ACO anticipates growth for the 24H

ACO anticipates growth for the 24H

The ACO (Automobile Club de l'Ouest,) the organizer of the Le Mans 24H outlined some of the initiatives and future plans for the famed endurance event. Jean-Claude Passart. Photo by Tom Haapanen. ACO president Jean-Claude Plassart ...

The ACO (Automobile Club de l'Ouest,) the organizer of the Le Mans 24H outlined some of the initiatives and future plans for the famed endurance event.

Jean-Claude Passart.
Photo by Tom Haapanen.
ACO president Jean-Claude Plassart described a three-year improvement initiative with a budget of of 15 million euros (US$18 million), starting with the resurfacing of the smaller Bugatti circuit, something that was already started in February.

For the spectators, a new grandstand will be constructed at Maison Blanche, and four additional tunnels bored to provide better access between the inside and outside of the circuit.

Even more importantly, the paddock and garage facilities are being expanded. The current paddock is quite tightly packed with 50 teams, but the expanded facilities will be designed to accommodate 55 teams, allowing for a larger entry in the future.

"The paddock has now become too tight for what teams have a right to expect at a race like this," Plassart admitted.

Exerting additional pressure for facilities expansion is the anticipated entry of three more factory teams in 2005: Aston Martin, Lamborghini and Maserati. While the manufacturer count will still be well below 1999's nine, if these plans do come to fruition, the pressure on paddock space will be more intense.

In the meantime, Plassart is quite satisfied with the success of the Le Mans Endurance Series, which debuted with the Monza 1000 km in May.

"The Audi teams went at it hammer and tongs, and the new Zytek showed that it had the speed to upset the Audi applecart," Plessart recollected. "All this augurs well for the 24h!"

The ACO was, however, disappointed by the unexpected nine withdrawals from this year's event, which exhausted the eight-car reserve list.

Daniel Poissenot.
Photo by Tom Haapanen.
"Most of the withdrawals were due to the economic conditions," said Daniel Poissenot, the ACO sporting director. "The competitors will tell you that it has been extremely difficult to get a budget together for the race this year."

ACO has placed a lot of emphasis on the stability of the regulations, and currently the 24H and the series are in the midst of a two-year transition to the new prototype rules (LM P1 and LM P2, from the older LM P900 and LM P675). The organization is continuing to work with FIA on rules harmonization, and they expect to match the GT classes' rules in the near future as well.

All the LM P2 entries this year already conform to the new rules, as does the Team NASAMAX entry in LM P1. And ACO is exploring alternative racing fuels with Team Nasamax (bio-ethanol) and Taurus Lola Caterpillar (diesel).

Plassart concluded on an upbeat note: "we have some positive signs as well, it's not all black, all grandstand seats are sold, and ticket sales so far are ahead of 2003."

"The weather also looks good, so it will be a great race!"

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About this article
Series Le Mans
Drivers Daniel Poissenot