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. GooddayBruce said on 10th December 2009, 16:56

    If they do it properly with drivers and constructors championships and if they can get the rules right to let the petrol cars run with the turbo-diesels then I’m interested.

    Big if though.

  2. Robert McKay said on 10th December 2009, 17:04

    What about this new GT1 Championship (the “rebirth” of FIA GT)?

  3. If theses dont run on the same day ill watch both but if they are running on same day. It really depends on how the F1 at the time is. If its just 1 person dominating from start of season to finish. Ill watch the LMPS.

    Since i watched my first whole le mans race iv always been interested in theses cars as much as F1. These in there own championship will make it brilliant! Two fuel types, alot more different manufactures, lots more teams. This is what i want f1 to be.

  4. AMG Fan said on 10th December 2009, 17:21

    I don’t think the LMP1 Series will be a rival for F1, not even close.

    Sportscars is barley televised, the ACO seem to be unwilling to run races that are less then 6 hours, I cannot imagine average joe is going to sit there for 6 hours, and watch a race. Eurosport, currently cannot be bothered to show LMS 1000 km races. They show the start and the end, and that is it. That sums up how interested major TV companies are interested in sportscar racing.

    Bernie has built up such a powerful empire, that sportscar racing would not have a chance of competing. F1 is televised on the most popular broadcaster in the UK, can anyone seriously see BBC show sportscar racing?

    The only endurance race that is shown in full, is Le Mans itself. LMP1 racing is not exactly thrilling either, those cars have high downforce levels – and suffer from the dirty air issue. And without GT2 cars to create traffic, the racing would be just about as exciting as F1.

    And why is manufacturer participation so important? The same dropout will happen in the LMP1 world series, after some manufacturers realise that they cannot win, they will just leave, after costs spiral out of control.

    I mean look the situation in America. ALMS may well be a brilliant championship, that has been an innovative leader in motorsports since 1999, but NASCAR is still king, by a mile. Innovation and manufacturers doesn’t really matter, it isn’t what makes average joe watch. F1 and NASCAR have been built over many, many years, and that is what counts.

    The world LMP1 series will be interesting to see, but those who think it can be a rival for F1 are very naive.

    • boing007 said on 14th December 2009, 13:37

      Some NASCAR races take six hours to complete. Yellow flags galore. Stock cars can’t race on wet tracks.

  5. F1Yankee said on 10th December 2009, 17:44

    i think it’s great – the more sports car action, the better!

    i’m pretty optimistic about the new rules. gt3 has been a big success, gt2 remains strong, and the fia’s (aco adopted the spec) gt1 sounds promising. as for prototypes, still plenty of lolas and dallaras. the aco wants to keep a 1.5-2% performance difference between lmp1 and lmp2. lmp2 will use gt2 engines and lmp1 will use gt1 engines.

  6. A sports car WC will endear itself to anyone who GOES to a race and experiences the pit access available to the ordinary fan. Rubbing elbows with drivers and teams, close up inspections of cars, it’s all just amazing. Given time, it could equal or surpass F1’s popularity; time being the operative word.

    Much more fan friendly than F1 has been or probably ever will be.

    • boing007 said on 14th December 2009, 13:44

      The Canadian Grand Prix of 1970 in Mont Tremblant, Quebec, was fan friendly. The drivers had rooms at the Gray Rocks Inn but preferred to have their lunches and suppers at Mont Tremblant Lodge where the food was first class. My brother and had a rented cabin at the lodge for $15 dollars a day, including two meals. We sat just beside the tables of Jackie Stewart and Graham Hill on several occasions.

  7. dcowlives said on 10th December 2009, 17:50

    AMG Fan has pretty much summed up my view.

    It’ll be an nice side show for us Motorsport geeks, assuming we can find it televised anywhere… but it’ll never come even close to the king that is F1. I doubt it’ll even generate as much interest in the UK to rival the BTCC.

    The Le Mans 24hr will have an increased turnout however, but that’ll probably be it.

  8. I’m really excited to see something like this coming back together. Having a world championship again with prototypes would be a really good idea, in my opinion, if it can be made attractive for manufacturers, competitors — and a large enough audience.

    I think endurance racing is different enough from Grand Prix single seaters that two such championships could co-exist, too.

  9. Hey that Audi looks a whole lot racier than the current FI cars with those awful rear wings and giant snow shovels at the front, bring it on.

    • AMG Fan said on 10th December 2009, 22:10

      Hey that Audi looks a whole lot racier than the current FI cars with those awful rear wings and giant snow shovels at the front, bring it on.

      And a car that sounds like a vacuum cleaner.

