The next evolution of the LMP1 regulations

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In its annual Le Mans press conference, the ACO today announced the next evolution of LMP1 regulations set to take effect in 2020. Under the new ruleset, the top category in the FIA WEC will see a concerted effort to cut costs as well as a clear move towards electric drive, with the possibility of plug-in hybrid systems with rapid charging at pit stops, mandated electric-only drive at certain points during the race and movable aerodynamic devices.

A great deal of debate has surrounded the new regulations, which were originally planned to be introduced next season but were postponed until 2020 with the agreement of both Toyota and Porsche (the class’ only manufacturers at present) after Audi’s shock withdrawal from P1 racing last year.

Now the ACO has set its course for LMP1 racing moving forward, with a greater focus on electric drivetrains at the heart of the new regs. Plug-in hybrid systems will be permitted from 2020, which can be charged at pit stops using rapid charging technology in an aim to bolster the category’s relevance to road-going machinery.

In addition, cars will only be permitted to use electric drive for the first 1km after each pit stop and may even be required to cross the finish line under electric power, too, although the latter requirement has not yet been specified in any further detail.

In addition, teams will be permitted to use movable aerodynamic devices (akin to Formula 1’s and DTM’s DRS systems) at any time during a race – components that are already present on many road-going supercars.

Besides taller and wider cockpits and other measures aimed at increasing driver safety, the new ruleset is more evolution than revolution and it remains to be seen whether it can attract the multiple manufacturers the ACO so greatly desires. Porsche’s LMP1 commitment currently runs until 2018, and it is not clear what direction the Stuttgart-based constructor will take beyond that. Toyota have also committed to the LMP1 category for the long term, but it is unclear how either they or Porsche will respond to the new regulations.

“We set three major priorities,” said Lindsay Owen-Jones, Chairman of the FIA’s Endurance Commission, when introducing the new regulations. “Firstly, these regulations should provide charismatic and powerful cars for the spectators, which is a big requirement. It is also important that we promote competition between manufacturers.”

“Lastly, these regulations must be relevant. Curbing emissions is important, but more and more cities are closing zones and districts to traditional road traffic in preference to electric modes of transport. In future these zones and distances will be bigger and we want to make sure our regulations reflect the need for development.”

Via: FIA WEC press release
Images © WEC-Magazin / Walter Schruff