The Automobile Club de l'Ouest says the future of sports cars racing still promises to be "more prestigious than ever" despite Peugeot's sudden withdrawal from the discipline.
The French manufacturer announced on Wednesday that it would call an immediate halt to its LMP1 sports car program in the face of economic pressure and France's credit rating downgrade. Wednesday was also the FIA entry deadline for the World Endurance Championship, dealing a major blow to the newly established series.
Despite the withdrawal, the ACO – organizing body for the Le Mans 24 Hours and promoter of the WEC – said in a statement that the number of entries lodged for the championship is proof of sports cars' "health and dynamism."
"The Automobile Club de l'Ouest deeply regrets the departure of the French manufacturer," it said. "Nevertheless, with the creation of the new FIA World Endurance Championship, the future of the discipline promises [to be] more prestigious than ever.
"The grids of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the FIA World Endurance Championship 2012 promise to be well filled. Many entries have been registered, some from major manufacturers, proof that automobile endurance racing is healthy and dynamic."
FIA president Jean Todt's reaction was more reticent, saying that in times of economic hardship it was more important than ever to express commitment to the sport.
"To lose such a strong player like Peugeot is bad news, indicating what a tough period the automotive industry is going through, and this group in particular," Todt conceded. "I believe that it is especially true that in tough times one should find ways of expressing full commitment, rather than pulling out. But we can only respect their choice and hope that they can come back soon at the highest level of motorsport."
The list of competitors competing in Le Mans and the WEC will be revealed on Feb. 2.
Late Wednesday afternoon, the American Le Mans Series released a statement on the news:
“While the announcement of Peugeot ending its factory participation in endurance racing comes as a real disappointment, it will take little – if any – luster off the spectacle of the 60th running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida. Taking into account the start of our 14th season and the debut of the FIA World Endurance Championship, it still promises to be one of North America's most epic events by all measures. There will still be a plethora of new cars, teams and manufacturers represented on the grid with plenty of entertainment available at the circuit. When we say Sebring is an event not to be missed, we mean it in the truest of ways.”
“Likewise the news today should not diminish the remarkable achievements that Peugeot accomplished in its return to factory prototype competition. Its clashes with Audi at Le Mans and in particular in the American Le Mans Series provided fantastic competition and drama on sports car racing's largest stages. Peugeot made quite an impact in sports car endurance racing and it is our hope to once again welcome them back as a competitor in the future.”