A group of Le Mans Prototypes competing in the American Le Mans Series, 2007

A Le Mans Prototype (LMP) is the type of sports prototype race car used in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, FIA World Endurance Championship, WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, European Le Mans Series and Asian Le Mans Series. Le Mans Prototypes were created by the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO). The technical requirements for an LMP include bodywork covering all mechanical elements of the car. Currently there are three classes within Le Mans Prototypes, called LMP1, LMP2 and LMP3.

While not as fast as open-wheel Formula One cars around a track, LMP1s were the fastest closed-wheel racing cars used in circuit racing, and were often faster than an F1 car in a straight line. Le Mans Prototypes are considered a class above production-based grand tourer cars, which compete alongside them in sports car racing.

Modern LMP1 designs included hybrid cars that use electric motors to assist acceleration.[1] The Le Mans Prototype LMP1 class has been replaced by Le Mans Hypercars in the FIA World Endurance Championship, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans from the 2021 season, but LMP1 cars are eligible to be "grandfathered" for two more seasons, to compete alongside the new class for the 2021 to 2022 seasons.[2][3] Starting from the 2023 season of FIA World Endurance Championship and IMSA SportsCar Championship, Le Mans Hypercars will be joined by Le Mans Daytona h (LMDh) cars. These two kinds of prototypes will form the top class of the endurance racing—Hypercar.[4]

Name variations

Le Mans Prototypes have used various names depending on the series in which they compete. The FIA's equivalent cars were referred to as Sports Racers (SR) or Sports Racing Prototypes (SRP). The American IMSA GT Championship termed their cars World Sports Cars (WSC), while the short-lived United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC) used the classic Can-Am (CA) name for their prototypes. Since 2004, most series have switched to referring to these cars as Le Mans Prototypes. The American Le Mans Series, the successor to the IMSA GT Championship and the predecessor of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, officially referred to the cars simply as Prototypes (P1, P2, or PC). An LMP is commonly referred to as a Le Mans car in the media.[5]

History

The first use of what would become Le Mans Prototypes was at the 1992 24 Hours of Le Mans. In an attempt to increase the number of entrants beyond the small field of Group C competitors that the World Sportscar Championship had to offer, older Porsche 962s were allowed entry in Category 3. To further increase the size of the field, small open-cockpit race cars using production road car engines which were raced in small national championships, were allowed in Category 4.[6] Only three cars (a Debora-Alfa Romeo, a Ren-Car Peugeot and a WR-Peugeot) were entered, with all failing to run more than a few hours.

However at the end of 1992, the World Sportscar Championship as well as the All Japan Sports Prototype Championship collapsed, leaving the expensive Group C prototypes little competition outside Le Mans. With Group C being phased out, the ACO chose to allow production-based race cars to enter for the first time in many years, while at the same time creating the Le Mans Prototype (LMP) class. The cars continued to use the same formula as they had in 1992.

Later, ACO announced their intentions to completely replace the Group C cars with Le Mans Prototypes in 1994. Two classes were created, with LMP1s running large displacement custom-built engines that were usually turbocharged, and LMP2s using the smaller displacement production-based engines. Both classes were required to have open cockpits. However, LMP1 cars that year were just former Group C cars, some still with closed cockpits (Toyota 94C-V, Courage C32, Kremer K8 Spyder, Porsche 962C GTI, ALD C289 and Alpa LM). At the same time, the IMSA GT Championship announced the end of their closed cockpit GTP and Lights classes, deciding as well to replace them with a single open-cockpit class of World Sports Cars equivalent to LMP1.

An early Riley & Scott Mk III, which competed in IMSA's WSC class

This formula continued up to 1996, with many manufacturers embracing the LMP and WSC classes, including Ferrari, Porsche, and Mazda. In 1997, the first European series based around Le Mans Prototypes was launched, known as the "International Sports Racing Series". Using classes similar to LMP1/WSC and LMP2, these cars were known as "SR1" and "SR2" by the FIA. 1998 saw the creation of another series of Le Mans Prototypes, with the new United States Road Racing Championship attempting to break away from the IMSA GT Championship. To differ from IMSA'S WSC class, the USRRC named their open-cockpit prototypes "Can-Am" in an attempt to resurrect the sportscar championship of the 1970s. However the USRRC collapsed before the end of 1999, with the series becoming the Rolex Sports Car Series who chose to use the FIA's SR1 and SR2 formula instead.

