The new-for-2014 rulebook for the Le Mans 24 Hours could spell the end for the open-top prototype.
One of the proposals is that the new breed of prototype, which will be smaller and lighter than the current cars, will have to be a coupé. This would bring to an end the long Le Mans tradition, interrupted only by the Group C era, of allowing open and closed prototypes to race together.
Open and closed cars have shared success at Le Mans since 1970 – 22-20 in favour of coupés. Of Porsche’s 16 wins, 11 were taken by closed designs and five by open cars.
The idea of mandating closed-top coupé designs has emerged from the first meetings of a new committee set by Le Mans organiser, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, and the FIA ahead of the introduction of the new FIA World Endurance Championship in 2012. It was one of a number of plans put to manufacturers and constructors of LMP1 machinery this summer in the form of a questionnaire.
The ACO won’t confirm the plan, but manufacturers and constructors are talking openly about it.
Audi Sport boss Wolfgang Ullrich, who has never hidden his love of open cars, said: “It was always nice to see both types of car running, but I understand the decision from a safety point of view.”
Le Mans legend Henri Pescarolo said: “I don’t like the idea of everyone building the same type of car. They could look very similar.” It is unclear what the ACO plans for LMP2 machinery, but because safety is a key issue, it seems likely that they too will have to be coupés.