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

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

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

  1. wasiF1 said on 10th December 2009, 10:32

    True F1 fan will never leave F1,secondly the FIA racing are an bit costly then which are independent.

    • beneboy said on 10th December 2009, 18:50

      True F1 fans have been treated like a piece of **** for the last fifteen years.

      Personally, I wouldn’t blame any of them for abandoning F1 after the last five years of mostly boring races at nondescript tracks where you’re lucky to get an overtaking manoeuvre after lap 3, all for the pleasure of about £500 a weekend (if you’re lucky enough not to have had your nations GP dropped in favour of some Tilke desert track).

      LMP cars are amazing and if they can get a decent set of tracks and a good format for the races I could see it pulling in lots of fans.

      And I say this as someone who has been an F1 fan for about twenty five years.

  2. I would love a great sportscar WC!
    I know I’m going to the spa 1000km race this year, wich audi will contest with 3 cars!

  3. Wow that’ll be so cool :) I love the Le Mans cars they look amazing.

    I’d definitely watch it!

    I just hope all the teams participate in all the races, because this year we went to watch the Le Mans series race at Silverstone and, from what I gather, the team closest to Aston Martin in the championship didn’t even enter that race and it was the final one! So no matter where Aston finished they’d won the championship.

    (I think that’s right, but I couldn’t really here the commentator too well and I hadn’t followed the series on TV).

  4. Jay Menon said on 10th December 2009, 11:11

    It makes a lot of sense for manufacturers to support this series.

    For starters, they run diesel powered cars. Major manufacturers are developing and pushing this technology in its road car businesses, so this will provide the perfect footing for this.

    As Keith mentions, Audi and Peugueot have been highly successful in running diesel powered cars and this hasdirectly translated to their road cars. Not mention the efficiency that diesel engines provide these days, which would naturally lead to sports car manufacturers delving into fine tuning this technology for their road cars

    As pit layne mentions, these sports cars are very relevant to roadcars. If I was a manufacturer who has just pulled out of F1 or considering a successful platform for R&D, this would be perfect. I wouldn’t surprised if the likes of Renault and Toyota look at this seriously.

    I would watch this space with great interest!

  5. Howard said on 10th December 2009, 11:14

    Hope that the Le Mans series really takes off – standing at Arnage at 1am with P1 cars screaming around the circuit in the night is awesome – they are spectacular to watch.

    I recall someone taking about a designing an all electric car for Le Mans – probably a few years away, but unlike F1 it would be welcome.

  6. KingHamilton&co said on 10th December 2009, 12:13

    i love sportscar racing-almost as much as F1. son naturally i hope this sportscar series is a success. however, i wouldnt be surprised to see the FIA and ecclestone kill it if it gets too much of a competitor to F1. The FIA already killed the world sportscar championship by making ridiculous rules so manufacturers would go to F1 instead, and if they see this as a threat they will murder it within an instant (under bernies command ofcourse).

    however, talking about ridiculous rules, maybe the FIA won’t need to intervene in that sense, as possible silly new rules could see LMP coupes dissapear as they will become inferior if these rules go ahead………..

  7. It would serve the FIA right if LMP racing surpast F1, I’m truely sick of the FIA, they’ve ruined F1.

    Surely TV is the key, good coverage would make the series a success.

  8. I think it would be interesting if Formula 1 cars raced together with LMP1 cars and GT cars, all in one race. That would be the ultimate race. And I don’t know if that was ever done before.

  9. I’d love to see the return of a good Sportscar Championship, but for it to really work for fans, it should be televised well.

  10. Let me see… The World Sportscar Championship collapsed at the end of 1992, the first complete year of Max Mosley ahead of FIA. And plans for a new competition begin to be discussed for te first year of Max Mosley out of FIA.

    That’s interesting.

  11. The only problem of Le Mans is actually its differentiator: 1000+ km is an unobservable race. Very few die-hards will watch it at the circuit or on TV. For such a race most of the people will go for the highlights only. On the other hand remove this and you get something like Speedcars or DTM …
    Can’t imagine it growing larger than F1.

  12. Reclaiming the legacy of the great battles of drivers and makes from the 50s through the 90s, with cars that do bring innovation and road-relevance to the fore, with a true diversity of engine designs and aero concepts, could definitely threaten F1. Who can forget the ripping howl of a V-12 Jag followed by the roar of a twin-turbo 962 flat-6?

    Along these lines, the real issue is getting that critical mass of the right makers—if the ACO can get any of Jaguar, Ford, BMW ,and a big Japanese brand, all of whom have rejected F1, to buy in that start to build massive interest. And if Ferrari build an LMP, you could call it a day: the rest would follow

    Regarding raw speed, the last sports prototypes of Group C held lap records over F1 cars and some circuits. I’m fairly sure that if Audi could remove those tiny air restrictors and run a decent sized wing on the F15 they would qualify somewhere between Manor and USF1 on next year’s grid.

  13. I love it when I write a nice observation/comment only to submit and I get the dreaded “Internal 500 Server Error”. Suffice it to say, YES! The WC Sports Car Series could indeed be a rival to F1. Lets all hope so! Simply for the technical freedom allowed the teams and the fact that they will race in countries where people who follow racing actually live.

    • I always write my posts in a Word document before I submit them. It checks my spelling and if I get an “Internal 500 Server Error” then I still have the original to post again.

  14. I’d be delighted to see a global sportscar championship compete with f1, but I see one major problem. Endurance racing is near-impossible to pack into a reasonable tv program. An F1 race broadcast is just right – not too short like the feeder series’, not too boring like live LeMans coverage. It’s just a bit longer than a football match, the pinnacle of sports programming. It’ll take some radical innovation from ACO and the broadcasters to popularize this series.

    But for the hardcore it will be a treat:) The big names, the F1 drop-outs with everything to prove, the cars you can actually see on the road (in a way), the brilliant SimBin games:)))) Can’t wait:)

  15. BT52/B said on 10th December 2009, 16:26

    Nice article Keith, yet I don’t know if the Le Mans champonship. It may suffer from the same problem as the Indy series, which has one race so popular (the Indy 500) that it overshadows the entire competition. Nobody really cares who wins the Indy league, and the same could happen for Le Mans.

    F1 has solved that problem though, in regards to Monaco. How did they do it Keith?

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