1998 saw a great expansion for the ACO's LMP classes. Following the cancellation of the IMSA GT Championship at the end of 1998, the ACO allowed for the creation of the American Le Mans Series. This series used the same class structure as the 24 Hours of Le Mans, meaning it was the first championship to use the LMP name. At the same time, the ACO greatly altered their LMP classes. The smaller LMP2 class were briefly eliminated, while a new class of closed-cockpit prototypes were allowed in, known as "LMGTP" (Le Mans grand touring prototype). These cars were evolutions of production-based road cars that the ACO considered too advanced and too fast to fall under the GT class regulations, forcing the ACO to promote them to prototypes.

A Bentley Speed 8 as used in 2003

In 2000, changes were made to the LMP regulations, as the ACO once again split the open-cockpit LMP class. The two new classes became known as "LMP900" and "LMP675", with the numbers denoting the minimum weight requirements (in kilograms) for each class. The LMP900s were to be more powerful and faster in top speed, but also heavier and more cumbersome. The LMP675s were to be smaller and more nimble, yet lack the top speed of the larger class. Both classes were intended to be able to compete for overall wins. Audi, Chrysler, Cadillac, and Panoz opted to use the LMP900 formula, while MG were the only major manufacturer to attempt the LMP675 class. The LMGTP class also continued, with Bentley being the only manufacturer to build a closed-cockpit prototype after the regulation changes in 2000.

The dominant entry in the short-lived LMP675 class, the MG-Lola EX257

The LMP1 and LMP2 classes continue to be used at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and in the newer championships that were created by the ACO: the Le Mans Series in 2004 and the Japan Le Mans Challenge in 2006. In 2004, the ACO renamed LMP900 back to LMP1, and with this they limited the rear wing to 1.9m and reduced the fuel tank capacity from 90L to 80L. This was done in an effort to promote new hybrid LMP1 cars while putting more restrictions on the aging LMP900 cars like the Audi R8. New safety measures were also brought in, and prototypes were now required to have two rollover bars instead of one. The final year that LMP900 chassis were allowed to be entered was 2006.

From 2017, in order to limit the costs, FIA introduced a new set of LMP2 regulations, which will be locked in through 2020, aiming a significant power increase, to the range of 150 horsepower (which is expected to lead to a four-second decrease in lap time at Le Mans). Gibson Technology is the exclusive engine supplier for LMP2, producing a four-litre normally-aspirated V8.[7]

Technical regulations

Biofuels, specifically petrol with 10% ethanol and biodiesel (BTL), are allowed in both LMP1 and LMP2 categories. The main technical regulations for LMP class cars are:

LMP1

The former LMP1 class competitors, the Porsche 919 Hybrid and Audi R18 e-tron Quattro

The fuel tank size and minimum weight for non-hybrid cars was subject to adjustment to reduce the difference in performance between hybrid and non-hybrid cars.

There were no limits on the number of cylinders for any type of engine.

Bodywork was required to cover all mechanical elements of the car, so that they couldn't be visible when the car is viewed directly from the front, side, or top.

The LMP1 cars were generally the most powerful, with higher straight-line speeds.

The LMP1 category has been retired with the end of the 2020 season (with an exception of the grandfathered Rebellion R13, renamed as Alpine A480[8]), replaced by a new top class of the endurance racing—Hypercar.

