The World Endurance Championship, now in the third year since its reformation, is slowly regaining the status sports car racing enjoyed in its heyday.
Among the well-timed good news announced in the run-up to this year’s running of its blue riband race, the Le Mans 24 Hours, was the imminent arrival of another manufacturer at the top level of the sport.
Nissan will contest next year’s World Endurance Championship with a new LMP1 car dubbed the GT-R LM NISMO. It will go up against the three manufacturers already racing at the top level of the category: fellow Japanese manufacturer Toyota, and German rivals Audi and Porsche.
WEC suffered a blow at the dawn of the new championship in 2012 when Peugeot scrapped its LMP1 programme, citing economic pressures. But with four manufacturers fielding LMP1 contenders next year, the series compares very favourably with Formula One in terms of manufacturer representation.
McLaren’s impending reunion with Honda next year, joining Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault will restore F1’s tally of engine manufacturers to the four it had in 2013. But the fact remains F1’s much-vaunted new engine rules package was intended to retain existing manufacturers and bring new ones into the sport.
With the loss of independent manufacturer Cosworth and arrival of Honda, it can be considered a qualified success at best. And Honda are also designing an LMP1 engine. Clearly the WEC holds greater appeal for car manufacturers at present. Why is that?
Nissan’s global head of marketing Darren Cox gave a view on that when Nissan’s LMP1 programme was announced: “What the ACO and the FIA have done in developing the new regulations for LMP1 is to create something that is both technologically innovative and provides a key platform for manufacturers like Nissan to talk about subjects like fuel efficiency in an exciting way.”
“In terms of timing, the new LMP1 rules for factory entries is perfect for us,” he added. “The new focus on energy efficiency for 2014 and beyond means the engineering challenges have real relevance to the challenges our engineers face on our road car projects.”
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Executive vice-president Andy Palmer said it’s important to Nissan that they can distinguish themselves from other manufacturers. “We want to win in a very different way to that of our rivals,” he said.
“We won’t be turning up in a vehicle which is a basically another hybrid that looks like another Porsche, Audi or Toyota – they all look the same to me – our intention is to do something that is a little bit different.”
Regardless of how similar the other LMP1 cars look, under the skin they are very different. Toyota’s TS040 has a 3.7-litre normally aspirated V8 engine, the Audi R18 E-tron Quattro a V6 turbodiesel, and Porsche surprisingly opted for a four-cylinder engine in their 919 Hybrid.
All, of course, feature varying configurations of energy recovery and hybrid propulsion. Grand prix cars also have this technology, but the Formula One rules limit manufacturers to using petrol V6 turbos and energy recovery systems of restricted specifications. This appears to be a turn-off for manufacturers who want a greater degree of technical freedom.
Nissan already supply engines to most of the LMP2 competitors, and are preparing for their top-level WEC return by participating in this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours with a highly unusual car built for the ‘Garage 56’ category, for entries which do not conform to the standard rulebook. The ZEOD RC, which clearly owes a lot to the Nissan-powered DeltaWing which raced two years ago, uses a tiny 1.5-litre petrol engines and is designed to run for one lap per stint entirely on electric power.
Some might have assumed Nissan was never going to enter F1 because of its strategic alliance with Renault, who are already competing there. But Volkswagen Group is happy to have both Audi and Porsche racing against each other in the WEC.
Porsche is making its return to Le Mans this year having considered a grand prix effort but turned it down. F1, in their view, is not sufficiently relevant to road car design, with too great an emphasis on aerodynamics.
Of course there are reasons to favour the WEC over F1 that don’t look quite as good on a press release. In recent months the words ‘Formula One’ have too often appeared in the headlines alongside ‘Bernie Ecclestone’, ‘bribe’ and ‘trial’. That’s not the kind of publicity which will entice the board of a car manufacturer sign off on a multi-million dollar racing programme.
The WEC also offers manufactures more testing opportunities than in F1, with up to ten days of private circuit running permitted. And the WEC’s complicated ‘Equivalence of Performance’ rules reduce the chances of a competitor struggling to compete because they opted for the ‘wrong’ technology.
Manufacturer entrants are a mixed blessing in motor sport. They bring enormous investment and generate publicity, but just as easily they can cancel their plans and leave promoters with rapidly diminishing grids – the very situation F1 found itself in at the end of 2009.
But as more and more manufacturers who left F1 then have returned to compete in other championship, the success of the WEC in particular is food for thought for those running F1. At a time when car manufacturers are exploring diverse solutions to the challenges of environmentally-friendly motoring, F1’s restrictive rulebook appears to be holding it back.
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Image © Audi
71 comments on “More car makers choosing WEC and Le Mans over F1”
13th June 2014, 12:27
And with rumors of even more manufacturers becoming interested, with names like Ferrari, Ford, Mazda, even McLaren and Honda… it can only get better.
Coupled with the mass of new LMP2 projects coming from the famous racing car manufacturers like Dome, Ligier, Oreca, HPD, and hopefully some kind of convergence in the GT categories which will being on board the many marques who have opted for GT3 (Nissan, Bentley, Lexus, Mercedes, BMW, Lamborghini, Jaguar, Audi, McLaren…) rather than the very few who have built a GTE car (near enough only Porsche, Aston and Ferrari) we could be looking at the goldest of golden eras just around the corner.
