO yet.”

When asked what his opinion on the American rounds, the World Endurance Championship and the impact on the American Le Mans Series was, he answered: “Our focus is on North America but it is too early to give a definitive answer. At the moment we have more questions than answers ourselves. The world championship will bring unprecented changes, which has potential for both sides (ALMS and WEC), but it is also a cause for concern.”

Scott Atherton is not as positive as Patrick Peter with regards of the regional series becoming feeder series to the world championship. “Successful regional series and a world championship? No.” In the next couple of days Atherton and his team will be in talks with the ACO and hope to get answers on their questions. “We’re rolling up our sleeves and we need to sweat out the details before going home.”

Discussion

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  1. Argh! Why do they have to confuse things SO much, why not just keep the 2 current American rounds, maybe change up and add one or two European rounds, then have one round in Japan, one in China, rather than all those other countries. Endurance racing is about the prestige and history of an event, so adding one at a track that has never hosted major endurance racing is extremely risky. Plus, how dare they call it FIA LMP2, if it were up to me, ACO would have total control over sportscar racing

    Posted by SchellZ | June 10, 2011, 9:54
  2. I thought the purpose of them “getting together” was to standardize the racing classes (GT1, GT2/GTE, GT3, GT4), not remake Le Mans (read: endurance) style racing.

    While I dont mind them changing the name of the ILMC to FIA WEC, the attitude that the ELMS and ALMS are to become “feeder” series is dreadful. Depending on what a teams goals are, grid counts for the “regional” series will most likely fall off significantly as they save their money and equipment for the WEC races instead.

    Here is a possible solution:
    A team must take part in “X” number of ELMS/ALMS races to be/remain eligible to take part in the WEC. Scheduling of the WEC races must not conflict with established ELMS/ALMS races, and there must be sufficient lead time after a “regional event” to not incur prohibitive logistical costs to attend a WEC event (good luck with this part).

    I feel that if something along these lines is not done, attendance at the ELMA/ALMS events will wither to nothing due to top tier teams shunning them in favor of the WEC.

    Posted by Marcus A | June 10, 2011, 17:09
  3. @Marcus

    In case you didn’t notice ALMS already has a tiny number of entries, and in its current state, can’t really be considered anywhere near as “prestigious” as ILMC/WEC or even LMS

    Posted by SchellZ | June 11, 2011, 2:06
  4. Both of you are off your rocker. Attendance for ALMS races have been steady, even while TV ratings have gone down. LMS still has mostly empty grandstands like the Grand Am series does. Good racing but nobody sees it, the media doesn’t cover it, there you go.

    All this means is that the ALMS should become an all GT series period, straight away and not even delay in announcements either.

    The GT cars already outnumber the Prototypes and with Tucker considering not returning at all to the ALMS this season, there will be NO P2 cars anyway and don’t bank on anybody else entering either. You may see Autocon from Lime Rock onward and Intersport at their home race in Ohio but that’s likely all.

    Dyson having gained double points while Muscle Milk earned NONE at Sebring means as long as Dyson finishes and doesn’t DNF, it doesn’t even have to win and will win the driver’s title, team’s title and manufacturers title… Yeah wonderful competition huh? 2 cars….

    I’m with Peter on this one, you can have a great regional GT series especially with GT2 AND GT3 cars. 30-35 cars every single weekend, just like GT Open.

    Posted by Anthony | June 11, 2011, 8:01
  5. Okay mate, I’m not sure what I said that pissed you off, but anyway, I might as well take you through EXACTLY what I said:
    “In case you didn’t notice ALMS already has a tiny number of entries” ALMS stands for American Le Mans Series, I’m quite sure you know what that is. And, in case your blind or stupid, it has a rather low number of entries per race.

    “and in its current state, can’t really be considered anywhere near as “prestigious” as ILMC/WEC or even LMS”
    In its current state (very few entries) it can’t be considered as prestigious as it used to be (back in early 2000s, the year, not engine displacement), nor as prestigious as the Intercontinental Cup, soon to be World Endurance Championship, or as I implied, the not so prestigious Le Mans Series. If anything needs clearing up, please let me know ;)

    Posted by SchellZ | June 11, 2011, 14:19
  6. I agree with “Marcus A” with the solution and hope that the ACO/FIA read this post.

    “A team must take part in “X” number of ELMS/ALMS races to be/remain eligible to take part in the WEC. Scheduling of the WEC races must not conflict with established ELMS/ALMS races, and there must be sufficient lead time after a “regional event” to not incur prohibitive logistical costs to attend a WEC event (good luck with this part).”

    This way it will intrigue more of the fans to see a race like Lime Rock and Road America which are great tracks but even better with P1 and P2 cars on them. Also all of the teams that are in LMPC are going to go some where and most likely into P1 or P2 I’m sure these most of teams are not planning on stepping down to GT cars I would think. But with the statement above the teams should be required to race at least one or two non FIA WEC races of there choice and if the races are not raced then they do not qualify for the championship for the FIA WEC and these need to be completed in the country that the teams are from or closest to. As maybe a good/bad example Audi North America to ALMS and Audi Sport Team Joest to ELMS.

    Also this may make it even more interesting would be to make it mandatory that the teams required to score a point/points at the required non FIA WEC event ALMS/ELMS event to qualify for the FIA WEC Championship.

    Posted by Joe C | June 15, 2011, 12:45
  7. I have to agree here that the ALMS has become lacking, compared to that of even the LMS series of Europe. With 2 to 4 P1 cars, and about 8 LMPC cars always getting in the way of the GT2/GTE cars its just anoying. The GTC cars are although competitive within their own class are utterly boring. Bring back the days of P1, GT1 and GT2.

