Looks like the combination of looming emissions scandals and World Rallycross’s zero emissions roadmap has led Peugeot to increase investment in World Rallycross, instead of launching a new LMP1 program.
I’m going to go on a bit of a rant, now. Specifically, about the ACO’s approach to advanced technology vehicles.
The 2020 regulations were a move in the right direction, to an increased proportion of electric propulsion, but with Porsche (who’s believed to have pushed those regulations) pulling out of LMP1, the ACO backpedaled and moved to a cost control all the things strategy. The thing is, while in VAG’s case it absolutely is the cost... the cost isn’t the biggest problem, and I think it’s a red herring that, if the ACO continues down the pure cost-control path, will only lead to the WEC becoming utterly irrelevant. (And, this isn’t an argument against cost control today - it’s absolutely necessary for the sake of stabilizing the series. But, it’s an argument against the ACO scrapping their future roadmaps for the sake of cost control.)
The real problem, from my point of view, seems to be the lack of a technical roadmap to zero emissions competition. Formula E is offering zero emissions competition today, World Rallycross has a roadmap to zero emissions competition in 2020. This is causing quite a bit of manufacturer interest in those series, and it’s because they see an urgent need to market and develop those zero emissions technologies, something that they can’t really do in the WEC framework.
Now, admittedly, those are sprint series, and Formula E is currently using two cars per driver in a sprint race (although by the end of 2018, they’ll be doing single car races). Endurance racing of electric cars is quite a bit harder, and more expensive. However, if an electric could race in a competitive fashion, wouldn’t that be an even stronger message for marketing electric technology, providing more value to a manufacturer that pulls it off?
I know it’s controversial, but I think that the ACO needs to provide a path for electric race cars to compete within the endurance racing framework, and they need to do it fast to maintain their relevance.
In my opinion, the first urgent thing to do is to expand the Garage 56 concept. Right now, one huge problem with Garage 56 is that it’s only one car a year - and a team isn’t going to put huge investment into a Garage 56 project unless they know they’ve got somewhere to race it. So, entries don’t get development until it’s too late, and then when they inevitably run into trouble, there’s no reserve Garage 56 entry to take their place.
Meanwhile, the ACO is filling the Le Mans grid with second-rate ELMS teams. Why not, instead, expand the number of Garage 56 spaces so that teams have a reasonable assurance that their concept can be raced, allowing them to get funding earlier, and increasing their chances of success? This also means that you can test more concepts in a year, and those concepts can even compete with one another - Garage 56 can become the proving ground that it’s promised to be.
After that, figure out a ruleset that allows electric cars to be competitive in the WEC, and fast. Even if that involves battery swapping - it’s not very road-relevant, but I think the image of a whole class of cars sitting in pit lane for 15-3o minutes charging after every stint is worse - it’s something that I think would attract teams to the series. This one’s really controversial, but it might be worth simply removing LMP1 and LMP2 from the series, making an LMP Electric class that competes against GTE-Pro for the overall victory, if it makes it more attainable for the teams in the mean time.