13th June 2014, 20:37
Greatly looking forward to that @ajokay.
14th June 2014, 23:57
GT3 (Nissan, Bentley, Lexus, Mercedes, BMW, Lamborghini, Jaguar, Audi, McLaren…) If this comes about it could be what many of us race fans are probably looking for……… F1 should of learned by now that rules are not good for racing … be it car size/shapes, engine, driver rules with points, inconsistent enforcement, favoritism, etc. All rules do is make for boring races because imagination is reduced and all you have left is a lot of copy cat looking cars usually with copy cat performances. Yes there are always exceptions………………… Thanks, RnR
13th June 2014, 12:36
It’s pretty disappointing for F1 to be honest. A new engine formula and only one new manufacturer is entering the sport.
13th June 2014, 15:18
But how many manufacturers do you expect to enter the sport? There are only 11 teams now, with 3 (soon to be 4) engine manufacturers. If you go to 5 engine manufacturers, it would mean the manufacturers sell less engines, making them even more expensive (as development cost doesn’t go down, but the income is). I’m not surprised there aren’t more manufacturers, perhaps if there a more teams, but not the way it is now.
13th June 2014, 15:27
Considering that in 2008 we had BMW, Cosworth and Toyota designing engines with less cars on the grid than there are now it isn’t unfeasible to have 5. What we need is around 26-28 cars on the grid and 5-6 engine manufacturers.
Thomas A (@gremlinwon)
13th June 2014, 16:54
The F1 field needs to bigger its simple, 22 cars for what some people call the most prestigious motorsport is rubbish! I think WEC has the correct way of approaching motorsport, aka hardly any limits and it doesn’t appear to be that expensive.
13th June 2014, 16:19
f1 is not very interesting anymore for new teams or manufacturers – it is too expensive to be competive – and you need to be competitive to sell your brand. the current manufacturers in f1 are also working at a loss – the series isn’t really the pinnacle of motorsport anymore with all these other great less expensive series doing so well. from a technical point of view, lemans is so much more interesting then formula one. f1 has shot it self in the foot by trying to be more technical and green with the powertrains – like in lemans, as it has effected the “glamour” or F1, ie, the visual and sound, the cars are now slower and they sound inferior to previous F1.
13th June 2014, 20:03
Because the slower laps are caused by the more powerful power units.
Oh wait, I misspelt ‘reduced aerodynamic downforce’.
Max Jacobson (@vettel1)
14th June 2014, 10:34
In fairness, the extra mass of the power units probably does slow them down appreciably @raceprouk, and largely is a forgotten factor.
16th June 2014, 15:37
I don’t know Max. I think that the extra power they bring makes up for most of the loss due to the weight. I think it’s probably 75% down to the reduced downforce and the harder tires.
When they did some testing at Catalunya on the softer tires in the post race test, they were going as much as 4 seconds faster per lap. I think the tires are the biggest issue really. Just my humble opinion.
13th June 2014, 12:45
It’s true that F1 has become way too restrictive. If I was looking to enter a sport to show off my products, I’d go for WEC rather than F1. Technology is more road relevant and the cars just look like something you might actually be able to by (especially in the GT categories).
I notice this while watching Moto GP….whenever I watch a Honda (for example) winning a race I actually notice a feeling of envy for the bikes, it actually makes me think of going out and buying one. Wheras when I see a Mercedes winning, even though I enjoy watching it I never feel like I would actually want to go and buy a Mercedes. I suspect WEC is more likely to fit into the Moto GP category of appeal than F1.
13th June 2014, 13:44
I completely agree. It is something I thought of the other day after watching Road*.
F1, the pinnacle of 4-wheeled motorsport, is so divorced from anything you will ever drive on the road that seeing a Mercedes or Renault doing well will not be linked in your mind to their road cars**. They have 4 wheels and an engine, but the similarity ends there.
MotoGP, on the other hand, uses bikes which look near identical to what you would ride on the road. This is the pinnacle of 2-wheeled motorsport, and a manufacturer’s success is intrinsically linked to their commercially available bikes. They are obviously not the same underneath, but you immediately associate them.
I am not saying this is a bad thing for F1. F1 needs to maintain its image*** as using the most advanced technology in the world, and divorcing it from road-going cars aids that image. But it is unsurprising that a manufacturer of 4-door saloons and hatchbacks isn’t going to see the same returns from it’s investment in F1 as in a category with cars which look like what they sell to the public.
* Awesome film/documentary, by the way, mostly about Joey and Robert Dunlop. DVD release in September.
** Obviously Ferrari get more out of this as they only produce supercars, so they are linked in peoples minds.
*** I say image, as I don’t actually think they are the most advanced. The rules constrain them so much that they cannot be the most advanced in many ways. Personally, I feel the requirement to be open wheeled & open cockpit holds them back, as well as limits on all the other components.
