Sam Bird believes it would be the best interests of the FIA World Endurance Championship to ensure GTE cars win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, if the LMP1 class ceases to be.
Whereas the LMP1 class has seen Audi Sport withdraw from the sport at the end of 2016 and will see the Porsche LMP Team pull out at the end of the current campaign, GTE Pro appears to be thriving, with Ferrari, Aston Martin Racing, Ford and Porsche all fighting for victories and BMW joining the field in 2018.
Bird, a member of AF Corse’s Ferrari squad, feels it would be amazing for the GTE class to take outright honours at Le Mans once more, particularly if the LMP1 class of prototypes ends.
“It [GTE] is the most logical for a manufacturer to be a part of,” said Bird to Motorsport.com. “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.”
The LMP1 class in 2018 looks set to be a battle between heavyweights Toyota Gazoo Racing and some independent teams such as ByKolles, Manor and SMP Racing, but the withdrawal of the likes of Audi and Porsche, for Bird, doesn’t give the impression the class is in good health, and although LMP2 numbers are thriving, the Briton still believes GTE cars winning in Le Mans would be preferable for the fans.
“LMP1 hasn’t died, and I hope it doesn’t, but it isn’t looking particularly healthy,” added Bird. “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.”