More car makers choosing WEC and Le Mans over F1

2014 F1 season

Cars, Le Mans 2014The World Endurance Championship, now in the third year since its reformation, is slowly regaining the status sports car racing enjoyed in its heyday.

Among the well-timed good news announced in the run-up to this year’s running of its blue riband race, the Le Mans 24 Hours, was the imminent arrival of another manufacturer at the top level of the sport.

Nissan will contest next year’s World Endurance Championship with a new LMP1 car dubbed the GT-R LM NISMO. It will go up against the three manufacturers already racing at the top level of the category: fellow Japanese manufacturer Toyota, and German rivals Audi and Porsche.

WEC suffered a blow at the dawn of the new championship in 2012 when Peugeot scrapped its LMP1 programme, citing economic pressures. But with four manufacturers fielding LMP1 contenders next year, the series compares very favourably with Formula One in terms of manufacturer representation.

McLaren’s impending reunion with Honda next year, joining Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault will restore F1′s tally of engine manufacturers to the four it had in 2013. But the fact remains F1′s much-vaunted new engine rules package was intended to retain existing manufacturers and bring new ones into the sport.

With the loss of independent manufacturer Cosworth and arrival of Honda, it can be considered a qualified success at best. And Honda are also designing an LMP1 engine. Clearly the WEC holds greater appeal for car manufacturers at present. Why is that?

Nissan’s global head of marketing Darren Cox gave a view on that when Nissan’s LMP1 programme was announced: “What the ACO and the FIA have done in developing the new regulations for LMP1 is to create something that is both technologically innovative and provides a key platform for manufacturers like Nissan to talk about subjects like fuel efficiency in an exciting way.”

“In terms of timing, the new LMP1 rules for factory entries is perfect for us,” he added. “The new focus on energy efficiency for 2014 and beyond means the engineering challenges have real relevance to the challenges our engineers face on our road car projects.”

Executive vice-president Andy Palmer said it’s important to Nissan that they can distinguish themselves from other manufacturers. “We want to win in a very different way to that of our rivals,” he said.

“We won’t be turning up in a vehicle which is a basically another hybrid that looks like another Porsche, Audi or Toyota – they all look the same to me – our intention is to do something that is a little bit different.”

Regardless of how similar the other LMP1 cars look, under the skin they are very different. Toyota’s TS040 has a 3.7-litre normally aspirated V8 engine, the Audi R18 E-tron Quattro a V6 turbodiesel, and Porsche surprisingly opted for a four-cylinder engine in their 919 Hybrid.

All, of course, feature varying configurations of energy recovery and hybrid propulsion. Grand prix cars also have this technology, but the Formula One rules limit manufacturers to using petrol V6 turbos and energy recovery systems of restricted specifications. This appears to be a turn-off for manufacturers who want a greater degree of technical freedom.

Nissan already supply engines to most of the LMP2 competitors, and are preparing for their top-level WEC return by participating in this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours with a highly unusual car built for the ‘Garage 56′ category, for entries which do not conform to the standard rulebook. The ZEOD RC, which clearly owes a lot to the Nissan-powered DeltaWing which raced two years ago, uses a tiny 1.5-litre petrol engines and is designed to run for one lap per stint entirely on electric power.

Some might have assumed Nissan was never going to enter F1 because of its strategic alliance with Renault, who are already competing there. But Volkswagen Group is happy to have both Audi and Porsche racing against each other in the WEC.

Porsche is making its return to Le Mans this year having considered a grand prix effort but turned it down. F1, in their view, is not sufficient relevant to road car design, with too great an emphasis on aerodynamics.

Of course there are reasons to favour the WEC over F1 that don’t look quite as good on a press release. In recent months the words ‘Formula One’ have too often appeared in the headlines alongside ‘Bernie Ecclestone’, ‘bribe’ and ‘trial’. That’s not the kind of publicity which will entice the board of a car manufacturer sign off on a multi-million dollar racing programme.

The WEC also offers manufactures more testing opportunities than in F1, with up to ten days of private circuit running permitted. And the WEC’s complicated ‘Equivalence of Performance’ rules reduce the chances of a competitor struggling to compete because they opted for the ‘wrong’ technology.