13th June 2014, 23:20
@drmouse @marcusbreese This is exactly right… I absolutely hate mercedes road cars but like the merc f1 team for some reason. Conversely, I think Ferrari road cars are among the most beautiful and best sounding cars out there (sans the extremely ‘elite’ cars like Pagani, Ascari, Koenigsegg, etc), yet I hate the Ferrari F1 team.
13th June 2014, 14:14
i dont get the obsession people have with road relevance. of course F1 will be less road relevant than Le Mans, GT or Rally. this isnt surprising.
And regarding the fact that more manufacturers are joining WEC than F1 – no surprise either. its much cheaper to join WEC than F1. or to develop an engine for WEC. i dont see this as a bad thing.
i wouldnt want all manufacturers to be able to enter F1. It should be the cream of the crop. And i think currently it is. I like the new engines and think that most manufacturers would struggle to be competitive, just because of the amount of R&D that went into them and the smart people working on them. I think a lot of manufacturers dont want to risk designing an F1 engine because they are afraid they will not be comeptitive and spend too much money doing so. A safer bet is to join a lower level of motorsport.
The engine rules need to be more restricted in F1 than WEC because otherwise the cars would be too fast and too dangerous to drive. If you gave these guys more freedom they could easily go beyond the 80’s turbo bhp. We might get into situations where drivers would black out from the speed if F1 car designers had more freedom in the technical regulations. Not to mention the cost.
In short, if you like road relevance there are plenty of other motorsport categories for you. I dont care if watching an F1 race doesnt makes you want to buy a Mercedes or a Ferrari. Thats not why i watch F1. I want to see great racing and the best drivers in the world in incredible prototypes that change from race to race as teams add more performance.
13th June 2014, 14:36
Road relevance is the reason F1 exists the first GP cars were road cars with minimalist bodywork, they won on Sunday and sold on Monday, the basic economics have not changed enough to negate the value of Road relevance.
13th June 2014, 15:04
@hohum, “they won on Sunday and sold on Monday”,
seriously? you’re talking turn of the century. long before F1 existed. and even in those days the GP cars quickly became different to road cars, and were raced by rich aristocrats. an average person could not afford these cars (probably any car). if the GP cars remained road relevant F1 would never be established because people would just race road cars.
in other words, of course you first need a normal car to be able to design an F1 car. And that F1 wouldn exist if cars didn exist. Its like saying that without the Wright brothers the F22 Raptor wouldnt exist, therfore the F22 Raptor should be more relevant to the Airline industry.
14th June 2014, 2:28
Well the jet engine did appear on combat aircraft before being adapted to airliners, thank you for illustrating my point so succinctly.
13th June 2014, 15:24
I don’t think that is true at all. Road relevance has nothing to do with competition or making the sport more familiar or recognizable. F1 cars have always been “out from space” bizarre compared to the normal cars and that massive difference and total form follows function type of ideology has made F1 what it is today. That ideology also makes it more pure as a sport. When you focus on glitter and form you lose that.
When meaningless pr jargon like road relevance is brought into F1 it actually reduces the bizarreness and the out of this world effect and makes F1 look more and more like yet another spec series with no room for creativity or difference. When F1 focuses on road relevance it stops being its own thing and competes directly with stuff like gt and prototypes. And when those other things are also more interesting and more out from space F1 can only lose.
Road relevance is bad for F1 when you look at it from the perspective of the viewers. F1 imho should be as un-road relevant as possible because that is what the whole thing has been for 100 years. The ultimate perversion of going fast. Does it make it exciting at all when the bizarre looking F1 car has a normal type road car engine in it? No. It sounds horrible, it is boring concept and it doesn’t stand out in any way an F1 car is supposed to.
F1 is not about marketing. It is about branding. It is the crazy and furious concept of crazyness that makes you care about something totally nonsensical because it is crazy fast. It is the window to the utopia that a normal road car can never be. When you put a boring road car engine into it all you get is a bad looking road car. The cars don’t even look crazy or beautiful anymore. They are almost all butt ugly. Sportscars like the Ferraris, porsches, audis, corvettes are all beautiful and still crazy enough.
So why is wec winning and F1 is losing? Wec is interesting and F1 is road relev… boring.
14th June 2014, 0:20
1. WEC cars are far more road relevant than F1.
2. The research in the road relevant area is not for todays or next years cars but for next decades cars.
14th June 2014, 2:40
14th June 2014, 10:14
17th June 2014, 4:43
agreed 100%. Road relevance in F1 should never be a main focus. F1 needs to be insane open wheel, open cockpit beasts with open regs for engines based on a set quantity of fuel for each session of the weekend. I also believe a tyre war would be positive commercially and competitively. Like how MotoGP bikes are more relatable to the bike in the showroom, seeing one tyre beat out the other would create direct commercial link to an affordable mass consumer product. That would generate huge value and cash for the sport.
13th June 2014, 16:28
Road relevance sells cars. This is why manufacturers want it, and if it’s not there, they don’t get involved. It’s pretty obvious. And this is one of F1’s problem – it’s looked upon as a marketing tool, not a sport. The push for road relevance is only there for the manufacturers to make money, not to create a better show. I would prefer to have more privateer teams focused on results and purely sport-related fame. I’m tired of cars being billboards for commercials, running around a track at 300 kph just to sell stuff.
