A new threat to F1?
Following high level talks involving FIA President Max Mosley, Ferrari sporting director Jean Todt and representatives of major car manufacturers including BMW, General Motors, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Aston Martin, a World Endurance Championship could be up and running by 2006.
With public confidence in Formula One still shaky and costs continuing to spiral out of control, the way is definitely open for a new World Championship series to rival F1. Furthermore, many manufacturers believe that in the eyes of the general public Sportscars and GTs have more in common with road cars than the missiles we now call F1 cars.
In the 1950s and for much of the 60s and 70s, Sportscar racing was as, if not more, popular than F1, though in those days drivers were free to contest both types of racing. There were bumper grids in the 1980s with Porsche, Jaguar and Mercedes-backed Sauber thrilling the crowds on a regular basis. At that point Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley got involved and took control a move which heralded the sport's decline.
One of the major problems with regards Sportscar racing, particularly the 80s and early 90s, was the tendency for the major manufacturers to come into the sport, then leave on a whim, this type of attitude effectively destroyed GT racing. A lesson that F1 has yet to learn.
It's understood that the manufacturers want to see a new World Endurance Championship get off the ground, but one has to wonder how this will affect Formula One, especially in terms of the vast budgets required.
It's ironic that Jean Todt has been involved in the high-level discussions because Sportscar racing was always Enzo Ferrari's true love, indeed he participated in F1 mainly to fund his company's Sportscar programme.
There is still widespread interest in endurance racing and in recent years various championships have sprouted up in Europe and America. Sadly because they have been run by different bodies, with different regulations, there has been much confusion in the eyes of the public. A global FIA-sanctioned endurance championship would not only be a major boost for Sportscars, it might give F1 a serious wake-up call.
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