Nine-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner Tom Kristensen says the absence of an Audi LMP1 challenge at this year’s event will not devalue the quality of racing.
Following the withdrawal of Audi’s premier-class sportscar team, which means the German manufacturer is absent from the French sportscar classic for the first time in 19 years, Porsche and Toyota will likely battle out the overall victory between them.
Speaking during a Eurosport phone-in, Kristensen – who won Le Mans seven times with the Audi brand – said the focus should remain on the LMP1 class, despite the strength in depth of the GT category.
“For sure, there are more cars in GTE-Pro [than LMP1] – it makes for a wider competition but not necessarily a better competition,” said Kristensen. “A battle between two cars can be nailbiting and fantastic.
“I think when you look at the line-up of drivers at Toyota and Porsche I foresee an extremely exciting battle between those cars.
“Sure, it’s a shame that Audi is not there anymore. Nevertheless, I don’t expect any devaluing of the racing at all.”
Hybrid complexity worth the costs
Kristensen also stated that the vast expense attached with the hybrid technology used by factory LMP1 manufacturers was worthwhile, as it’s the technological challenge that has attracted their involvement in the first place.
“Certainly the hybrid cars are the most complex racing cars in the world,” said Kristensen. “And for the driver it’s an enormous thrill to drive these cars. But, for sure, you have to look hand-in-hand [at] what is relevant for the car manufacturers, and they like to compete at Le Mans.
“With two manufacturers, five fantastic cars on the grid here, the future depends on where the car manufacturers want to go. And they want to go where there is technology. You can’t stop technology.
“Of course, you can regulate yourself into great racing also. And look at the LMP2 cars here. These are fast cars, and they’re not so many seconds slower than LMP1 cars, and there’s great battles between a lot of good teams.”