This weekend is set to be one of the hottest 24 Hours of Le Mans on record, with temperatures forecast to rise to 33°C on Sunday. However, the heat may play a significant role in deciding today’s race thanks to a recent change in regulations.
Under the rules, ambient temperatures inside the cockpit may not rise above 32°C. If temperatures are forecast to rise this high, the FIA WEC is entitled to declare a race, or parts thereof, as a “hot race” (much like declaring races as “wet races” in the presence of rain).
Some cars use air conditioning units to improve driver comfort and maintain temperatures at a stable level, regardless of the heat outside the cockpit. In such “hot races”, drivers in cars without air conditioning units may only complete stints of 80 minutes – much less than the usual three hours they spend in the car at any one time.
In LMP1, one major and relevant difference between Toyota and Porsche in this regard is that the Porsche 919 Hybrids have air conditioning units, while the Toyota TS050s do not. Should temperatures rise to the forecast level, Toyota would therefore be limited to running 80-minute driver stints. On the other hand, Porsche’s air conditioning unit drains overall power
It remains to be seen whether the regulations will need to be applied. Given that temperatures are only set to increase beyond 32°C on Sunday afternoon, the race may well have already been decided. However, if the leading cars are close, the restriction on stint lengths throw in an exciting and unpredictable component to an already fascinating battle.
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