In a time where reliability wasn’t exactly king and resources were big, manufacturers always boosted their entry numbers for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in an attempt to always have a trump card in their hands for one of the toughest endurance races of the world. But for the first time in many years, we won’t see that.
The third entry was also entered in a pre-Le Mans round in order to test the low drag LM aerokit without having to do extensive changes in the current pair of cars. Comparing realities, the news that all the current FIA World Endurance Championship competing in the LMP1 class will scale back their programs to two cars are rather shocking, and of them have different reasons behind their decisions.
The current LM24 and FIA WEC champions from Porsche and the multi-champions from Audi won’t have their sportscar programs axed, but the reduction in their efforts was somewhat the better of the predicted scenarios, as various parts of the VAG Group are suffering reductions in their expenditures as the monetary damage due to the diesel emission scandal is predicted to his the figures of billions of dollars. Drivers will be the same for both squads, although the absence of third entries puts a brake in the development of the recently promoted René Rast, and it cuts the hopes for a LMP return to Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy, as well a bid to make Nico Hülkenberg return to Porsche.
From the Toyota camp, the decision to bring two cars to La Sarthe next year was somewhat expected, as the Japanese manufacturer still holds back of field the third entry due to budget limitations of their program. To add reasons for the restriction, Toyota will bring an entirely new car next year in the TS050 Hybrid, with new engine and powertrain, and an additional entry would put the costs into almost a prohibitive level.
The fourth manufacturer in the game, Nissan, is still expected to confirm their program for the next year, but as revisions in their GT-R LM NISMO model are expected to be extensive to make the hybrid systems work and turn the car into a competitive thing, a third car at La Sarthe is something pretty unexpected from their side.
In a time of restraints at Le Mans, it’s expected that the best engineered car will be king. Speed is important as always, but reliability will be more than a key thing now.
PHOTOS: FIA WEC, Audi Sport, NISMO, TMG