Could the new world championship for Le Mans cars be a future rival to F1?

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Audi will race its R15 TDi in the Intercontinental Cup
Audi will race its R15 TDi in the Intercontinental Cup

The days of a thriving World Sportscar Championship able to rival F1 for popularity among fans and car manufacturers are long past.

But that may change in the future as the organisers of the the Le Mans 24 Hours have announced they are planning a world championship for LMP1 sports cars. It’s already got the support of Audi and could easily attract manufacturers such as Peugeot and Aston Martin who already have LMP1 cars.

Could this new championship re-capture the glory days of the World Sportscar Championship – and muster more support from car manufacturers than F1 has?

The Automobile Club de l’Ouest will run an Intercontinental Cup in 2010 which will run across one round from each of the three major sports car championships: the Le Mans Series (Europe), the American Le Mans Series and the Asian Le Mans Series.

The first two races will be the Silverstone 1000km (September 13th) and Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta (October 2nd).

In 2011 the series will expand to at least six rounds forming a world championship. Interestingly, at this stage the ACO are only talking about offering a title for manufacturers and teams – there is no mention of a drivers’ title. The World Sportscar Championship did not have a drivers’ title until 1981.

That championship, which was run by the FIA, collapsed at the end of 1992.

The increased technical freedom in the ACO’s rules may well prove more appealing for fans and manufacturers alike. Audi and Peugeot have both won the Le Mans 24 Hours with turbo diesel cars – and diesel engines make up a significant proportion of their road car sales. Aston Martin, meanwhile, run a 6-litre V12 petrol engine based on the one from the DB9.

We have also seen how other manufacturers are ramping up their sports car programmes, such as recent F1 departees BMW.

It comes at a time when motor racing series not under the FIA’s control seem to be doing rather better than those which are. The FIA-run World Rally Championship’s only manufacturer entrants are Citroen and Ford, but the rival Intercontinental Rally Challenge has just announced its eighth: former WRC competitor Subaru.

I’m certainly excited by the prospect of a new sports car championship with greater technological freedom than F1 and decent manufacturer backing, racing at some of the best tracks in the world – and I suspect many other F1 fans will be too.

What do you think of the ACO’s plans for the Le Mans Intercontinental Cup?

Le Mans 24 Hours

Top image (C) Audi motorsport

Lola-Aston Martin Le Mans car at the 2009 Goodwood Festival
Lola-Aston Martin Le Mans car at the 2009 Goodwood Festival