  10. Bartholomew said on 10th December 2009, 21:51

    Around 1971 the sport-prototype category was more popular than F1

  11. I love it. Sports car racing will no doubt be cheaper to attend than F1, the racing has the potential to be better, because of the higher body-contact tolerance, and it will be able to race on great tracks deemed unsafe for F1. Also, I’d have to imagine manufacturers would find a bigger draw to it. However, I think F1 will still be more fun to be a part of, because, as was previously mentioned, the cars are much faster.

  12. I am quite interested in LM series but it will only rival F1 if it available to UK Freeview viewers and F1 is not. However, if coverage is improved to show whole races rather than edited highlights such as on Motorspport Mundial, then it would definitely capture my attention.

  13. phil c said on 10th December 2009, 23:59

    I totally agree, F1 is dead because of the FIA and Bernie being greedy. I think in some instances lemans is more enjoyable to watch.

    If Ferrari leave f1, f1 is dead. Especially now that there is only one other manufacture. If all the big supercar manufactures enter Leman not controlled by the FIA, Ferrari and Merc will have no option, because people would want to compare apples with apples. F1 is getting boring, the cars look ugly, and the FIA has screwed the sport.

    A new series could set up to become as big as f1 with 80% of the revenue going to the show the teams, and not to some company who does nothing for the sport.

    It will become more attractive over time and teams/manufacture go were the money is.

    • AMG Fan said on 11th December 2009, 9:08

      I totally agree, F1 is dead because of the FIA and Bernie being greedy. I think in some instances lemans is more enjoyable to watch.

      If Ferrari leave f1, f1 is dead. Especially now that there is only one other manufacture. If all the big supercar manufactures enter Leman not controlled by the FIA, Ferrari and Merc will have no option, because people would want to compare apples with apples. F1 is getting boring, the cars look ugly, and the FIA has screwed the sport.

      A new series could set up to become as big as f1 with 80% of the revenue going to the show the teams, and not to some company who does nothing for the sport.

      Probably the biggest pile of rubbish I’ve ever read. You think F1 is dead, because of Bernie’s greed? If you take your blinkers off, you’ll have realised that Bernie is the reason why F1 is so powerful now. The naviety of your post amazes me, how a new world sportscar series could be more popular then F1, within a few years.

      Ever thought about promotion or TV contracts, do you see endurance racing being broadcasted for its entirety on mainstream TV? Bernie’s got that one, so game over for sportscars.

      If you so called F1 fans, are fed up with F1, then simply don’t watch it. Watch sportscar racing, but don’t come crying back when you find the TV coverage poor and the races too long.

      • boing007 said on 14th December 2009, 13:53

        Two or three years ago Mr. Ecclestone promised F1 fans more exciting in-car, outside-car camera work. I’m still waiting. Anyone notice that the hair raising, flatout, 195 mph corner at Spa has not been shown at an advantageous camera angle for several years? I recorded Spa about five or six years ago and it was shown once. After that, they censured it.

  14. Been Watching Le Mans racing off and on for some time. I think it could be a great World Series. Will it rival F1…. If it dose it wont be for many years.

  15. If it was managed well I could see it being a huge success. If I was in charge this is what I would do.

    Every race would be a 24hour race.

    There would be 2 races per continent / region. 2 races in Asia, 2 races in Australasia, 2 races in North America, 2 races in South America, 2 races in Africa, 2 races in the Middle East (including India), 2 races in Western Europe and 2 races in Eastern Europe. So a total of 16 races a year held over the whole year.

    Because each race is 24 hours, at least some point during the race it is going to be in TV prime time for every region around the world. Races would be streamed on the internet, and TV stations could pick up the broadcast if they wanted. With the streaming on the internet, there would a free version, with localised ads every 15 minutes, and a subscription version, with no ads and the ability to download to watch offline etc. A highlights package for each race would be produced, and would be two hours in length, and would be broadcast the week following each race.

    Rules wise, manufacturers from around the world would be encouraged to enter. A standard chassis would be available, and manufacturers would develop their own engines, suspension, gearboxes, electronics and aerodynamics around the standard chassis. Like the DTM, prior to each season the aerodynamic performance of the cars would be checked by the controlling organisation, and evening out of the aerodynamic performance of the different cars would occur, and then the aerodynamics for the season would be frozen for the season. There would be no control tyres or fuel, but the number of tyres and the amount of fuel allowed to be used would be limited. Each season the number of tyres and amount of fuel allowed to be used over a race weekend, would be reduced in order to push the boundaries, and encourage more sustainable methods to be developed, and result in racing that uses less consumables. This research could then be applied to road cars, and in turn reduce the consumables used in road cars.

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