McLaren could return to Le Mans if costs cut

McLaren competing in the 1995 Le Mans 24 hours

McLaren would entertain the possibility of entering the LMP1 class of the World Endurance Championship if a change of rules brought costs down, says Zak Brown.

The McLaren executive director revealed that the squad is looking at a number of sportscars programs, including racing prototypes in either WEC or North America’s IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship from 2019.

Brown says that WEC LMP1 is “unviable” in its current form due to spends which now approach Formula 1 budgets.

He believes that WEC should look to current LMP2 regulations as well as the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) specification, which was created for IMSA competition this year, as fixes for LMP1’s cost blowout.

“I believe the WEC has an opportunity to hit the reset button,” said Brown.

“I’d love them to get back to the Porsche 956 or 962 days, where factory and privateer teams can race together knowing they each have chances of winning.

“Right now, with the current rules, that’s just not possible.

“But look at the success of the LMP2 category, where costs are controlled for the benefit of everyone, so I’d like to see that kind of thinking transferred to LMP1.

“It’s a bit like the DPi situation in IMSA. The manufacturers have spoken with their feet over there.

“If the WEC can replicate the same spirit and cost effectiveness of a rules package with an element of hybrid technology, of which I’m a big fan, then we’re interested.”

Hybrid technology in LMP1 has pushed costs up in recent seasons, and Brown says manufacturers are not being rewarded proportionately against the extra spend they have invested.

“LMP2 cars today have a higher top speed than LMP1 cars of a few years ago,” he said.

“That’s seriously impressive when you consider you’d be hard-pushed to spend $5million on (LMP2) for a full WEC season.

“Relative to the increased expense of LMP1, at the current levels of spend (LMP1) is not a 20-times better deal.

“But put those lessons into an LMP1 car, say for a budget of $20million, and we’d be very interested.

“Set the economic criteria first, and do it so you reflect the great history of the sport.

“You don’t necessarily need to replicate IMSA’s DPi platform, but use its spirit perhaps.

“Another alternative would be to make DPi a fully-global platform. Again, we’d be interested in that.”

Brown said he thinks top-level sportscars should retain technical relevance to the road car market, but should not be dictated by it to allow costs to spiral.

“R&D needs to be a benefit for any manufacturer in motorsports, but it’s not the only reason to do it,” he added.

“If it’s not an efficient spend, there’s no point; it should be in proportion to the payback.

“At end of day, motor racing is a marketing exercise.”

IMSA’s DPi model has already attracted Honda’s Acura and Team Penske back to prototype racing in the United States.

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