It was the only motorsports-related conference in the two press days.
DETROIT -- Following the Tuesday afternoon press conference at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) and the FIA World Endurance Championship (FIA), a colleague, who does not follow racing closely, turned around and asked me: “Was there any news here? Did I miss it?”
No, he didn’t. The conference was to simply introduce the WEC to automotive journalists, though by Tuesday afternoon, many had already left as Monday and Tuesday morning conferences contained all the new models. And many who did come did so to see TV star and race driver Patrick Dempsey, but he was a late no-show.
The closest we came to news being made: Nissan’s Roel de Vries, the Corporate VP, Global Head of Marketing, revealed that there would be more news on Nissan’s LMP1 car “soon.”
Others on the panel, which was ably hosted by Andrew Craig, whom you will remember as CART’s head but who is now representing the WEC in the U.S., were Pierre Fillon, President of the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (in photo above); Ed Brown, President Patron Spirits and Tequila Patron ESM (LMP2); his partner Scott Sharp, team owner/driver Tequila Patron ESM (LMP2); Doug Fehan, Corvette Racing Program Manager (LMGTE-Pro Le Mans); Mark Kent, Director of GM Racing, and Gérard Neveu, CEO of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Videos to introduce the series
There were several videos, including one from Porsche driver Dempsey, and a lengthy recap of the Lone Star Le Mans race at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas, which will run this year on September 19, and will hopefully be drier than it was in 2014. Speakers commented on the competitiveness of the WEC, the close link to manufacturers, and the global nature of the schedule.
Said Pierre Fillon: “We never stop working on the development worldwide of Le Mans-type endurance racing thanks to the FIA World Endurance Championship and continental series like the Tudor United SportsCar Championship in North America. It was with great pleasure that I had the opportunity to meet to discuss these future developments with Jim France. The Detroit Motor Show is the ideal place to meet the major players in the car industry and to reinforce endurance racing, a future-oriented branch of motor sport, whose attraction for the major manufacturers continues to grow.” Jim France did not attend the press conference, and if anyone was there from COTA, they were not apparent.
FIA WEC Chief Executive Officer Gérard Neveu summed up the two days in Detroit: “We must first of all congratulate the organizers of the North American International Auto Show on the very impressive event they have put on here in Detroit.
“The NAIAS has provided the ACO and the FIA WEC with a fantastic platform with which to promote Le Mans style endurance racing. The US market is very important to the FIA World Endurance Championship, our teams and partners. We are now in our fourth season and we are providing more manufacturers with the facility to develop the technology of the future, and more teams and drivers from the United States are looking at the WEC as the future of sportscar racing. We will be back in the USA this September for the Lone Star Le Mans event in Austin. We hope you will be able to join us.”
The full list of entries for the FIA World Endurance Championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which will be the third round of the championship, will be announced in Paris, France on February 5.