Manufacturer entrants are a mixed blessing in motor sport. They bring enormous investment and generate publicity, but just as easily they can cancel their plans and leave promoters with rapidly diminishing grids – the very situation F1 found itself in at the end of 2009.

But as more and more manufacturers who left F1 then have returned to compete in other championship, the success of the WEC in particular is food for thought for those running F1. At a time when car manufacturers are exploring diverse solutions to the challenges of environmentally-friendly motoring, F1′s restrictive rulebook appears to be holding it back.

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71 comments on More car makers choosing WEC and Le Mans over F1

  1. ajokay (@ajokay) said on 13th June 2014, 12:27

    And with rumors of even more manufacturers becoming interested, with names like Ferrari, Ford, Mazda, even McLaren and Honda… it can only get better.

    Coupled with the mass of new LMP2 projects coming from the famous racing car manufacturers like Dome, Ligier, Oreca, HPD, and hopefully some kind of convergence in the GT categories which will being on board the many marques who have opted for GT3 (Nissan, Bentley, Lexus, Mercedes, BMW, Lamborghini, Jaguar, Audi, McLaren…) rather than the very few who have built a GTE car (near enough only Porsche, Aston and Ferrari) we could be looking at the goldest of golden eras just around the corner.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 13th June 2014, 20:37

      Greatly looking forward to that @ajokay.

    • RACERNORRISKI (@racernorriski) said on 14th June 2014, 23:57

      GT3 (Nissan, Bentley, Lexus, Mercedes, BMW, Lamborghini, Jaguar, Audi, McLaren…) If this comes about it could be what many of us race fans are probably looking for……… F1 should of learned by now that rules are not good for racing … be it car size/shapes, engine, driver rules with points, inconsistent enforcement, favoritism, etc. All rules do is make for boring races because imagination is reduced and all you have left is a lot of copy cat looking cars usually with copy cat performances. Yes there are always exceptions………………… Thanks, RnR

  2. Daniel (@collettdumbletonhall) said on 13th June 2014, 12:36

    It’s pretty disappointing for F1 to be honest. A new engine formula and only one new manufacturer is entering the sport.

    • ^Mo^ said on 13th June 2014, 15:18

      But how many manufacturers do you expect to enter the sport? There are only 11 teams now, with 3 (soon to be 4) engine manufacturers. If you go to 5 engine manufacturers, it would mean the manufacturers sell less engines, making them even more expensive (as development cost doesn’t go down, but the income is). I’m not surprised there aren’t more manufacturers, perhaps if there a more teams, but not the way it is now.

      • Daniel (@collettdumbletonhall) said on 13th June 2014, 15:27

        Considering that in 2008 we had BMW, Cosworth and Toyota designing engines with less cars on the grid than there are now it isn’t unfeasible to have 5. What we need is around 26-28 cars on the grid and 5-6 engine manufacturers.

      • Thomas A (@gremlinwon) said on 13th June 2014, 16:54

        The F1 field needs to bigger its simple, 22 cars for what some people call the most prestigious motorsport is rubbish! I think WEC has the correct way of approaching motorsport, aka hardly any limits and it doesn’t appear to be that expensive.

    • kpcart said on 13th June 2014, 16:19

      f1 is not very interesting anymore for new teams or manufacturers – it is too expensive to be competive – and you need to be competitive to sell your brand. the current manufacturers in f1 are also working at a loss – the series isn’t really the pinnacle of motorsport anymore with all these other great less expensive series doing so well. from a technical point of view, lemans is so much more interesting then formula one. f1 has shot it self in the foot by trying to be more technical and green with the powertrains – like in lemans, as it has effected the “glamour” or F1, ie, the visual and sound, the cars are now slower and they sound inferior to previous F1.

      • Dave (@raceprouk) said on 13th June 2014, 20:03

        Because the slower laps are caused by the more powerful power units.

        Oh wait, I misspelt ‘reduced aerodynamic downforce’.

        • Max Jacobson (@vettel1) said on 14th June 2014, 10:34

          In fairness, the extra mass of the power units probably does slow them down appreciably @raceprouk, and largely is a forgotten factor.

          • DaveD (@daved) said on 16th June 2014, 15:37

            @vettel1
            I don’t know Max. I think that the extra power they bring makes up for most of the loss due to the weight. I think it’s probably 75% down to the reduced downforce and the harder tires.
            When they did some testing at Catalunya on the softer tires in the post race test, they were going as much as 4 seconds faster per lap. I think the tires are the biggest issue really. Just my humble opinion.