LMP1[9]
Hybrid Non-hybrid
Minimum weight 878 kilograms (1,936 lb) 833 kilograms (1,836 lb)
Maximum length 4,650 millimetres (183 in)
Minimum width 1,800 millimetres (71 in)
Maximum width 1,900 millimetres (75 in)
Engine displacement no limit max. 5.5 litres (340 in3)
Fuel tank capacity for petrol engines 62.3 litres (16.5 US gal) 75 litres (20 US gal)
For diesel engines 50.1 litres (13.2 US gal)
Maximum wheel diameter 28 inches (710 mm)
Maximum wheel width 14 inches (360 mm)

LMP2

An older LMP2 class competitor, the Greaves Motorsport Zytek Z11SN-Nissan at the 2011 24 Hours of Le Mans
A newer LMP2 class competitor, the Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 with LMP2 Endurance Trophy

Beginning in 2011, all cars must have fins on the rear bodywork to prevent them from rolling over in the air during crashes. Although a passenger seat is not used, cars must be designed to carry two people. The empty area of the cockpit is usually used to hold electronic devices and cooling equipment. Only production-based engines were allowed in LMP2 with diesel engines permitted from 2013 onward.

From 2017, in order to limit the costs, FIA introduced a new set of regulations, which will be locked in through 2023,[10] aiming a significant power increase, to the range of 150 horsepower (which is expected to lead to a four-second decrease in lap time at Le Mans). Gibson Technology is the exclusive engine supplier, producing a 4.2-litre naturally-aspirated V8.[11] In seasons 2017 through 2020, the engine produced about 600 bhp.[11]

Dallara, Onroak Automotive (Ligier), Oreca and the joint-venture Riley Tech/Multimatic were selected by FIA as the four exclusive chassis constructors, which must be closed-cockpit designs.[12]

Before the start of the 2021 season LMP2 cars have been slowed down to ensure the necessary lap time difference between the LMP2 and a new class—Hypercar. In the original version of the new ruleset, revealed in November 2020, only the power of the Gibson engine has been reduced—to 560 bhp. Right before the start of the season, the cars were further weakened, by trimming an additional 20 bhp to a total of 540 bhp. The minimum weight of the cars has also been increased by 20 kg and has been set at 950 kg. Furthermore, mirroring the Hypercar category, a single aero kit has been made mandatory across the whole season and is limited to the Le Mans specification in the WEC; the ELMS teams have retained the right to switch between the aero kits.[13]

The Daytona Prototype International (DPi) class is based on the 2017 LMP2 rules, and features custom bodywork and engines by road car manufacturers.

LMP2[11]
Minimum weight 950 kilograms (2,090 lb)
Maximum length 4,750 millimetres (187 in)
Overall width 1,800 millimetres (71 in) (min) to 1,900 millimetres (75 in) (max)
Maximum Height 1,050 millimetres (41 in)
Engine 4.2 litres (260 in3) V8 naturally-aspirated petrol engine (homologated)
Fuel tank capacity 75 litres (20 US gal)
Maximum wheel diameter 690 millimetres (27 in) front, 715 millimetres (28.1 in) rear
Maximum wheel width 342 millimetres (13.5 in) front, 362 millimetres (14.3 in) rear

LMP3

LMP3 is an entry-level prototype class intended for introducing young drivers and new teams to endurance racing before they progress to the higher classes of prototype racing, LMP2 and ultimately Hypercar.[14] LMP3 uses closed-cockpit chassis, which can be built by any licensed constructor, powered by a 5.6-litre normally-aspirated Nissan V8 engine, producing 455 bhp.[15][16]

The class is in use since 2015.

The cars eligible for use in the class were: Ginetta-Juno P3, Ligier JS P3, Norma M30, ADESS-03, and the Ave-Riley AR-02. The cars were eligible in a number of series, such as the Asian Le Mans Series, the European Le Mans Series, as well as the V de V Endurance Series and the IMSA Prototype Challenge.[17] A number of championships for the class have also been created, such as the FRD LMP3 series and the British LMP3 Cup.[18][19][20]

United Autosports Ligier JS P320 and DKR Engineering Duqueine D-08, fighting for the lead of the 2021 4 Hours of Portimão

