WEC cautioned on F1-style crisis

Next year we’ll be staring at a Formula 1 race in Baku while trying to not miss a thing during the 24 Hours of Le Mans and some folks feel that clash of schedules is deliberate. It has usually been a clash that has been avoided but the current struggles F1 finds itself in has had a few fans signing off and moving the valuable time to the World Endurance Championship (WEC).

Before you get to settled in, you may want to read the fine print in WEC to ensure that you won’t be facing a F1-type crisis in that series any time soon. According to an article by the wonderfully efficient Gary Watkins at AUTOSPORT, that’s exactly where it could be heading.

The issue at hand is a host of proposed changes to the LMP1 category. Namely a new monocoque design and also, at the same time, a push for a much-expanded hybrid system. This has Audi and Porsche crowing loudly while Toyota aren’t so sure as AUTOSPORT reports:

“We don’t see why it is a must to combine the new monocoques with bigger hybrid systems,” says Toyota Motorsport technical director Pascal Vasselon, “but it is understandable that the manufacturers with more resources would want to make such a big step.

“We feel it is too early to move forward. If in Formula 1 someone suggested making another big step so soon, everyone would say they were crazy. Maybe we don’t realise that an F1-type crisis for us is not so far away.”

“I wouldn’t say that it is a complete democracy, but it is true that we are isolated in our position,” says Vasselon in reaction to that point.

Porsche and Audi are very keen to change the hybrid systems as well as the monocoque. I n fact, Audi believe hybrid is central to their technology efforts and that’s germane to the series:

“Technology is the DNA of the WEC, and we have to make sure that we develop that value further,” says Audi’s head of LMP1, Christopher Reinke. “We should allow a further step to advance the technology further in 2018.”

Over at sister company Porsche, well, they just think it’s damn sexy period:

“You can’t sell the idea of a new monocoque to the public,” LMP1 technical director Alex Hitzinger argues. “But a bigger hybrid system, and potentially a third system, is sexy.”

The one thing the WEC has done very well is find a proper Balance of Power within the LMP1 category and it will be interesting to see if the press even further with the hybrid technology. What I am slightly interested in is the desire to keep things stable from Toyota and their concern that making too many major moves is not a good thing.

One of the appealing elements of motorsport for engineers and manufacturers is the ability to execute rapid prototyping and see quick turnaround in their technology innovations where it would take years for road cars. This makes sense if Audi and Porsche both feel that electric cars are their future and they’d like to escalate the tech within their racing programs.

For Porsche, it may be finding tech that more easily translates to showroom sales and elements that customers can see and mentally get excited about. Why have one or two hybrid systems when you can have three? That’s better right?

I’m still intrigued by this major push to hybrid within motorpsort in general as the sales of hybrid cars in the Us are still in single digits. That’s a lot of resources being poured into a technology that very few people are buying.

Having said that, if there was a place to prove the tech for the road car, the WEC is it. Not so much F1. Then I also recall the simple notion that any system that can make the car get around the track faster will be adopted and perhaps for LMP1, hybrid tech does tick the box.

So watch closely for a F1-style crisis according to Toyota and read the tea leaves there. Pascal Vasselon isn’t talking to hear his own voice, he’s warning of a wholesale dive into hybrid and the knock-on effect it had in F1 which created a crisis at the moment and he’s dog whistling the warning that this could very easily come back to bite the WEC on the arse.

Regardless, it is a very nice article that discusses the technology and the direction the WEC is heading in and Gary does a very nice job of wrapping those elements up so check out the link below.



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The Captain

Yea, I’m hoping this gets neutered before it happens.

But to the scheduling, I have to admit when I saw this I first thought it was deliberate. But then I figured that Bernie probably really doesn’t think about things that don’t effect Bernie directly so he probably has no idea when Le Mans actually happens.

BUT this did make me wonder Force India may have had a tip off to the conflict with Le Mans before they told Hulkenburg he could race there as part of his contract. I’m sure the Hulk is rightly pissed off at this one.

Roger Flerity

I boycotted the USGP when it was purposefully scheduled to step on NASCAR – and watched the NASCAR race in protest (I never watch it otherwise, but found it entertaining for one race anyway.) I will boycott the Baku race in favor of watching the WEC weekends proceedings for this obvious and intentional scheduling conflict. Bernie is a nasty piece of work, acting the part of vindictive old man. He is ticked off about noteworthy F1 drivers moving to WEC in cars run by companies that have snubbed F1 outright. He is also fearing the growth of WEC popularity in… Read more »

Alianora La Canta

I realise that Bernie’s obsession with getting as many races as possible might force him to ignore conflicts of all kinds (even ones likely to lose viewers and make debuting tracks damp squibs), but one would have thought the FIA would have stuck to its word, after the 2013 race, not to allow any world-level event to clash with Le Mans.

peter riva

“LMP1 technical director Alex Hitzinger argues. “But a bigger hybrid system, and potentially a third system, is sexy.” Almost word for word the promised made at the FIA and constructors’ press release for F1 three years ago. Sexy? Really? Odd definition of sex in my opinion. On the conflict of schedule – I am old enough to remember the conflict with Monaco, LeMans and Indy 500 – 1966 Graham Hill took home the prize money at Indy. He practiced at Indy, flew to Moanco for qualifying, flew back to Indy for qualifying/practice, then back to Monaco for the race (finished… Read more »

Tom Firth

Ok, so Toyota are against increasing costs, from new regulations due in 2017, that’s not that large of a shock really, given that Toyota’s WEC budget is much smaller than it’s rivals, and is having to spend far more than I imagine the Toyota board would ideally do so in 2016, to catch up to the developments, Audi and Porsche have made, with practically an all new car. For Toyota to then spend large amounts of money developing a new car, rather than presumably an evolved ’16 entrant for 2017 again, I can see why the comments of “the sky… Read more »

Tom Firth

O as for the F1 clash, It sucks for those of us who wanted to see Hulkenberg return, likely and dependent on which support series go with F1, it could limit some other drivers as well, but it is what it is. At the end of the day, it’s an issue that is a little bit annoying, but it’s minuscule on the scale of problems the sport has to deal with. Schedule clashes happen, intentionally or not, just enjoy the fact we have more racing that day as the two don’t clash on TV, and if you are lucky enough… Read more »

Tim C

With the current state of F1, I’ll be watching LeMans that weekend. It’s not a protest per say, its just that LeMans will have better racing across multiple classes. Right now, F1 cannot even compete with the drama and excitement of LeMans. Sure, I’ll DVR the F1 race and watch it eventually . . . but LeMans will be the priority. It’s a no brainer.

Andreas Möller

The Baku/Le Mans clash is not a problem for me – I’ll watch Le Mans live (as much as I can squeeze in during the weekend), without worrying one bit about the F1 race in Baku. I’ll get to that one too, but at a later time. It’s just much lower on my list of priorities. Sorry Bernie, but that’s the honest truth. I do feel for Nico Hulkenberg and any other F1 drivers who were possibly considering doing the Le Mans – I think the cross-breeding we saw this year actually was a win-win for F1 and WEC, both… Read more »

Tom Firth

Not according to the FIA you won’t for Baku/Le Mans …
*race start to be scheduled to avoid conflict with the conclusion of the 24 Hours of Le Mans

This from the FIA WMSC makes no sense though, because unless Baku is an evening/night race, it must therefore mean that “conflict with conclusion” means it doesn’t start in the last three hours or something? I hadn’t realised just how late it would make it, before.

Meine Postma

Here in Europe sales of electric cars are booming. Don’t know exactly about hybrids.