  3. marcusbreese (@marcusbreese) said on 13th June 2014, 12:45

    It’s true that F1 has become way too restrictive. If I was looking to enter a sport to show off my products, I’d go for WEC rather than F1. Technology is more road relevant and the cars just look like something you might actually be able to by (especially in the GT categories).

    I notice this while watching Moto GP….whenever I watch a Honda (for example) winning a race I actually notice a feeling of envy for the bikes, it actually makes me think of going out and buying one. Wheras when I see a Mercedes winning, even though I enjoy watching it I never feel like I would actually want to go and buy a Mercedes. I suspect WEC is more likely to fit into the Moto GP category of appeal than F1.

    • drmouse (@drmouse) said on 13th June 2014, 13:44

      I notice this while watching Moto GP….whenever I watch a Honda (for example) winning a race I actually notice a feeling of envy for the bikes, it actually makes me think of going out and buying one. Wheras when I see a Mercedes winning, even though I enjoy watching it I never feel like I would actually want to go and buy a Mercedes.

      I completely agree. It is something I thought of the other day after watching Road*.

      F1, the pinnacle of 4-wheeled motorsport, is so divorced from anything you will ever drive on the road that seeing a Mercedes or Renault doing well will not be linked in your mind to their road cars**. They have 4 wheels and an engine, but the similarity ends there.

      MotoGP, on the other hand, uses bikes which look near identical to what you would ride on the road. This is the pinnacle of 2-wheeled motorsport, and a manufacturer’s success is intrinsically linked to their commercially available bikes. They are obviously not the same underneath, but you immediately associate them.

      I am not saying this is a bad thing for F1. F1 needs to maintain its image*** as using the most advanced technology in the world, and divorcing it from road-going cars aids that image. But it is unsurprising that a manufacturer of 4-door saloons and hatchbacks isn’t going to see the same returns from it’s investment in F1 as in a category with cars which look like what they sell to the public.

      * Awesome film/documentary, by the way, mostly about Joey and Robert Dunlop. DVD release in September.

      ** Obviously Ferrari get more out of this as they only produce supercars, so they are linked in peoples minds.

      *** I say image, as I don’t actually think they are the most advanced. The rules constrain them so much that they cannot be the most advanced in many ways. Personally, I feel the requirement to be open wheeled & open cockpit holds them back, as well as limits on all the other components.

      • BJ (@beejis60) said on 13th June 2014, 23:20

        @drmouse @marcusbreese This is exactly right… I absolutely hate mercedes road cars but like the merc f1 team for some reason. Conversely, I think Ferrari road cars are among the most beautiful and best sounding cars out there (sans the extremely ‘elite’ cars like Pagani, Ascari, Koenigsegg, etc), yet I hate the Ferrari F1 team.

    • vjanik said on 13th June 2014, 14:14

      i dont get the obsession people have with road relevance. of course F1 will be less road relevant than Le Mans, GT or Rally. this isnt surprising.

      And regarding the fact that more manufacturers are joining WEC than F1 – no surprise either. its much cheaper to join WEC than F1. or to develop an engine for WEC. i dont see this as a bad thing.

      i wouldnt want all manufacturers to be able to enter F1. It should be the cream of the crop. And i think currently it is. I like the new engines and think that most manufacturers would struggle to be competitive, just because of the amount of R&D that went into them and the smart people working on them. I think a lot of manufacturers dont want to risk designing an F1 engine because they are afraid they will not be comeptitive and spend too much money doing so. A safer bet is to join a lower level of motorsport.

      The engine rules need to be more restricted in F1 than WEC because otherwise the cars would be too fast and too dangerous to drive. If you gave these guys more freedom they could easily go beyond the 80′s turbo bhp. We might get into situations where drivers would black out from the speed if F1 car designers had more freedom in the technical regulations. Not to mention the cost.

      In short, if you like road relevance there are plenty of other motorsport categories for you. I dont care if watching an F1 race doesnt makes you want to buy a Mercedes or a Ferrari. Thats not why i watch F1. I want to see great racing and the best drivers in the world in incredible prototypes that change from race to race as teams add more performance.