    Without a large showing of P1 cars ALMS is pointless, we might as well have just a showing of the GT2 cars. while I understand that the LMPC, and GTC were supposed to bring more drivers up to speed for future seat times in at least the P1 class, to me this has failed as there are no real P1 cars at all, and the amature drivers get in the way of the real professionals… this does not make for great racing but frustrates the professional teams. I have been watching ALMS, from its beginings and it looks like its failing, with the exception of the GT2 class.

    What the series needs is to bring back a competive GT1 class and get rid of the LMPC and GTC. Give us the Zr1, the new Ford GT when it comes out, a Ferrari 599GTO, Porsche 918, Mclaren GT1 or even GT2, Lamborghini GT1 and the Nissan GTR… LMPC and GTC are not cutting the mustard…

    Posted by Juergen | August 2, 2011, 17:54
  8. I also wanted to comment on the failure of either Cable, or Network providers in the USA West/East Coast to not provide television viewing of the LMS, GT series of Europe. If this was available to US viewers it would educate more racing enthusaists to the entire world of FIA GT1, and the Le Mans spec series. It would further only enhance the reception and enthusiasm for the ALMS…which needs all the help it can get. I understand some of this is viewable through the internet, but most people do not bother to sit at their computer desk to watch a couple of hours of racing. What needs to happen is the US needs an actual “Speed” channel not a Nascar channel.
    It is my understanding today that people want more, its human. Since Speed is owned by NASCAR, people especially in the US want a racing channel that shows exclusive motorsports, like the LMS, GT series of Europe, 24hour of SPA, Nordshleife, Japanese GT racing, Italian series, BTCC, DTM, etc. I think reality tv shows on Speed are a joke, and defeat the purpose of “Speed” Shows that show the history of the different Marques would be better, as with shows that have something to do with racing, like Lister, Cowsworth, Shelby, RUF, Mclaren, Ferrari, DINAN, AMG, etc etc etc… IF I had billions I would make it happen, but maybe someonw will find this post, their are hundreds and thousands of us, that would like to see a dedicated racing heritage channel. NOT anything like SPEED!

    Posted by Juergen | August 2, 2011, 18:09
  9. @Juergen
    Unless I’m much mistaken, the FIA GT1 champ isn’t on tv anywhere, instead streamed online for free, but I here you about the LMS, it’s not on TV in Australia either (1-2 hour highlights is NOT worth the cable fees!)

    Posted by SchellZ | August 5, 2011, 6:50
  10. Can someone explain to me why the ALMS won’t allow the GT3 series cars(like the FIA GT3 series in Europe) into our races? Every FIA GT3 race I have watched has been great and exciting and making it only open to privateers while GT2 can be manufactures seems like a great idea. I think there would be a lot of interest from American teams to move into GT3 so they can be competitive with each other and not have to race against manufacturers with way bigger budgets.

    Also I agree with Juergen. The Speed channel has become a joke. They do not show other sportscar or endurance races in full, but can show countless hours of Nascar truck practice and a million talks shows for Nascar. What a joke!!

    Posted by Kevin | August 5, 2011, 21:59
  11. @ Kevin
    I found myself asking that very question last year, and I think Dan pretty much sums it up http://www.planetlemans.com/2010/10/05/provisional-zhuhai-1000-km-ilmc-entry-list/ “@Schellz
    ALMS GTC does not allow Gt3 cars for 2 reasons
    1. More manufacturers = more $ to develop cars
    2. it is supposed to develop the team and driver, not a car, that i what Gt2 is for. the best driver development is for the driver to practice against equal competetors, not him in a faster or slower car or having the team build the fast car and a B driver beat an A one because the B driver has a better car. This puts A drivers with A drivers and makes B drivers able to develop their sckills more, such as Duncen Ende, Ross and Kendal Smith, Tim Pappas…. it makes it more of a drivers sport rather than a team or car sport which im my opinion is good to have, especially when there are already 2 AMAZING classes for development manufacturer R&D.

    also, this LMp2 change is SOOOOO STUPID because it seems like the P2 cars will be the same speed or slower the the PC or even gT2 cars. they could make the P2 cars have GT2 engines but still be just as fast as they are now with bigger rear wings (like 08) and bigger restrictors on the Gt2 engines (maybe 100 more horsepower, which adds 0 cost to the engines and makes the racing better because you dont have the P2 cars racing PC or Gt2. I think P1 cars should be about the same speeds as P2, PC cars about 5 seconds a lap slower, Gt2 cars another 5 seconds back, and GtC another 5 seconds back, but it looks like next year the P1 cars might be about 3 seconds sloewr than they were this year, with PC, P2, and Gt2 within 2-4 seconds of each other, and Gtc another 3-4 back…. that is the worst tech desision the ACO/IMSA can make in my opnion….”

    Posted by SchellZ | August 8, 2011, 7:33
  12. @Schellz…I can somewhat understand what Dan was talking about, but it also seems like manufactures are interested in the GT3 class and updating the cars to keep them competitive. As for the driver development..again I can somewhat understand, but for me the ALMS is a top tier racing series. Its not a series to develop drivers, but is a place for professionals to race in. And with the having a B driver beat an A driver because of a better car, well it seems like they are able to keep the cars competitive over in Europe just as all racing series due handing out restrictions and what not. To me it would be like putting the GP2 series race cars in the F1 races. Its like hey we want you guys from GP2 to eventually move up, but we know you are not ready but we still want you racing in the F1 race right now.

    Posted by Kevin | August 8, 2011, 13:18
  13. Yeah, good point, but how else are they going to fill the grids. Having multiple manufactures means higher costs, and less entries. In a perfect world, yes, a “one-make” series doesn’t belong in the same race as ALMS, but unfortunately, in the current economical climate, that’s just the way it’s going to be.

    Posted by SchellZ | August 9, 2011, 6:36

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