14th June 2014, 4:45
No it doesn’t. Road relevance is just a saying the manufacturers keep saying to themselves to prove to themselves that going racing and spending those big bucks is actually worth it. Calling it branding or marketing doesn’t cut it anymore so they needed new catchphrase. Now they are telling themselves they are going racing because they are developing technologies for future road cars. They are probably thinking they are saving money because they are developing some hightech gizmos and going racing at the same time but in reality they just made the racing cost more while reducing the potential technological advances from the engine technologies simply because racing is so totally different thing than normal road driving.
Road relevance only makes the f1 cars worse, it makes it more show, it weakens F1 as a sport and nobody except the board of directors of those big manufacturers that are in F1 care about it.
I acknowledge the high technology in those leafblower sounding miniature engines but I don’t find anything exciting about the fact that it consumes less fuel and has a electric motor that makes the car sound like the sliding doors from star trek. It makes the car weigh more, it makes them more complex for the sake of complexity and it makes the cars slower and less agile and also makes the cars handle worse. Road relevance is just boring and dull. It may be exciting to those green people and I’m sure there are lots of green people but are they watching f1?
Look at the 90s and early 2000s when manufacturers were still going racing and the cars were too sexy and sounded awesome. The racing was viewed as competition and as a sport even by the manufacturers. It was a sport where doing well made you look good and that was enough. It was a place where you could prove how good you are at designing cars. Today? Meh, just spend more money than the next guy and place few gadgets differently inside the tight box where you are allowed to do anything innovative and then putter around the track telling everybody how exciting it is that the cars consume less fuel and are full of electronics pampering the drivers even further. It’s like making football players wear heavy rubber boots and then say they are making the sport more walking relevant.
13th June 2014, 14:36
I think the whole road relevance things stems from attracting big car manufacturers into the sport. To be honest, I don’t think F1 needs them. Sure they are big names and they spends loads of money; but they come and go with the wind and I think generally, that F1 suffers for it. The more privateer teams the better in my mind.
13th June 2014, 23:23
@mike I would agree. If it’s less manufacturer-based spending, I imagine the budgets might have not gotten to over $100-200million and higher.
13th June 2014, 13:25
Two things: F1 is too restrictive, and it takes too much to be successful. And thanks to the WEC rules, when a team designs, say a superior engine, like Audi, they are handicapped so there is a competition.
13th June 2014, 16:55
@austus And yet if F1 were to implement something like that (I’m not too familiar with WEC so I’m assuming they’re equalising power output?) there’d be uproar.
13th June 2014, 19:38
@ciaran I for one dont like it. I believe Audi’s fuel tanks are much smaller because their engine is very efficient. Thats a way of saying “Ok guys, they have the best solution, but here are some rules so they there is some competition.
In my opinion, of course.
13th June 2014, 13:45
The main reason is that F1 is too expensive and does not give proper return to manufacturers for loads of money, that has to be invested. Of course, you can spend 50 million pounds a year, but the car with such investment will be at the back of the grid and will damage brand’s name.
On the other hand, does F1 really need manufacturers? The biggest teams in F1 are manufacturers (even Red Bull could be considered that way, because they are the main Renault team). Without those, we would have such iconic and pure racing teams as Williams or Lotus fighting for world championships, and without spending enormous amounts of money. Now such teams like Mercedes and Red Bull pour buckets of money and success for them is almost granted, while others have no chance, unless they spend equal or even bigger amounts of money.
So, in my opinion, F1 would be better off without major manufacturers.
13th June 2014, 13:54
I agree with you, but say this to Bernie and his asian friends
Craig Woollard (@craig-o)
13th June 2014, 13:55
It’s not just the manufacturers but a lot of highly capable drivers who have been shunned for less capable drivers with more funding have found their way into the WEC and they seem to be loving it.
Take James Calado for example. He had a stunning rookie season in GP2, got given a test driver job with Force India a year later while doing GP2 as well, yet has somehow ended up in a GT car despite being one of the most highly-rated ‘young’ drivers. Similar can be said of Sam Bird.
This is my first full season of watching the WEC and I’m enjoying it massively so far, I plan to go to Le Mans for next year for the race, to be one of those people enjoying the qualifying at 11pm at night.
Brian C (@bcracing)
13th June 2014, 13:59
Its quite obvious. the new F1 regulations are ridiculous and the costs even more so. Pair that with F1s archaic approach to media and branding and you have a great opportunity to wast hundreds of millions of dollars with nobody noticing.
The future of F1 does not look positive but the fewer factory teams the better i think because the smaller teams then will be able to compete. Better to have more teams with less funding than 4 teams with massive funding. I think thats why the LMP2 class is so competitive, nobody is outspending by a big enough margin to run away with the series.
13th June 2014, 14:49
I can’t disagree with you more on the 2014 regulations. The new engine regulations for F1 are almost a mirror of what made the manufacturers jump into WEC. The difference is the flexibility in WEC. And you’re ignoring that Merc and Renault have both said they would have dropped out as well had the new engine regs not come along.