      • HoHum (@hohum) said on 13th June 2014, 14:36

        Road relevance is the reason F1 exists the first GP cars were road cars with minimalist bodywork, they won on Sunday and sold on Monday, the basic economics have not changed enough to negate the value of Road relevance.

        • vjanik said on 13th June 2014, 15:04

          @hohum, “they won on Sunday and sold on Monday”,

          seriously? you’re talking turn of the century. long before F1 existed. and even in those days the GP cars quickly became different to road cars, and were raced by rich aristocrats. an average person could not afford these cars (probably any car). if the GP cars remained road relevant F1 would never be established because people would just race road cars.

          in other words, of course you first need a normal car to be able to design an F1 car. And that F1 wouldn exist if cars didn exist. Its like saying that without the Wright brothers the F22 Raptor wouldnt exist, therfore the F22 Raptor should be more relevant to the Airline industry.

          • HoHum (@hohum) said on 14th June 2014, 2:28

            Well the jet engine did appear on combat aircraft before being adapted to airliners, thank you for illustrating my point so succinctly.

        • socksolid (@socksolid) said on 13th June 2014, 15:24

          I don’t think that is true at all. Road relevance has nothing to do with competition or making the sport more familiar or recognizable. F1 cars have always been “out from space” bizarre compared to the normal cars and that massive difference and total form follows function type of ideology has made F1 what it is today. That ideology also makes it more pure as a sport. When you focus on glitter and form you lose that.

          When meaningless pr jargon like road relevance is brought into F1 it actually reduces the bizarreness and the out of this world effect and makes F1 look more and more like yet another spec series with no room for creativity or difference. When F1 focuses on road relevance it stops being its own thing and competes directly with stuff like gt and prototypes. And when those other things are also more interesting and more out from space F1 can only lose.

          Road relevance is bad for F1 when you look at it from the perspective of the viewers. F1 imho should be as un-road relevant as possible because that is what the whole thing has been for 100 years. The ultimate perversion of going fast. Does it make it exciting at all when the bizarre looking F1 car has a normal type road car engine in it? No. It sounds horrible, it is boring concept and it doesn’t stand out in any way an F1 car is supposed to.

          F1 is not about marketing. It is about branding. It is the crazy and furious concept of crazyness that makes you care about something totally nonsensical because it is crazy fast. It is the window to the utopia that a normal road car can never be. When you put a boring road car engine into it all you get is a bad looking road car. The cars don’t even look crazy or beautiful anymore. They are almost all butt ugly. Sportscars like the Ferraris, porsches, audis, corvettes are all beautiful and still crazy enough.

          So why is wec winning and F1 is losing? Wec is interesting and F1 is road relev… boring.

          • HoHum (@hohum) said on 14th June 2014, 0:20

            2 Points;

            1. WEC cars are far more road relevant than F1.

            2. The research in the road relevant area is not for todays or next years cars but for next decades cars.

          • completely agree

          • drmouse (@drmouse) said on 14th June 2014, 10:14

            @socksolid

            Does it make it exciting at all when the bizarre looking F1 car has a normal type road car engine in it?

            Are you really calling this year’s engines “normal type road car engine”s? The engine itself is far more advanced, and I have yet to hear of a road car with an electric system anywhere near as advanced.

            Last year’s engines were closer to “normal type road car engine”s than this year’s! You may not like the new engines, but to call them normal road type engines is ridiculous!

          • av2290 said on 17th June 2014, 4:43

            agreed 100%. Road relevance in F1 should never be a main focus. F1 needs to be insane open wheel, open cockpit beasts with open regs for engines based on a set quantity of fuel for each session of the weekend. I also believe a tyre war would be positive commercially and competitively. Like how MotoGP bikes are more relatable to the bike in the showroom, seeing one tyre beat out the other would create direct commercial link to an affordable mass consumer product. That would generate huge value and cash for the sport.

      • Cyclops_PL (@cyclops_pl) said on 13th June 2014, 16:28

        Road relevance sells cars. This is why manufacturers want it, and if it’s not there, they don’t get involved. It’s pretty obvious. And this is one of F1′s problem – it’s looked upon as a marketing tool, not a sport. The push for road relevance is only there for the manufacturers to make money, not to create a better show. I would prefer to have more privateer teams focused on results and purely sport-related fame. I’m tired of cars being billboards for commercials, running around a track at 300 kph just to sell stuff.

