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