I can’t imagine F1 without the factory teams….That is an interesting assertion and I have to think about that one more.
13th June 2014, 14:26
I’m really glad people are beginning to see F1s restrictions for the failure they are, the reality is that the tighter the design restrictions the more money must be spent to find an advantage. I loved the way Canada turned out with the duel between the faster down the straights Force Indias and Williamses versus the faster round the corners Red Bulls, very reminicent of the battles between Ferrari and the Brit teams in the 60’s. I just wish the new engine rule (ICE) had been less restrictive allowing flat 4’s and I 4’s as well as V6’s , maybe then Mercedes would not be so superior.
13th June 2014, 14:53
+1 and +1. Did I mention: +1??? :)
You have absolutely nailed it.
13th June 2014, 15:29
What is a flat 4, and an I4? I don’t know too much about engines.
13th June 2014, 16:07
An I4 is engine, Inline 4, has 4 cylinders in a single line. A flat four has four cylinders arranged horizontally in two banks of two cylinders each. Flat fours are also known as boxer engines. Commonly found in Porsches and Subarus.
13th June 2014, 22:08
I thought a flat four fired all cylinders in the same direction where as the boxer alternated?
13th June 2014, 23:34
@jarred-walmsley is correct here, @freebird78. Boxer engines fire at least two cylinders at the same time, whereas a 180* V engine only fire one cylinder at a time.
14th June 2014, 0:05
For a boxer engine, think of 2 boxers fists punching one another……
14th June 2014, 0:30
Thanks Yusha, whether “boxer” or otherwise a 180 degree engine with opposed cylinders is a flat 2 or 4, 6, 8, 12 etc. I wish I had included F6 in my list of options.
@colletdumbletownhall. see above.
David Not Coulthard (@davidnotcoulthard)
13th June 2014, 14:44
I like to thik it’s a good thing, actually.
13th June 2014, 14:52
The reason WEC has so many more factory teams jumping is is because they did the same new regs as F1, BUT, they did it in a flexible way so the new teams could try the tech that worked for them and their road cars.
You can do 2MJ, 4MJ, 6MJ or even 8 MJ of KERS. You can do diesel or petrol. You can do 1 axle or 2 axles. You can use batteries, supercapacitors or flywheels. The factory team can decide which one best matches their tech direction and then gets a chance to prove it out.
This is clearly drawing in all the manufacturers.
13th June 2014, 15:07
Yes, but haven’t we been here before? Group C had a hundred-flowers approach as well, tied to a consumption formula. It was popular. But it because too costly and fell victim to the 90-92 world recession. Of course the FIA decided to supply the coup de grace by requiring the F1 spec 3.5L NA engines. I want the WEC Equivalence of Technology system to survive, but I’m nervous about it. It’s cheap, but only compared to F1. And once the FIA sees manufacturers and money going to Le Mans, they are going to do something about it, again.
13th June 2014, 17:14
Good question. I think there were a couple of factors that are different now. Mostly that the Group C didn’t have the road relevance with the new tech. You can already see Merc branding their F1 car as “hybrid technology” now. You see Porsche in LMP1 talking about how this is all going straight to their road cars and Audi doing the same. Nissan is pushing the Garage 56 entry this year as the first car to do a full lap at Le Mans on all electric and they released videos yesterday of it doing 301kph down the Mulsanne Straight on all electric drive!
Think of the marketing for them and Renault on their Electric cars like the Leaf.
There is so much new tech coming in road cars right now, that for the foreseeable future, WEC is a great platform for them to market and for them, that’s the name of the game.
It’s truly going back to the roots of racing (at least for the manufacturers), race on Sunday, sell on Monday. Or they could go back to the NASCAR roots: race on Sunday…run moonshine on Monday-Saturday LOL
13th June 2014, 20:42
Is road-relevance the real distinction? The 962C had a flat-6 turbo, like road-going Porsches. The XJR-6-11 had a V-12, just like the road car Jags. Mercedes ran V-8 turbos and V-12s, like the road cars. Mazda, you get the picture. None of the leading WEC cars is running a similar power-train in a road car now.
I think the reason why a manufacturer might prefer equivalency may be that they can demonstrate their brand as distinct and distinctly better in technology. Audi positions itself as the “technology” car brand. Vorspruch durch Technik, innit. They use the LMP cars to technology-brand everything from diesel to LED headlights to weight-saving construction. The aura of advancement is something you can charge a premium for to certain buyers in upper ranges. Other automakers want some of that premium.
14th June 2014, 11:58
The catch, though, will be whether the ACO’s performance balancing rules can continue to work and whether some manufacturers might start to resent being aggressively pegged back.
The ACO has already said that it will change the balance of performance after Le Mans and will continue to alter the balance every three to four races – is it necessarily going to be popular in the long term if the ACO is changing the performance balance 30% of the way through a season to artificially bring a rival into play?
The other question is how long those manufacturers are actually going to be prepared to stick around for – in Nissan’s formal announcement, they openly stated that they were expecting to win the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans, with an implicit undertone that they were planning on axing their program if they’d failed to win that year.