        • socksolid (@socksolid) said on 14th June 2014, 4:45

          No it doesn’t. Road relevance is just a saying the manufacturers keep saying to themselves to prove to themselves that going racing and spending those big bucks is actually worth it. Calling it branding or marketing doesn’t cut it anymore so they needed new catchphrase. Now they are telling themselves they are going racing because they are developing technologies for future road cars. They are probably thinking they are saving money because they are developing some hightech gizmos and going racing at the same time but in reality they just made the racing cost more while reducing the potential technological advances from the engine technologies simply because racing is so totally different thing than normal road driving.

          Road relevance only makes the f1 cars worse, it makes it more show, it weakens F1 as a sport and nobody except the board of directors of those big manufacturers that are in F1 care about it.

          I acknowledge the high technology in those leafblower sounding miniature engines but I don’t find anything exciting about the fact that it consumes less fuel and has a electric motor that makes the car sound like the sliding doors from star trek. It makes the car weigh more, it makes them more complex for the sake of complexity and it makes the cars slower and less agile and also makes the cars handle worse. Road relevance is just boring and dull. It may be exciting to those green people and I’m sure there are lots of green people but are they watching f1?

          Look at the 90s and early 2000s when manufacturers were still going racing and the cars were too sexy and sounded awesome. The racing was viewed as competition and as a sport even by the manufacturers. It was a sport where doing well made you look good and that was enough. It was a place where you could prove how good you are at designing cars. Today? Meh, just spend more money than the next guy and place few gadgets differently inside the tight box where you are allowed to do anything innovative and then putter around the track telling everybody how exciting it is that the cars consume less fuel and are full of electronics pampering the drivers even further. It’s like making football players wear heavy rubber boots and then say they are making the sport more walking relevant.

    • Mike (@mike) said on 13th June 2014, 14:36

      I think the whole road relevance things stems from attracting big car manufacturers into the sport. To be honest, I don’t think F1 needs them. Sure they are big names and they spends loads of money; but they come and go with the wind and I think generally, that F1 suffers for it. The more privateer teams the better in my mind.

  4. Breno (@austus) said on 13th June 2014, 13:25

    Two things: F1 is too restrictive, and it takes too much to be successful. And thanks to the WEC rules, when a team designs, say a superior engine, like Audi, they are handicapped so there is a competition.

    • Ciaran (@ciaran) said on 13th June 2014, 16:55

      @austus And yet if F1 were to implement something like that (I’m not too familiar with WEC so I’m assuming they’re equalising power output?) there’d be uproar.

      • Breno (@austus) said on 13th June 2014, 19:38

        @ciaran I for one dont like it. I believe Audi’s fuel tanks are much smaller because their engine is very efficient. Thats a way of saying “Ok guys, they have the best solution, but here are some rules so they there is some competition.

        In my opinion, of course.

  5. Osvaldas31 (@osvaldas31) said on 13th June 2014, 13:45

    The main reason is that F1 is too expensive and does not give proper return to manufacturers for loads of money, that has to be invested. Of course, you can spend 50 million pounds a year, but the car with such investment will be at the back of the grid and will damage brand’s name.

    On the other hand, does F1 really need manufacturers? The biggest teams in F1 are manufacturers (even Red Bull could be considered that way, because they are the main Renault team). Without those, we would have such iconic and pure racing teams as Williams or Lotus fighting for world championships, and without spending enormous amounts of money. Now such teams like Mercedes and Red Bull pour buckets of money and success for them is almost granted, while others have no chance, unless they spend equal or even bigger amounts of money.

    So, in my opinion, F1 would be better off without major manufacturers.

  6. craig-o (@craig-o) said on 13th June 2014, 13:55

    It’s not just the manufacturers but a lot of highly capable drivers who have been shunned for less capable drivers with more funding have found their way into the WEC and they seem to be loving it.

    Take James Calado for example. He had a stunning rookie season in GP2, got given a test driver job with Force India a year later while doing GP2 as well, yet has somehow ended up in a GT car despite being one of the most highly-rated ‘young’ drivers. Similar can be said of Sam Bird.

    This is my first full season of watching the WEC and I’m enjoying it massively so far, I plan to go to Le Mans for next year for the race, to be one of those people enjoying the qualifying at 11pm at night.

