Is the 24 Hours of Le Mans in crisis? It’s certainly in a tangle. In the long term, more manufacturers could take on the great race, thanks to enticing new car regulations, plus a welcome and long-awaited accord with the American IMSA sports car series. But in the short term, top-class entries are at a record-equalling low for LMP1’s supposed ‘big goodbye’ this June, and the new hypercar category, due to take a bow in 2021, might well be a one-horse race. It’s all a little underwhelming and rather confusing.
Some clarity might be forthcoming this weekend when the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and IMSA race on the same bill at Sebring in Florida. The WEC races first over 1000 miles on Friday, then on Saturday the Americans take over for the Sebring 12 Hours, one of endurance racing’s ‘big three’ alongside Le Mans and the 24 Hours of Daytona. There’s also a promise of more details on the WECIMSA accord, which is due to take effect in 2021/22.
The foggy future needs demisting. In short, here’s the state of play. Le Mans has been working on a new hypercar-based class, LMH, to replace the LMP1 hybrids, which have become too expensive to build and run. Toyota is the last manufacturer standing this year, and it’s on course for a Le Mans hat-trick in June with a two-car entry as LMP1 bids farewell (at least as the headline class). Rebellion’s pair of non-hybrid Gibson cars has bloodied Toyota’s nose in WEC races, winning twice – but only because of synthetic ‘Balance of Performance’ handicapping.