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The World Endurance Championship's top-level LMP1 class is in trouble. Porsche decided to leave LMP1 after the 2017 season and Audi left it after the 2016 season. That leaves Toyota as the only manufacturer. The reason for the exodus? It costs close to F1 dollars to have a competitive team.
According to Motorsport.com, McLaren boss Zak Brown wants his company to jump back into endurance racing, at the LMP1 level.
McLaren would like to see the WEC roll back its rules to a point where factory-backed and customer teams could honestly battle it out for endurance racing victory.
The step-down LMP2 class has flourished as of late. Costs are more controlled in this class. Brown estimates that it costs $5 million to run an LMP2 car for a full season, but the LMP1 class costs 20 times more.
Brown says if the budget for an LMP1 car would be capped at about $20 million, McLaren would be interested. He would also like to include hybrid technology, which has been part of the sport for awhile now.
Brown notes that the technology of the race car should be able to transfer to the street, but there is another reason for racing: "R&D needs to be a benefit for any manufacturer in motorsports, but it's not the only reason to do it. If it's not an efficient spend, there's no point--it should be in proportion to the payback. At end of day, motor racing is a marketing exercise."
McLaren has been synonymous with Formula One for decades now. In its earlier days, however, McLaren took its vehicles to the Can-Am series and the Indy 500. Customer-owned cars competed in hill climbs, Formula events, Group C racing, and GT3 races. In fact, McLaren took one of its F1 GTRs to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where it won the entire thing.
A return to LeMans for McLaren clearly makes sense, and WEC would be wise to heed Brown's advice.