  7. Brian C (@bcracing) said on 13th June 2014, 13:59

    Its quite obvious. the new F1 regulations are ridiculous and the costs even more so. Pair that with F1s archaic approach to media and branding and you have a great opportunity to wast hundreds of millions of dollars with nobody noticing.
    The future of F1 does not look positive but the fewer factory teams the better i think because the smaller teams then will be able to compete. Better to have more teams with less funding than 4 teams with massive funding. I think thats why the LMP2 class is so competitive, nobody is outspending by a big enough margin to run away with the series.

    • DaveD (@daved) said on 13th June 2014, 14:49

      @bcracing
      I can’t disagree with you more on the 2014 regulations. The new engine regulations for F1 are almost a mirror of what made the manufacturers jump into WEC. The difference is the flexibility in WEC. And you’re ignoring that Merc and Renault have both said they would have dropped out as well had the new engine regs not come along.
      I can’t imagine F1 without the factory teams….That is an interesting assertion and I have to think about that one more.

  8. HoHum (@hohum) said on 13th June 2014, 14:26

    I’m really glad people are beginning to see F1s restrictions for the failure they are, the reality is that the tighter the design restrictions the more money must be spent to find an advantage. I loved the way Canada turned out with the duel between the faster down the straights Force Indias and Williamses versus the faster round the corners Red Bulls, very reminicent of the battles between Ferrari and the Brit teams in the 60′s. I just wish the new engine rule (ICE) had been less restrictive allowing flat 4′s and I 4′s as well as V6′s , maybe then Mercedes would not be so superior.

  9. David not Coulthard (@davidnotcoulthard) said on 13th June 2014, 14:44

    I like to thik it’s a good thing, actually.

  10. DaveD (@daved) said on 13th June 2014, 14:52

    The reason WEC has so many more factory teams jumping is is because they did the same new regs as F1, BUT, they did it in a flexible way so the new teams could try the tech that worked for them and their road cars.

    You can do 2MJ, 4MJ, 6MJ or even 8 MJ of KERS. You can do diesel or petrol. You can do 1 axle or 2 axles. You can use batteries, supercapacitors or flywheels. The factory team can decide which one best matches their tech direction and then gets a chance to prove it out.

    This is clearly drawing in all the manufacturers.

    • DaveW (@dmw) said on 13th June 2014, 15:07

      Yes, but haven’t we been here before? Group C had a hundred-flowers approach as well, tied to a consumption formula. It was popular. But it because too costly and fell victim to the 90-92 world recession. Of course the FIA decided to supply the coup de grace by requiring the F1 spec 3.5L NA engines. I want the WEC Equivalence of Technology system to survive, but I’m nervous about it. It’s cheap, but only compared to F1. And once the FIA sees manufacturers and money going to Le Mans, they are going to do something about it, again.

      • DaveD (@daved) said on 13th June 2014, 17:14

        Good question. I think there were a couple of factors that are different now. Mostly that the Group C didn’t have the road relevance with the new tech. You can already see Merc branding their F1 car as “hybrid technology” now. You see Porsche in LMP1 talking about how this is all going straight to their road cars and Audi doing the same. Nissan is pushing the Garage 56 entry this year as the first car to do a full lap at Le Mans on all electric and they released videos yesterday of it doing 301kph down the Mulsanne Straight on all electric drive!

        Think of the marketing for them and Renault on their Electric cars like the Leaf.
        There is so much new tech coming in road cars right now, that for the foreseeable future, WEC is a great platform for them to market and for them, that’s the name of the game.

        It’s truly going back to the roots of racing (at least for the manufacturers), race on Sunday, sell on Monday. Or they could go back to the NASCAR roots: race on Sunday…run moonshine on Monday-Saturday LOL

        • DaveW (@dmw) said on 13th June 2014, 20:42

          Is road-relevance the real distinction? The 962C had a flat-6 turbo, like road-going Porsches. The XJR-6-11 had a V-12, just like the road car Jags. Mercedes ran V-8 turbos and V-12s, like the road cars. Mazda, you get the picture. None of the leading WEC cars is running a similar power-train in a road car now.

