The FIA’s decision to give the World Endurance Championship’s GTE-Pro and GTE-Am classes official World Championship status for 2017 is confirmation that the classes are here to stay, according to Ford’s Harry Tincknell.
The 25-year-old made a successful switch to GT racing with the Blue Oval after initially signing for the first three rounds of the season, taking the marque’s first WEC victory alongside Andy Priaulx at Fuji before doubling up at Shanghai.
However, Ford were not in contention for the GT Drivers and Manufacturers Cups, which went to Aston Martin pair Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen and Ferrari, respectively.
Tincknell, who also won the European Le Mans Series LMP2 title with Jota Sport, believes drivers are already sufficiently motivated for the change in status not to have too great an effect, but said that it was a sign that the class will be around to stay in the long term, despite concerns that costs are becoming increasingly prohibitive for privateers and customer teams.
In an official release last week, the WEC confirmed that the decision was reached after lobbying from the major manufacturers, including Ford.
“It shows that GTE is around to stay for a long time – it’s got an exciting future with the new manufacturers coming in,” he said.
“In terms of my personal preparation and the way I see it or go about it, nothing really changes to be honest because if I had won it this year, I wouldn’t have any problems with calling myself a world champion. It’s the same with the ELMS – I see myself as a European champion because even though it’s not an official FIA European championship, the ELMS is the highest class of racing in Europe for LMP2 cars.
“But it’s nice to have it officially recognised by the FIA – it’s definitely a good thing and I’m just massively happy to be in it at a time when it’s growing and getting stronger. Ford has committed to four years and obviously we’ll keep pushing as hard as I can to make sure I’m a part of the programme for as long as possible.”
BMW has already announced that it will join the WEC in 2018 and Tincknell believes that the decision to award World Championship status to manufacturers is likely to convince more to follow suit.
“When a championship is strong and its looking really good, then other manufacturers may well start to follow on the bandwagon. You just have to look at Formula E, there weren’t many manufacturers that were really touching it in the first year or so and now it’s starting to become really strong, almost every manufacturer is at least talking about it or has committed to something,” he added.
“I know its slightly different [to GTs] with the electric angle and the way the automotive industry is going, but from a manufacturer’s point of view, you can race your own car in GTE and it’s a lot less expensive than LMP1. The whole thing goes in cycles, LMP1 has been very strong for a long time and now it’s looking maybe not so strong, certainly numbers-wise and GTE is becoming really strong.
“The championship is getting more and more exposure and this world championship status is only going to help that. At the same time, numbers breed numbers, so it’s very exciting for sure.”
Racing.GT will run a full feature looking at Tincknell’s first season of GT racing next week.