The divide between the FIA World Endurance Championship and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is akin to the CART/IRL split of the late 1990s and 2000s, says Helio Castroneves.
Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Castroneves has switched from IndyCar to Team Penske’s IMSA programme for the 2018 season, qualifying second in last month’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Penske’s Acura ARX-05 DPi contender, which is based on the benchmark Oreca 07 LMP2 chassis, would be ineligible to race in the WEC – which persists with LMP1 as its top division despite the pull-out of both Audi and Porsche in the last two years.
WEC and IMSA are working on plans to adopt a common prototype platform, but key differences in philosophy - including disagreement over the role of hybrid technology - exist between the two series.
Moreover, the earliest a shared ruleset is likely to be realised is 2022 following IMSA's decision to extend the life of its DPi regulations by an extra year to cover the 2021 season.
Castroneves called on the organisers of both series to accelerate plans to unify their rules, saying the example of Indy car racing’s reunification shows it can be done with sufficient will.
“It’s about politics, I guess, for them to get together,” said Castroneves, who raced in both CART (later Champ Car) and IRL when they were separate series before they were merged in 2008.
“I don’t think LMP1 is going to last for long. I hope LMP2 will become LMP1, it would be better for everyone. It’s the situation like Champ Car and IRL.
“What are we doing here? Why don’t we just get one great series, the best from Europe, the best from America and let’s make it one thing?
“I think there are enough people with power and money to make that happen, you’ve just got to take the egos away and put it together. It’s happened in IndyCar, it can happen again.”
Le Mans on the radar
Following his first Daytona appearance since 2008, 42-year-old Castroneves expressed a strong desire to contest other 24-hour races in the future, notably Le Mans.
“Spending 20 years in one series [IndyCar], you don’t think outside the box,” he admitted. “To be honest, I should [have], because I want to do all these races: Daytona, Le Mans, Spa, Nurburgring.
“Now there is an opportunity. How awesome would that be? And doing it with the best team – for me Penske is up there with the best teams in Europe and it would be really cool to be part of it.”
Although the current WEC/IMSA rules split would prevent Penske from entering Le Mans with its Acura DPi, Castroneves stated he would still be interested in contesting the French classic in a GTE car.
“I would love to have an opportunity to go first [before a potential Penske entry] even if it’s just in a GT, just to understand how it is,” he said.