          I think the reason why a manufacturer might prefer equivalency may be that they can demonstrate their brand as distinct and distinctly better in technology. Audi positions itself as the “technology” car brand. Vorspruch durch Technik, innit. They use the LMP cars to technology-brand everything from diesel to LED headlights to weight-saving construction. The aura of advancement is something you can charge a premium for to certain buyers in upper ranges. Other automakers want some of that premium.

    • anon said on 14th June 2014, 11:58

      The catch, though, will be whether the ACO’s performance balancing rules can continue to work and whether some manufacturers might start to resent being aggressively pegged back.

      The ACO has already said that it will change the balance of performance after Le Mans and will continue to alter the balance every three to four races – is it necessarily going to be popular in the long term if the ACO is changing the performance balance 30% of the way through a season to artificially bring a rival into play?

      The other question is how long those manufacturers are actually going to be prepared to stick around for – in Nissan’s formal announcement, they openly stated that they were expecting to win the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans, with an implicit undertone that they were planning on axing their program if they’d failed to win that year.

  11. trotter said on 13th June 2014, 15:05

    I think being at least moderately successful in WEC is much easier than in F1.
    So that’s the primary reason.

    But many teams/carmakers would be prepared to endure the intensity of F1, if everything else concerning F1 was running well. And that’s the problem. Other aspects of F1 are horrible.
    The distribution of money, the inefficiency of FOM as what would supposed to be the main marketing and promotional vehicle of F1, the overly complicated rules, insanely expensive tickets (so less spectators) and pretty much everything else.

    It’s a horrible setup and one in a desperate need of flushing down the ugly, dirty drain.

  12. George (@george) said on 13th June 2014, 15:45

    The problem as I see it is the image car companies want to portray is no longer ‘fast and sexy’ but ‘economical and reliable…and sexy’. F1 is a sprint series, shoehorning economy into it just isn’t going to work because that’s not why people watch F1 (it’s also why more people watch F1 than WEC).

    If F1 can get it’s mojo back and produce some exciting cars and exciting racing then it shouldn’t struggle to maintain manufacturer support, it just needs to get it’s fizz back.

  13. WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 13th June 2014, 15:46

    I don’t particularly feel we are yet in a position to compare F1 with Le Mans with regards to manufacturers safe in the knowledge we’re comparing apples with apples. The core of appear of Le Mans for manufacturers, and in particular the modern LMP1 category, is that it is an impressive technical showcase but with a great deal of road relevance. The fact that Audi has never shown interest in F1 is borne out by the fact that a) their results in the equally prestigious French race are as good a platform for their brand as F1, and b) unlike F1 there is a great deal of carry over to their road cars, such as the quattro and e-tronic systems. However what is perhaps more important is the effect of motorsport for brand image, and with the television decline of WRC, car manufacturers are faced with choice of Le Mans or F1 (with Porsche saying that it probably would have been “forced” to enter F1 had the WEC regulation not recently turned to their advantage).

    However is greater brand publicity (F1) versus road relevance (Le Mans) a fair dynamic anymore? We are just seven races into a new era of F1 racing, a formula that should, and arguably has, incentivised the development of fuel efficient technology in tandem with providing great racing; a formula that has already tempted Honda back to the piranha club. Whilst the trend of Porsche, Toyota and Nissan entering Le Man, and BMW and Toyota leaving F1 is a worrying trend, it is also not a relevant one to the current era. Ultimately, we are but seven races into F1′s new world, a new world that could well tempt more car manufacturers to F1′s ranks, so it is a touch premature to get depressed by the state of F1 yet.

  14. Jonathan Sarginson said on 13th June 2014, 16:33

    …firstly, thanks for some great comments out there…WEC really does look like the future; especially with its flexibility of Power Unit/ERS rules…now PLEASE, Adrian, get with Nissan (ie Infiniti & Renault!) and design their 2015 entry…and let’s pray for Ferrari and Ford to return to bring back the Glory Days of Endurance Racing!…bring it on!…

  15. Ciaran (@ciaran) said on 13th June 2014, 17:01

    There doesn’t seem to be a situation where F1 can balance creating a healthy technology mix, low costs and competitive racing all at the same time. Although I have to say that despite the costs of the new power units, it’s at least starting to get more manufacturer interest – I’d like to think that Honda rejoining in 2015 is a signal of more big names getting back into the sport.

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