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. AMG Fan said on 11th December 2009, 9:23

    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.

    Sounds great, but if you broadcast it for free on the internet, where does major revenue come from? Its widely acknowledged that the reason why F1 has become so profitable, is because Bernie has signed TV contracts worth many millions.

    Everybody’s ideas are quite devoid of reality. F1 will be the king in motorsport for years to come. Sportscar racing is something I enjoy watching, but we are talking about a rival for F1. And there is little chance of that happening. F1 has been built over many years, it has been promoted and organised by a genius. F1 has been going for 60 years. Sportscar racing has been too inconsistent and is no where in the public eye, just because the ACO are organising a world championship, it doesn’t mean that it can rival F1 in the future. There is no solid evidence to suggest that a series with an open rule book creates more interest.

    When the LMP1 series is shown on mainstream TV, every race is shown and the viewing numbers start to signifcantly increase. And it starts to rival F1 as the world’s most sport. Then lets have this discussion.

  2. AMG Fan said on 11th December 2009, 9:24

    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.

    Sounds great, but if you broadcast it for free on the internet, where does major revenue come from? Its widely acknowledged that the reason why F1 has become so profitable, is because Bernie has signed TV contracts worth many millions.

    Everybody’s ideas are quite devoid of reality. F1 will be the king in motorsport for years to come. Sportscar racing is something I enjoy watching, but we are talking about a rival for F1. And there is little chance of that happening. F1 has been built over many years, it has been promoted and organised by a genius. F1 has been going for 60 years. Sportscar racing has been too inconsistent and is no where in the public eye, just because the ACO are organising a world championship, it doesn’t mean that it can rival F1 in the future. There is no solid evidence to suggest that a series with an open rule book creates more interest.

    When the LMP1 series is shown on mainstream TV, every race is shown and the viewing numbers start to signifcantly increase. And it starts to rival F1 as the world’s most watched sport. Then lets have this discussion.

  3. AMG Fan said on 11th December 2009, 9:24

    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.

    Sounds great, but if you broadcast it for free on the internet, where does major revenue come from? Its widely acknowledged that the reason why F1 has become so profitable, is because Bernie has signed TV contracts worth many millions.

    Everybody’s ideas are quite devoid of reality. F1 will be the king in motorsport for years to come. Sportscar racing is something I enjoy watching, but we are talking about a rival for F1. And there is little chance of that happening. F1 has been built over many years, it has been promoted and organised by a genius. F1 has been going for 60 years. Sportscar racing has been too inconsistent and is no where in the public eye, just because the ACO are organising a world championship, it doesn’t mean that it can rival F1 in the future. There is no solid evidence to suggest that a series with an open rule book creates more interest.

    When the LMP1 series is shown on mainstream TV, every race is shown and the viewing numbers start to signifcantly increase. And it starts to rival F1 as the world’s most watched sport. Then lets have this discussion.

    • Sounds great, but if you broadcast it for free on the internet, where does major revenue come from? Its widely acknowledged that the reason why F1 has become so profitable, is because Bernie has signed TV contracts worth many millions.

      As I did mention there would be two options for internet streaming, one that was ad supported, so free to the viewer and paid for by advertisers, kind of like how free to air tv works, and the second option, which is the viewer pays a subscription fee, and therefore doesn’t have to watch ads. This is where the revenue comes from. It’s kind of like buying direct from the wholesaler. The creator sells the content to the consumer at the same price as a TV station would sell subscriptions or advertising in a normal situation. When you sell to a third party, i.e. TV stations you cannot charge as much as selling directly to the consumer, because TV station needs to be able to make some profit. So streaming over the internet is reducing the splitting of revenue between parties and at the end of the day ensures that a greater percentage of the revenue comes back the creator, and that’s how the revenue is made. Just cause it’s free to the consumer, it doesn’t mean it isn’t profitable, take Google for example.

      The TV contracts the FOM have signed makes Bernie and the FOM a lot money, but I don’t think the F1 as a sport on the whole actually makes much money from the TV deals. It seems like the teams get a very small proportion each, and the tracks, well they all seem to lose money. So who is really making the money?

      It might be pie in the sky thinking, but it doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work.

  4. Dougie said on 11th December 2009, 11:34

    I think the only person here with a grasp of the reality of the situation is AMGfan… Sportscar is great to watch, but it is not and never will be F1 for the mainstream viewer.

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