Rebellion Racing drivers Nicolas Prost and Nick Heidfeld have lamented the lack of competition in the privateer LMP1 category ahead of the 2016 World Endurance Championship season.
Although WEC’s premier class has thrived in recent years with increased manufacturer presence, it has failed to attract more independent teams.
In 2016, only two private outfits will contest the category, Rebellion and ByKolles, who between them will field three cars.
Prost, who will be contesting his seventh season in LMP1 with Rebellion, doesn’t foresee more private squads joining the category unless organisers does more to help level the playing field with the manufacturers.
“If Rebellion can’t compete with the factory teams, we're a bit in the middle of nowhere," Prost told Motorsport.com. "If the ACO and the FIA don’t help us, maybe there’s no place for us anymore.
“It would be nice to have more competition, but I can’t see it coming.’’
Rebellion’s pace drove out competition
Prost is of the opinion that Rebellion’s strong haul of results in early years have dissuaded other privateers others from joining the category.
“It is frustrating, but for me Rebellion is somewhere between an official team and a privateer team," he said.
“They have a strong package technically and financially, but when they came into LMP1 they won a lot of races and it became hard for other private teams to challenge us.”
Asked if Rebellion should switch to LMP2 class, which boasts 22 entries at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, the Frenchman said it is not in his team’s DNA to hire gentleman drivers - a necessary condition in this category.
“LMP2 has a big problem with driver classification," he said. "You really need to get the gentlemen drivers, and that’s not really in the spirit of Rebellion.”
Heidfeld echoes teammate
While Prost reckons the future in privateers battle doesn't look bright unless ACO steps in, Heidfeld cautiously hopes that more privateers will join LMP1 in coming years.
“Unfortunately, in LMP1, we don’t have much competition,’’ said Heidfeld to Motorsport.com.
“A few years ago there were more privateers, now we have a lot of manufacturers.
"But still we are trying to do our best, and hope for more competition from privateers,” he added.
The 38-year old says that the disparities between manufacturers and privateers is such that his team can never realistically challenge the likes of Porsche and Audi on outright pace.
“We hope to beat the works teams, but if you see the amount of money and work they put in, this is only possible if they have a problem," he said.
"By pure speed, unfortunately, we can’t compete."
Additional reporting by Jamie Klein