13th June 2014, 15:05
I think being at least moderately successful in WEC is much easier than in F1.
So that’s the primary reason.
But many teams/carmakers would be prepared to endure the intensity of F1, if everything else concerning F1 was running well. And that’s the problem. Other aspects of F1 are horrible.
The distribution of money, the inefficiency of FOM as what would supposed to be the main marketing and promotional vehicle of F1, the overly complicated rules, insanely expensive tickets (so less spectators) and pretty much everything else.
It’s a horrible setup and one in a desperate need of flushing down the ugly, dirty drain.
13th June 2014, 15:45
The problem as I see it is the image car companies want to portray is no longer ‘fast and sexy’ but ‘economical and reliable…and sexy’. F1 is a sprint series, shoehorning economy into it just isn’t going to work because that’s not why people watch F1 (it’s also why more people watch F1 than WEC).
If F1 can get it’s mojo back and produce some exciting cars and exciting racing then it shouldn’t struggle to maintain manufacturer support, it just needs to get it’s fizz back.
13th June 2014, 15:46
I don’t particularly feel we are yet in a position to compare F1 with Le Mans with regards to manufacturers safe in the knowledge we’re comparing apples with apples. The core of appear of Le Mans for manufacturers, and in particular the modern LMP1 category, is that it is an impressive technical showcase but with a great deal of road relevance. The fact that Audi has never shown interest in F1 is borne out by the fact that a) their results in the equally prestigious French race are as good a platform for their brand as F1, and b) unlike F1 there is a great deal of carry over to their road cars, such as the quattro and e-tronic systems. However what is perhaps more important is the effect of motorsport for brand image, and with the television decline of WRC, car manufacturers are faced with choice of Le Mans or F1 (with Porsche saying that it probably would have been “forced” to enter F1 had the WEC regulation not recently turned to their advantage).
However is greater brand publicity (F1) versus road relevance (Le Mans) a fair dynamic anymore? We are just seven races into a new era of F1 racing, a formula that should, and arguably has, incentivised the development of fuel efficient technology in tandem with providing great racing; a formula that has already tempted Honda back to the piranha club. Whilst the trend of Porsche, Toyota and Nissan entering Le Man, and BMW and Toyota leaving F1 is a worrying trend, it is also not a relevant one to the current era. Ultimately, we are but seven races into F1’s new world, a new world that could well tempt more car manufacturers to F1’s ranks, so it is a touch premature to get depressed by the state of F1 yet.
13th June 2014, 16:33
…firstly, thanks for some great comments out there…WEC really does look like the future; especially with its flexibility of Power Unit/ERS rules…now PLEASE, Adrian, get with Nissan (ie Infiniti & Renault!) and design their 2015 entry…and let’s pray for Ferrari and Ford to return to bring back the Glory Days of Endurance Racing!…bring it on!…
13th June 2014, 17:01
There doesn’t seem to be a situation where F1 can balance creating a healthy technology mix, low costs and competitive racing all at the same time. Although I have to say that despite the costs of the new power units, it’s at least starting to get more manufacturer interest – I’d like to think that Honda rejoining in 2015 is a signal of more big names getting back into the sport.
13th June 2014, 17:30
Something to take into consideration is that its taken WEC a few years to bring in the new manufacturer’s under there current rule set.
The current Hybrid regulations were introduced in 2011 & its only now they have gained interest from more manufacturer’s, The 1st few years it was only Audi & Toyota who were rushed in a year earlier than scheduled to replace Peugeot who withdrew last minute that year.
F1 is in the 1st year of the new regulations & they have already encouraged Honda back & ensured that Renault/Mercedes stayed.
14th June 2014, 18:54
The other peculiarity is that, in some ways, the ACO is tending to pick a number of its policies based on what Formula 1 is doing.
The ACO only really started showing interest in KERS when F1 did, with the regulations bearing more than a passing similarity with the FIA’s own proposals for KERS in F1. In fact, it is worth noting that both Toyota and Audi are using hybrid power systems that were originally developed for Formula 1 and then modified for sportscar racing (Toyota developed a super capacitor based KERS unit for the TF109 but decided against using it on weight ground, whilst Audi’s flywheel is an off the shelf unit from Williams that was dropped from F1 because it was too bulky when compared to a battery unit).
The use of fuel flow restrictions is also the same in F1 and sportscar racing – they actually use the same fuel flow measurement unit, and the permitted fuel flow rates in F1 and at Le Mans are surprisingly close (100kg/hour in F1 versus about 90 – 94kg/hour in sportscar racing). I wouldn’t be half surprised if, given that F1 has announced that they will investigate the option of reintroducing active suspension systems for 2017, the ACO will announce that they will also introduce active suspension systems for 2017 too…
Kim Philby (@philby)
13th June 2014, 17:56
I believe that is a spot on article on why F1 sucks at the moment. WEC seems to have regained its former glory while F1 is a joke right now.
