Bird: GTE Should Become Outright Le Mans Winner if LMP1 Crumbles
The Ferrari driver claims that fans want to see GT cars, not LMP2, take overall wins if the top prototype class fails.
Speculation surrounds the future of the World Endurance Championship's LMP1 class with Toyota standing as the only manufacturer entrant at the 2018/2019 Super Season's start. Audi and Porsche each announced their exits of the series in consecutive years, and soon, the field will mainly be bolstered by privateer teams. This has caused some worry that the WEC's top prototype class could fall, and if that's the case, Ferrari factory driver Sam Bird thinks that GTE cars should once again play the series' lead role.
Despite the LMP1 grid dwindling aggressively in the past decade, five manufacturers are currently entered into the GT class for next season including Aston Martin, Ferrari, Ford, Porsche, and most recently, BMW. Bird believes this to be just one reason for the category's return to the top in case of an LMP1 downfall. He told Motorsport that WEC officials should consider making GTE the top class as it could be in the best interest of the manufacturers and fans.
“It [GTE] is the most logical for a manufacturer to be a part of,” he explained. “They are cars that, young fans especially, can identify with and enjoy. You've got prototypes and they’ve got the wow factor as well. But it would be amazing if we got back to the days of a GT car winning Le Mans outright like the early and mid-90s.
"Big horsepower, really quick in a straight line, and now we have the downforce to go with it.”
Bird continued to explain that he views GTE as a more favorable class to others including LMP2 for the future of the series. It's something that fans can relate to, according to Bird, drawing them in and growing the legacy of Le Mans. In his eyes, it pushes the idea of manufacturers fighting against each other rather than independent companies paying their way to the top with owner/drivers commanding the lead.
“LMP1 hasn’t died, and I hope it doesn’t, but it isn’t looking particularly healthy,” he said. “If there’s no LMP1s on the grid in the future, and I don’t know what will happen in the future, then we’re going to have LMP2 and GTs. LMP2 is a great category, I came from LMP2, I thoroughly enjoyed it and have nothing against it, but do we want the Le Mans winner being an LMP2 car that has a gentleman driver in it? Or do you want manufacturers from GTE in Aston Martin, Ferrari, Porsche, BMW going head-to-head to win it?
“As a fan, I think I would want to see a marque, brand or manufacturer going for the Le Mans win. When you look at the fans they come with a Ferrari flag, they don’t come with a Ligier or an Oreca flag.”