Mercedes' Le Mans Dilemma

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Jochen Neerpasch was at pains to explain Mercedes’ decision, stated for the first time last November, not to compete at Le Mans unless the 24-hour event is part of the World Championship. “We are not necessarily for FISA, nor against Le Mans,” says Mercedes’ competition manager. “It is not our job to become involved in the politics, nor to take sides.

“We want the two sides to reach agreement. We want to see Le Mans in the championship and we believe that the best way to do this is to exert pressure in the only way open to us. If Jaguar, and Porsche and other manufacturers took the same course there would be no factory cars at Le Mans, and an agreement would be reached very quickly. I have talked to Tom (Walkinshaw) but we are on our own.

“For us, Le Mans is the most important race — the World Championship needs Le Mans, but Le Mans needs the World Championship too. It is our view that the Automobile Club de l’Ouest needs to change, to adapt, to come up to date and meet the standards of the World Championship. By refusing to attend we are putting pressure on the ACO to come to terms with FISA, because we are taking a longer view of sports car racing, thinking not just of the race in 1990.”

Neerpasch acknowledges that the FISA plenary meeting on March 13/14 might restore Le Mans to the World Championship and in that case, he says, Mercedes would enter a team. “We are not working now on cars for Le Mans, and it would be very late to start again three months before the race. So it would cause problems, but it would make a lot of people happy.. .we have correspondence every day from our importer in Paris!”

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