The rapid growth of the Endurance World Championship (WEC) could come to a standstill for the time being. Honda and Alfa Romeo were considered promising candidates for a program around the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the near future. But the tenor has changed.
As part of the restructuring of HRC (Honda Racing Corporation), the US branch (formerly HPD – Honda Performance Development) was more closely integrated into the parent company in order to create synergies that would have enabled entry into the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
But HRC President Koji Watanabe suddenly dampens expectations. He told the Japanese edition of Motorsport.com that there are “currently no plans” to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Honda, represented in the IMSA SportsCar Championship via the luxury brand Acura, is the only manufacturer that is not also active in the WEC with its GTP car.
“I’m not saying it will never happen, but it’s a question of priorities,” he says. “First we manage our IndyCar program with the few people we have. Then IMSA is very strong in the USA and our priority is to win there.”
“Then there’s the business with Formula 1. Some members of the American branch will take part in the project. We’re not thinking about Le Mans until these things are clarified.”
But an Alfa withdrawal because of the costs?
And at Alfa Romeo, which had expressed great interest in the WEC at the beginning of December after its forced withdrawal from Hinwil due to Audi’s entry, the enthusiasm cooled down significantly within a few weeks after the announced calculations were made.
Brand boss Jean-Philippe Imparato says in an interview with L’argus that he doesn’t like the economic situation. Because so many manufacturers have joined the WEC, the costs have increased enormously. He speaks of a “tendency to spend money in an inflationary manner.” It is known that the LMDh cars have become more expensive than originally planned.
Imparato speaks of an initial investment of 250 million euros and two years for a minimum three-year program. That is still significantly less than in the days of the LMP1 hybrids, when this sum was almost equivalent to an annual budget and the initial investment was in the direction of a billion. But it’s still a lot of money.
Imparato is not giving up on the project yet and speaks of solutions that are being sought. But the new tenor is unmistakable, the chances were already better.
In both cases, a WEC program is currently anything but secure. This could even be good news for the ACO, because the racing series is already bursting at the seams this year, even though Vanwall has been rejected. And Aston Martin will be added in 2025. The ACO has already announced that it wants to increase the number of starting places for the 2025 season to 40.