GTE Pro facing uncertain future

Ford GT in GTE Pro at the 6 Hours of Shanghai in the 2018 FIA WEC

The FIA World Endurance Championship will soon be back on track at the 1000 Miles of Sebring following its long winter break. It may prove to be a welcome distraction given the rumours currently surrounding the future of the series’ two classes with works involvement, GTE Pro and LMP1.

Ford GT in GTE Pro at the 6 Hours of Shanghai in the 2018 FIA WEC

Issues plaguing the LMP1 category have been well-reported, and include the complete shelving of new regulations for 2019 – and Porsche’s subsequent exit from the prototype class – and the publication of the new “hypercar” regs for the 2020/21 season.

However, the FIA and ACO – the authorities responsible for setting the regulations for the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the FIA WEC – may have another imminent problem to contend with.

The GTE Pro class is currently enjoying somewhat of a golden era and currently the only class in the WEC with entries from multiple automotive manufacturers. In the current 2018/19 Super Season, five carmakers – Aston Martin, Ferrari, BMW, Ford and Porsche – are battling for the title, with factory-supported efforts from Corvette Racing also appearing at three rounds of the championship.

However, we may well be gradually reaching the denouement of what has been one of the FIA WEC’s biggest success stories to date. Ford initially announced their desire to go racing at the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans, in honour of the 50th anniversary of the marque’s first win at La Sarthe in 1966.

The programme was initially only planned to span two seasons of competition, but was promptly extended for a further two years in late-2016. This brings us to 2019 – and what WEC Magazin understands will almost certainly be the final year of works-backed competition in GTE Pro for the Ford GTs.

That’s not to say that Ford GTs will continue to have a presence at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and perhaps elsewhere. US driver and team owner Ben Keating has purchased a car from the Blue Oval and will race it in the GTE Am class at the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans, even though Ford initially ruled out that its cars would compete in privateer hands.

BMW M8 in GTE Pro at the 6 Hours of Shanghai in the 2018 FIA WEC

Another major question mark hangs over BMW. The German marque returned to the 24 Hours of Le Mans after a seven-year break in 2018 in its maiden FIA WEC season. Like the Ford GTs, the MTEK-run M8s were originally planned to compete in the series for two years, but the decision to combine the 2018 and 2019 seasons into one Super Season means that two distinctly separate opportunities for championship success have been merged into one, to the detriment of BMW.

Aston Martin, Ferrari and Porsche are understood to committed to the GTE Pro class in the long term, but with ten cars becoming six and the loss of Ford also perhaps not helping to tempt Corvette Racing to make the jump to the FIA WEC, it remains to be seen how the GTE Pro category will look moving forward.

Images © WEC-Magazin / Walter Schruff