I believe that if we are in for a treat with a spectacular Le mans race more wheels will be set in motion, imagine the possibility: Ferrari fires Alonso and Raikkonen, slices its budget in half hires Bianchi and another talented youngster for F1 and invests the other half in Le Mans. Meanwhile we find out that Newey is secretely designing a Le mans prototype (the true reason for is depRTURE from f1) for Jaguar and finally Mazda brings another rotary engined rocketship and the team is run by Ros Brawn…
I know it is not gonna happen but what I want to point out is that WEC has the potential to be hugely exciting because it is for car manufacturers while on the other F1 with its stupid rules even if it had 12 car manufacturers one for every team either as works or as engine supplier it ‘d still be a borefest.
13th June 2014, 17:56
This year is the first time I am just as hyped for sports car racing as for F1.
The ACO/FIA seem to have taken a much more considered approach to developing the series and I hope that it can avoid the boom and bust cycles that continue to afflict F1.
It certainly seems to be gaining huge momentum.
Yaya Ishaq (@ferrari_412t)
13th June 2014, 18:28
I’m quite ignorant when it comes to endurance racing. How is this significant? Is F1 really competing with the WEC? because they are two different disciples of racing I though that both series would have their own agendas and aims. Has F1 really been a place historically whereby manufacturers are supposed to be? I thought that endurance racing had always been more popular for major manufacturers…….
13th June 2014, 19:55
I think F1 has made three grave errors that have hurt popularity, and will continue to do so unless the errors are addressed.
At this point, the grid is way too close to being a ‘spec series’, with not enough individuality. Yes, I realize that the ‘Cosworth/Ford plug-in engine years’ were also close to being spec, but that was because of team choice, not regulation.
Adding to that problem is the insistence that F1 be “meaningful” through all the hybrid/economy run garbage. Making f1 Green is also making it dull.
And last, but certainly not least; the sound of the engines – despite Max Mosely’s ignorant opinion – is far more important than the F1 rules-makers realize. We have reached a point where the exhaust note of the Safety Car is way more exciting than the F1 engines, and that is a major problem. The sound is an important element in any race series, like it or not. The lack of “sexy noise” in this year’s cars could be compared to having all the cars painted the same dull grey, with no graphics, just all blank. Yes, they would still be fast, but a lot less interesting. Every element counts.
13th June 2014, 20:57
” Making f1 Green is also making it dull. ”
Thats just your opinion, I have the opposite opinion in that I think the racing so far this year has been better than it has been for a long time & I’ve been enjoying F1 this year more than I have for a couple years.
Also the TV viewing figures are up this year so the new engines/new sound is certainly NOT putting people off F1, It all seems to be getting more people to tune in when compared to the previous 2-3 years.
13th June 2014, 20:59
“Yes, I realize that the ‘Cosworth/Ford plug-in engine years’ were also close to being spec, but that was because of team choice, not regulation.”
It was actually because in the 70s The Ford Cosworth was the only engine available & as time went on into the 80s it was the only engine non-factory teams could afford.
13th June 2014, 20:38
In my opinion the reason the manufacturers are choosing WEC and Le Mans is because of the way winning gets reported. In Formula One it’s “Driver A wins 4th World Championship”, in WEC / Le Mans it’s “Manufacturer A wins 12th Le Mans”. In the WEC the focus of success is much more on the car rather than the individual drivers – that focus on the car is much easier for the manufacturers to market – it says “our WEC car is the best, just like our road cars, therefore you should buy our road cars”.
13th June 2014, 22:41
I don’t think it’s fair to compare F1 to WEC. Most peoples relationship with motorsports starts with cars that look like normal road going vehicles. Nothing on the road looks like a F1 car, so people have a hard time relating to it. Even a single seater LMP1 car looks like a normal car, so people relate. NASCAR is huge because the fans can relate. Its basically extended drag races with kinks. The carnage and the fact the cars on track look like the vehicle you drive on a daily basis help draw in fans.
Also, the more complex the sport, the harder it is to gain fans. WEC is exiting to the manufacturers because things like fuel economy and efficiently in general are look at positively in that arena. In F1 we demonize fuel efficiency, and road related technology. So if I were a manufacturer, WEC with its various race classes and racing philosophy is going to be much more attractive.
However, I still think F1 is where its at. WEC is unwatchable for most. Who has six hours to watch a race? The series is also very volatile. There is no guarantee the series will be around in 5 years time. F1 has been much more stable. That also tends to be a problem for F1. Because its been around for so long, the past is always used to criticize the latest technologies and changes in the sport. The old generation always seem to get nostalgic and demonize the new. Things like DRS, KERS, and 1.6L turbos, and new racing venues.
14th June 2014, 10:30
Nothing wrong with KERS or the new engines.
I am also one of the people who can appreciate these new cars, they clearly make the drivers work harder for their hot laptimes and allow the talented ones to shine through. They may be too quiet for the people that see them live, but at some level I do appreciate how efficient these cars have become that they no longer produce too much heat or noise.
All the energy in the fuel goes towards driving the wheels, awesome stuff.
