So the Big Cat could be heading back to Le Mans according to Autosport today. They won’t be in Silk Cut purple this time around, but a big cat taking on a roaring lion and the four rings is a mouth-watering prospect. What’s the betting that Williams and their flywheels could come into all this? Although the plans are vague at this stage, in fact they are simply ideas, it is still a sign of the good times ahead at La Sarthe. Porsche are due to re-join endurance racing’s top flight, Toyota are rumoured to have something up their sleeve and we still have Audi, Peugeot and Aston Martin knocking around. That’s not even including the Delta Wing car which bring a spot of Thunderbirds to the proceedings – what Indy doesn’t want the ACO has welcomed with open arms.
Le Mans can’t be a cheap endeavour yet we have manufacturers great and small who are queuing up to have a pop at this most demanding of races. If we eventually have petrol, diesel, hybrid, electric and, er, Thunderbirds cars all competing it will be tough for F1 to argue it is alone at the pinnacle of technology in motorsport. I’m actually keen on having smaller turbo engines in F1, but the fact that such lengths are taken to equalise the engines is surely detrimental to developing exciting technology? Not that innovation can’t shine through still, it’s just that we’ll be seeing less of it than we might otherwise.
The big advantage F1 has is a massive TV audience, something that Le Mans still fails to deliver, even if sports car success is still great for PR. So here’s my suggestion to the ACO and their new best friends at the FIA – how about a sprint sports car race? I’m talking about a touring car format of racing but with all the luscious tech-wizardry of Le Mans. Surely the only things that may put the untrained eye off Le Mans is the length of the races, the confusion of multi-class racing and possibly the driver swaps too. What’s not to like about the cars, tracks and drivers themselves? How about a one-off cup race, like a Formula Ford Festival for prototypes? Just something to offer an entry point for new viewers that doesn’t require them committing four or more hours of their precious free-time just to watch a race they weren’t previously interested in. I’d also offer the TV rights to a one-off prototype only event for free and I’d show it online too; treat it as an advert for what endurance racing can offer. Well, except the endurance part! If racing is an extension of the car showroom then it’s time for Le Mans to show off what it has got.
Right, I’ll stop getting carried away playing God, I’ll leave that to Bernie and Jean. All this was just a good excuse for me to spend lunchtime looking at pictures of Jaguar Le Mans cars…