While he remains bullish on the prospects for the forthcoming LMDh class of top-class sports prototypes, Pierre Fillon, president of the Automobile Club de L’Ouest, has acknowledged that the massive pressure on the automotive industry as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic could affect the timing of its implementation..
Plans were revealed at the Rolex 24 At Daytona to develop a single “converged” class of cars which would be able to compete in both the FIA WEC and in IMSA’s Weathertech SportsCar Championship, initially envisaged as starting with the 2022 season. The LMDh cars would be based around a new generation of LMP2 chassis with a choice of engines, supplemented by a spec hybrid, electric drive.
The new cars would also be balanced against the new for 2021 Le Mans Hypercars, set to replace the current LMP1 class next season. Toyota, Glickenhaus and ByKolles have confirmed 2021 programs, with Peugeot set to join the WEC at some point in 2022.
Porsche recently revealed it is evaluating an LMDh program and a number of other OEMs are known to be have been involved in discussions aimed at shaping the new regulations. However, the global pandemic has delayed the process, with senior sources in both the ACO — the organization responsible for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and, together with the FIA, partners in the FIA World Endurance Championship — and IMSA now suggesting that a delay until 2023 for the roll-out of the new class is under active consideration.
Fillon told RACER that all options were on the table, and that ultimately the market would decide on the timing for the eventual roll-out:
“Of course, we don’t know what will happen,” he said. “But we are speaking about ’22 and ’23 so we wait and see what response we get from the market.”
Nevertheless, he remained upbeat about progress towards the final rulebook.
“Since January, despite the crisis, we have been working hard, together with IMSA, along with all of the prospective (auto) manufacturers and the chassis manufacturers, with two or three meetings every week throughout the lockdown,” said Fillon. “At the end of that process we arrived at a perfect convergence between LMH and LMDh. We have very good feedback from the manufacturers and we will announce the final regulations at Le Mans.”
Fillon was also optimistic about the sustained level of manufacturer interest, despite the crisis:
“What I can say today is that there has been no drop-off,” he told RACER. “We continue to discuss with exactly the same people, the same manufacturers as before, so the interest is still at the same level as before the crisis.
“I’m very confident, but we have to be patient because nobody will know exactly what will happen in 2021. It’s in the hands of the industry. But we have a very very good solution to allow you to run in the WEC, at Le Mans and in IMSA with the same car.
“You can choose an LMDh or LMH and the cost is very low. I can’t speak about the exact price today but to be able to win Le Mans, to win a world championship, to win in IMSA at this level of cost, I think we have every chance to succeed.”