DRS, however, is from the devil, it’s right up there with NASCAR’s end-of-race yellow flags that’s used only to bunch up the grid closer again…it is artificial and not at all what a “sport” is about. And if things keep going the way they have gone so far, it looks like F1 is set to surpass the example of Artificiality in Motorsport set by the americans. This historical event will take place in Abu Dhabi ’14, and it will likely be the last F1 race I ever follow.
13th June 2014, 23:27
Wow, what an ode to a pathetic form of motorsport-endurance “racing”. Because to call this high speed engineering exercise racing, is one of the biggest lies possible. The only ones who get excited by that are the engineers. I once been to an endurance race at Road America. Not because I wanted to, just because it was one of the support races for the Champ Car race there. Watching it for 6 hours is like watching paint dry. I can’t imagine how it would be to watch it for 24. Every other support race(Star Mazda, F. Atlantic) was 5 times more exciting.
And those crying about the sound of the current F1 cars should really have listened to the sound of that 2007-spec LMP1 Audi-it’s like some hellish, extremely boring lullaby, which probably got worse by now. If you’re not fast asleep from the sound of that then the sight of that uninspiring car shape in an uninspiring livery will surely do the job
I’m sad to see Keith do the same mistake as many other F1 journos saying that F1 ahould learn lessons from WEC. These would be absolutely the wrong lessons which would kill F1 forever. F1 should not be about car manufacturers(it did very well in the 70s with most of the field powered by the same engine after all), F1 should not be about road relevance, being a pinnacle of motorsport has nothing to do with road relevance it’s merely a recognition of the fact that these are the best drivers in the world, driving for the best teams in the fastest race cars on earth(the WEC cars you glorify are 15 sec/lap slower)
F1 should concentrate on its real problems: improving the quality of competition by fighting the inequality to ensure smaller teams can fight, the quality of the racing(more emphasis on mechanical grip VS aero grip for example) and the quality of coverage and marketing including in the new media which has been exceptionally poor up to now
F1’s popularity with its main audience, was always because we look at F1 cars as dream machines completely different from what we drive everyday so as to be from another planet basically. Being road relevant doesn’t help in any way. and when the public stops to be interested no one from the manufacturers will give a damn either. Let those car makers like the VW group who aren’t(and by and large never were) interested in F1 bugger off to that boring engineering exercise. Those who are here, know why they do it and why it’s worth for them. The rest, who don’t care, nor should F1 care about them. Now let’s get those costs down, dirty wake down and the FOM youtube channel up
Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine)
14th June 2014, 23:06
No I didn’t. At most I said there might be aspects that are holding it back, I did not say it should start copying WEC.
15th June 2014, 12:11
@keithcollantine Sorry if I misunderstood then. There are quite a few aspects holding F1 back, but as i argue above, manufacturers choosing Le Mans isn’t one of them IMO
14th June 2014, 1:45
Started following the WEC this year, with Porsche joining and Audi being less dominant this race series is really coming into its own with six cars quite evenly matched even though Toyota is currently doing well. Nissan joining will only help to make the series better with 8 cars fighting for the win, wouldn’t mind an actual racing gtr in the pro category as well. Hope they add more races as well. It will never be as popular as F1 (having the whole season on v would help) and I do like F1 more but it is this race series that should be developing and promoting new technology’s for road cars rather than F1 which should concentrate on excitement and racing, in a perfect world and unlimited money Ferrari, Renault and Mercedes could develop prototypes to improve road cars and leave F1 in the old and cheaper ways of the past.
14th June 2014, 3:51
In the 60+ year history of F1 there have only been 18 different engine manufactures to have won a race, and only about 10 of those have been actual road car manufactures (Ferrari, Ford, Renault, Mercedes, Honda, BMW, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Porsche, & Matra). The other 8 were either branded engines (Mugen Honda which is listed as a separate manufacture though they’re really just a preformance division of Honda so I count them as just an engine builder not a road car manufacture), purpose built racing engines (such as the Offys) or in-house engines built by the independent teams themselves.
F1 may be billed as the “Pinnacle of Motorsports” but people always forget that the subdivsion of motorsports that it’s the pinnacle of is KARTING not Stockcar or Touring Car or Sportscar racing. If you want road relevance then go watch Stockcars, Sportscars or Touring cars, not an oversized go-kart.
15th June 2014, 22:49
Having had a spare weekend I was able to watch most of Le Mans pretty much from start to finish for the first time.
There was nothing wrong with the quality of the racing, which had both a tactical and skilfull element to it, the mix of machinery across all four classes was ea good mix, [despite the irritiating ad breaks] the Eurosport coverage was warm, informative, witty and engaging, and the mix of veteran and young drivers was engrossing as well. Yet, at the end of 24 hours of racing the result was still not a foregone conclusion, there were mistakes and mechanical breakdowns which kept the result in doubt until the end, and there was great sportsmanship shown throughout, especially at the end where the Audi crew applauded the Porache #14 car heading back out onto the track at the end to try and get a classified finish.
Finally, an emotional and fitting tribute to Allan Simeonson with the all-Danish crew winning the GTE-AM class.
F1 is suffering in comparison because of Benie Ecclestone’s greed and the spiteful and selfish attitude of some of it’s competitors.
Thank god they’re not running the WEC.
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