FIA WORLD ENDURANCE CHAMPIONSHIP LMP1
(LEFT) Revised LMP1
are now set to be
introduced in 2018.
(ABOVE) Sir Lindsay
Owen-Jones heads up
the FIA Endurance
works with the ACO
to formulate and
update the P1 rules.
power that can be deployed at Le Mans.
A maximum power of 300k W, which
equates to 400bhp, has been introduced
on safety grounds because the track is
only a so-called category- 2 track. The rule
will not apply to other WEC events, which
all take place at Formula 1-spec venues.
A not insignificant rules evolution in
terms of monocoque safety was planned
for 2017, but there is a consensus among
the manufacturers that this should be
delayed one season. What they don’t agree
on is when to increase the amount of
hybrid power, or possibly allowing three,
rather than two, energy-retrieval systems.
Porsche and Audi believe that it makes
sense to increase hybrid power, with the
possible introduction of an additional 10MJ
class above the existing sub-divisions of
two, four, six and eight when the new
chassis rules come into force. Toyota is
against an all-in-one change in the rules.
“Technology is the DNA of the WEC
and we have to make sure that we
develop that value further,” says Audi’s
head of LMP1, Christopher Reinke. “We
should allow a further step to advance
the technology further in 2018, but we
have to decide if a series of megajoule
classes is still the right solution. Before,
remember, we had zones [in which hybrid
power could be utilized in 2012-’ 13].”
Hitzinger could be singing from the
same song book. “You can’t sell the idea
of a new monocoque to the public,” he
argues. “But a bigger hybrid system,
and potentially a third system, is sexy.”
Toyota suggests that 2018 would be
too early for an increase in hybrid power.
“The direction is clear, it’s just a
question of timing,” says Vasselon. “We
don’t see why it is a must to combine the
new monocoques with bigger hybrid
systems, but it is understandable that the
manufacturers with more resources
would want to make such a big step.”
The methods the manufacturers would
use to regenerate 10MJ at Le Mans at
some point in the near future, be it in
2018 or at a later date, isn’t entirely
clear. It is likely, however, that they would
use the same tried and tested technology
fitted to the cars at the moment.
“The only proven systems at the
moment are kinetic energy recovery and
those driven by exhaust gases,” explains
Vasselon. “Other systems might be out
there, but they are not proven.”
The ACO and the FIA have talked about
laying out a road map for the evolution of
the P1 technical rules. There had been a
desire to thrash this out and have it
approved at the FIA World Motor Sport
Council at the end of September, but it
remains “a work in progress,” according to
ACO president Pierre Fillon. The reason for
that is almost certainly the disagreement
between the manufacturers.
What happens beyond the next
incremental rise in hybrid power will also be
laid out in the road map. BMW has denied
that it has aspirations to enter LMP1 with a
car powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, but the
rumors won’t go away. Whether it turns out
to be true or not, it seems the ACO wouldn’t
turn such a concept away.
“In the longer term we are open to the
use of new fuels,” says Beaumesnil. “The
values of the ACO mean we need to be
aware of other sources of energy.”
“You can’t sell the idea of
a monocoque to the public.
But a bigger hybrid system,
or a third system, is sexy”
With the pole time at Le Mans dipping below 3m17s in 2015,
the ACO would like to cool the ultimate pace to below 3m20s
in 2016. Reductions in fuel usage and maximum ERS power
output are intended to do that, but it doesn’t factor in the
inevitable performance gains the manufacturers will find.