The latest LMDh information was revealed at the ACO press conference the day before the 24 Hours of Le Mans. We know that several manufacturers are watching this new category very closely, as recently confirmed to us by Richard Mille, President of the FIA Endurance Commission (HERE)
McLaren is one of those. The British brand has long watched the future of prototype racing and has shown particular interest in the LMDh formula which is jointly developed by IMSA and ACO. Zak Brown told Sportscar365 that the new LMDh technical details unveiled two weeks ago at Le Mans responded “Pretty much all questions” that McLaren was asking.
But he also suggested that an LMDh McLaren program would only be feasible under adequate financial conditions, taking into account the state of the coronavirus pandemic and with the assurance of equal competition with Le Mans Hypercar cars from the WEC.
“We have been at the table of all the meetings and we are very interested in sports cars”, said Zak Brown, the executive director of the brand. “I think it's a good choice for the McLaren brand. With the LMDh, we want to make sure that there will be a real balance between Le Mans Hypercar and LMDh. One car can be four-wheel drive and the other (LMDh) is not, so you have to balance both cars in the dry with new tires. But, for example, how do you balance them at 2 am in the wet at Le Mans? However, I am very happy with the LMDh rules and very happy with the collaboration and cooperation between ACO and IMSA. I think they did it right and it will be successful. In my opinion, we have to make sure that there is real parity between the LMDhs and the Le Mans Hypercars because it is not an easy thing to do ”.
Zak Brown said he was optimistic about the spending plans announced at Le Mans which set the price of a single car at around € 1 million (US $ 1.173 million) and confirm cost caps of € 300,000 (351 000) for the hybrid system and 345,000 euros (404,000 dollars) for the chassis on an LMP2 basis. McLaren’s attraction to the LMDh, over the Le Mans Hypercar, has been in relation to the lower costs generated by the more rigid technical criteria of the former, including the electric motors supplied by Bosch. It should be remembered that McLaren already has two top-level programs in Formula 1 and IndyCar (in a partnership with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports).
“I would say that the shopping budget is in line with our expectations”said Zak Brown. “What we need to do is focus on the income generation aspect, in order to raise enough money to cover the costs, but I am satisfied. It's still under review, and we've answered virtually all of our questions to continue our assessment, but it's something we'd like to do. We just have to see if this is something that is financially resilient and that should not drain or distract our Formula 1 schedule. This is the number one priority. We did it with the IndyCar where we finished third in the championship. This is complementary to our Formula 1 program, so to get to the premier class at Le Mans, you have to tick these boxes. It is a work in progress".
Zak Brown added that McLaren was encouraged by Peugeot’s recent entry into the Le Mans Hypercar, which has given new impetus to the premier class of the WEC. “We definitely need competition. In my opinion, you need at least three manufacturers, but we already have that between the commitment of Toyota, that of Peugeot, and I believe that the American manufacturers of DPi will come into play.. We wouldn't be interested in a one or two constructor championship, but I'm very confident that we should see four or five, which will be great. Our priority would be the WEC. America is a big market for us so I imagine we could show up at Daytona or Sebring, maybe with a client or a semi-official team. But for us, the IndyCar covers the North American market, so that would be a more WEC-oriented program. "
If McLaren commits to an LMDh program, the automaker would be ready in 2023 or 2024. The launch of the formula has been postponed until the 2023 season, as IMSA president John Doonan recently reported, while LMDh cars should be eligible on a common grid with DPi machines in 2022 if manufacturers are ready by then.
"I think there is no way we are ready for 2022"said Zak Brown. “It's either the first half of next year if we want to go in 2023 or the first half of the following year for 2024. If you don't make up your mind by then then it won't make sense to do…"