After working with the Team Lotus-turned-Caterham Formula One team, Mike Gascoyne recoiled from his F1 duties and tackled the road car division of Caterham. It was a bit of an odd departure to be honest and it still has me scratching my head.
Gascoyne ahs been at the helm of some major Formula 1 efforts including Toyota and has always seemed to disappear relatively quietly in the past from these roles. Such was the case at Caterham and his Tweets on Twitter didn’t help me connect the dots any further what with all the survival at sea pictures and classes he was taking.
Suffice to say, the man that is Caterham’s employee is now eyeing the 24 Hours of Le Mans effort this year as Caterham are dipping their toe in the warm waters of endurance racing with the Greaves Motorsport LMP2 squad.
This is an interesting offering as American Alexander Rossi, current Caterham F1 reserve driver, will be teamed with Greaves to run the Caterham LMP2 car this year. The story doesn’t stop there as Gascoyne says they have a bigger design for Le Mans. AUTOSPORT has the story:
“We have the tools, the talent and the heritage to do the job. It makes sense for us to go and see first-hand how we might take advantage of a business opportunity that fits with our capabilities.”
Let’s be honest, Le Mans may very well suit Caterham much better than Formula One and to be honest, if I were CEO Tony Fernandes, I might look to the WEC series as a realistic long-term racing effort in lieu of F1.
The cost of F1 is astronomical and the team has struggled since entering the series back in 2010. They set a goal of achieving mid-field and one has to wonder what panache that carries for Caterham to tell customers and sponsors that we finally made it to mid-field?
On the other hand, Caterham lovers are weekend warriors of discernment who love track days and tossing the British-born beauties around their favorite circuit after removing their trickle chargers from the puny batteries. They wear Caterham branded clothes and know they are part of a niche group that love motoring. They are not under any illusion that their Caterham love is born from the pinnacle of motor sport rather the grassroots birth on secluded tracks with friends and enthusiasts and they maintain their cars with modest budgets. That sounds like a market that Le Mans would speak to more than F1.
Caterham are using this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans to vet the prospects of developing a customer car program for LMP1 and LMP2 and I say good on them. Formula One needs to be careful as the WEC is gaining momentum and the series is tracking with the cultural changes in global car morays. It’s trying to re-kindle the love of the motorcar to a generation who replaced the freedom a car brings with Facebook and Twitter.
If Ferrari starts building an LMP1 car… look out! Formula One is losing relevancy and the WEC is gaining it. While F1 plays around with silliness like high degradation tires and DRS to artificially prop up the notion of excitement, Le Mans is delivering great racing and that is truth and truth will always prevail over cheap parlor tricks such as the ones F1 is relying on currently.