McLaren playing the waiting game with sports car plans

Image by Coates/LAT

McLaren playing the waiting game with sports car plans

Le Mans/WEC

McLaren playing the waiting game with sports car plans


The ACO and FIA World Endurance Championship have yet to finalize the rules for next year’s brand-new ‘Hypercar’ formula. As auto manufacturers wait to learn the final details on 2020’s replacement for the current LMP1 category, planning for WEC programs – and engagements with other racing series – remains a challenge.

McLaren sits among those potential Hypercar entrants, waiting to gain direction from the French sanctioning bodies on the new prototype category and if they might, despite all indications to the contrary, have IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship align itself with Europe and ask to use Hypercar as its new prototype formula.

With the ongoing delay in producing rules for 2020, McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown says it’s unlikely the revered brand could be ready to produce cars for Hypercar’s debut.

“They’re still working to finalize the rules and our interest remains, but we need to see the final rules and make sure that it’s something that we’ve got the right technology for and the right budget for,” he told RACER. “So I think while they’ve announced the rules, they’ve been trying to modify them and engaged with the manufacturers and I think that will come to a head for everybody in the next month or two.

“We know that we would not be ready by 2020, so the earliest we would potentially enter is 2021, but at this point it’s very much ‘potentially.’ We like Le Mans, but as you’ve heard me say a thousand times, I’ve got to make sure our Formula 1 team is headed the right direction. And then, of course, we’ve got IndyCar, so we’ve got to make sure we do things in the right order at the right times.”

If IMSA were to abandon its top-tier Daytona Prototype international formula in favor of Hypercar, Brown says he could envision McLaren competing in both championships. Asked if McLaren would consider building a bespoke DPi, which would only be eligible to race in IMSA, if it opts out of Hypercar, Brown pointed to the brand’s upcoming return to IndyCar as an entrant at the Indy 500 with Fernando Alonso as a guideline for its North American strategies.

“I’m very much a supporter of the DPI rules,” he said. “I very much hope that Le Mans, Daytona, can come together. I think that’s the best scenario for everyone, regardless of whose rules are used. But I think it is unlikely that we would do DPi, only because if we get into North American motorsports full-time, that would most likely be in the form of IndyCar.

“And so purely from a market presence, I wouldn’t see us racing in two U.S. series at this point. Of course we already have our GT3 and GT4 McLaren customer cars, but as far as professional racing goes, we have history in IndyCar.

“I’m a fan of DPi, but we only have the resources to compete in one series in North America. If we were to come into North America, it’s more likely it would be in IndyCar, making also coming into IMSA a thing where the [prototype] rules with Europe would really need to be aligned to make it easier.”