McLaren targets Le Mans return if LMP1 gets rules reset

Zak Brown has pledged that McLaren would build and run cars in the top-level LMP1 class of global sportscar racing – including the Le Mans 24 Hours – if the rules are made more cost-effective.

McLaren targets Le Mans return if LMP1 gets rules reset
Zak Brown, Executive Director, McLaren Technology Group
#59 McLaren F1 GTR: J.J. Lehto, Yannick Dalmas, Masanori Sekiya
#16 Porsche 962: Zak Brown
#51 Harrods McLaren F1 GTR: Andy Wallace, Derek Bell, Justin Bell
Sunrise at Le Mans
#2 Porsche LMP Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber, Brendon Hartley takes the win
#51 Harrods McLaren F1 GTR: Andy Wallace, Derek Bell, Justin Bell
#31 Vaillante Rebellion Racing Oreca 07 Gibson: Julien Canal, Bruno Senna, Nicolas Prost
#25 Gulf McLaren F1 GTR: Pierre-Henri Raphanel, Philippe Alliot, Lindsay Owen-Jones
#51 Harrods McLaren F1 GTR: Andy Wallace, Derek Bell, Justin Bell

Brown revealed that McLaren is currently evaluating all of its options in sportscar racing, including potential prototype programmes in either in the FIA World Endurance Championship or IMSA in America from 2019 onwards.

But he thinks that the WEC's top-class LMP1 rules have become "unviable" due to manufacturers approaching F1 levels of spending, and believes a new direction is a must to regain the success of past years.

"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."

Setting a target of $20 million

With LMP1 costs having spiralled in recent seasons, Brown reasons that the payback the manufacturers have received has not increased versus the extra spend.

"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 $5 million 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 $20 million, 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 added that top-level sportscars should retain technical relevance to the road car market, but not be dictated by it to allow costs to spiral.

He added: "R&D needs to be a benefit for any manufacturer in motorsports, but it's not the only reason to do it. 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."

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