24 Hours of Le Mans for more than a
decade. The idea that the French
endurance classic is a proving ground for
automotive technologies destined for the
street was reinvigorated when Audi
introduced the direct-injection version of
its R8 prototype in 2001. It gained further
momentum on the arrival of the German
manufacturer’s turbodiesel R10 five years
later, then snowballed with the start of the
battle of the hybrids between Audi and
Toyota in 2012. For 2014, the relevance
factor is about to go exponential.
A new set of LMP1 regulations for
Le Mans and the World Endurance
Championship next year will place the
emphasis firmly on efficiency. Each car
will be given a set amount of energy and,
for those run by manufacturers, be
required to recoup more of it than ever
via energy-retrieval systems. There are no
limits on the size of the engine, just a target
that the most efficient car should win.
Efficiency prizes are nothing new at
Le Mans. The Thermal Index of Efficiency
was first awarded at the race back in 1959
and its modern equivalent is the Michelin-sponsored Green X Challenge, which was
pioneered in the American Le Mans Series
from 2009. But these have been what
Vincent Beaumesnil, the sporting director
at the Le Mans-organizing Automobile
Club de l’Ouest, calls “parallel prizes.”
The ACO saw the potential to go further.
“We imagined regulations where
efficiency would not be a parallel or
secondary target, but would determine
whether or not you win,” explains
Beaumesnil. “We wanted to see how we
could come up with a set of rules to give a
strong incentive to manufacturers to build
the most efficient car, because that’s their
top priority when it comes to road cars.”
That’s led to a diametric shift in the way
power is controlled in the LMP1 division.
Since the mid-1990s, limiting airflow by the
use of air-restrictors had been the method
of choice. Now it will be done by controlling
the amount of fuel available to each car.
“The principle is to limit energy in order
to force the manufacturers to come up
with new technology,” says Beaumesnil.
“What we’re saying is, ‘It’s up to you make
the best of the fuel we give you.’”
The basic ideas, which incorporate a
fuel consumption reduction of between
20 and 22 percent, met with instant
approval from the manufacturers,
according to Beaumesnil.
“When we first put the idea on the table
in front of the manufacturers at a meeting
at the ACO in Le Mans, everyone said yes,”
he recalls. “I would say there was
100 percent agreement immediately.”
The first discussions back in the winter
A complex matrix of megajoules, fuel-flow rates and fuel tank
size, plus an “anything goes” approach to energy-recovery
systems, put relevancy and equality centerstage at Le Mans.
The calm before the storm...
A single Toyota TS030 has been
Audi’s opposition for most of the
2013 WEC. Next season, revised
LMP1 regulations have lured in
a third manufacturer (Porsche)
and, in theory, will allow
privateers to get on the same
page as the factory cars.
For the first time since 1998,
a factory Porsche team will be
racing for an overall win at the
24 Hours of Le Mans next year.
It’s gasoline-powered and – as
per the 2014 LMP1 rules – it
runs an energy-recovery system
(possibly flywheel-based). But
Porsche isn’t prepared to reveal
too much more just yet...
PORSCHE SIGNS UP