A 2nd Generation ruleset was introduced for 2020, with new cars introduced, namely the Ginetta G61-LT-P3, Ligier JS P320, Duqueine D-08, and the ADESS-03 Evo. These cars can be built from its predecessors using an upgrade kit.[21] The new LMP3 prototypes are used in Asian Le Mans Series, Michelin Le Mans Cup, European Le Mans Series, IMSA Prototype Challenge and—from 2021 season onwards—in IMSA SportsCar Championship.[22]

LMP3[23]
Minimum weight 950 kilograms (2,090 lb)
Maximum length 4,650 millimetres (183 in)
Maximum width 1,900 millimetres (75 in)
Engine Naturally aspirated Nissan VK56DE 5.6L V8
Fuel tank capacity 100 litres (26 US gal)
Maximum wheel diameter 28 inches (710 mm)
Maximum wheel width 13 inches (330 mm)

An informal version of LMP3 existed prior to 2015, dating back into the early 2000s. Engine capacity was 1600 cc, later 2000 cc. A 3000 cc version of this class became Group CN.

LMPC

An American LMPC class competitor, the Dempsey Racing Oreca FLM09-Chevrolet at the 2012 Petit Le Mans

LMPC (Le Mans Prototype Challenge) was an earlier entry level class, introduced in 2009, consisting of competitors running identical Oreca FLM09 cars.[24] The class was dropped in European Le Mans Series in 2014. As the cost of running an LMPC team was found to be comparable to that for an LMP2 team, the class was dropped after the 2017 season in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.[25]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Porsche 919 Hybrid Le Mans Prototype". CarAndDriver.com.
  2. ^ "Le Mans Hypercar: Where Things Stand & Your Questions Answered". DailySportsCar.com. Retrieved 16 December 2019.
  3. ^ Watkins, Gary (16 October 2021). "Alpine WEC LMP1 Car Granted Extra Year of Homologation". MotorSport.com. Retrieved 1 December 2021.
  4. ^ "Le Mans Categories". 24 Hours of le Mans.
  5. ^ "Toyota Reveals New Le Mans Car as Peugeot Quits". CAR Magazine.
  6. ^ Nye, Doug. "A Brief History of Le Mans Prototypes". GoodWood.com. Retrieved 26 October 2019.
  7. ^ "Gibson Technology lands engine-supply contract for LMP2 from 2017". autosport.com. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  8. ^ "Alpine Endurance Team Confirms LMP1 Entry for 2021 FIA WEC Season". FIA. 14 September 2020. Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  9. ^ "Classes". FIAWEC.com. FIA WEC. 2019. Archived from the original on 6 March 2019. Retrieved 3 December 2021.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  10. ^ Watkins, Gary (8 July 2021). "Introduction of Next-Generation LMP2 Car Delayed until 2024". MotorSport.com. Retrieved 1 December 2021.
  11. ^ a b c "Classes". FIAWEC.com. FIA WEC. 2021. Archived from the original on 30 October 2021. Retrieved 3 December 2021.
  12. ^ "2017 LMP2 Regulations – The Four Chassis Constructors Selected". FIA.com. 9 July 2015. Retrieved 3 December 2021.
  13. ^ "WEC: LMP2 Performance Level Refined". FIA.com. 1 April 2021. Retrieved 1 December 2021.
  14. ^ "ACO Press Conference: Presentation of the new LMP3 category". europeanlemansseries.com. Automobile Club de l'Ouest. 19 July 2014. Archived from the original on 1 January 2015. Retrieved 7 January 2015.
  15. ^ "LM P3 Nissan Official Engine Supplier!". europeanlemansseries.com. Automobile Club de l'Ouest. 18 September 2014. Archived from the original on 8 October 2014. Retrieved 7 January 2015.
  16. ^ "2020 LMP3 Regulations Revealed". DailySportsCar.com. Retrieved 27 December 2019.
  17. ^ "IMSA: LMP3 sales continue". Racer. 20 October 2016.
  18. ^ "LMP3 series launch for 2019". Cams.com.au. Retrieved 30 December 2018.
  19. ^ "FRD LMP3 Series". FRDSports.com. Retrieved 30 December 2018.
  20. ^ "Home · Official Site of LMP3 Cup Championship". LMP3Cup.co.uk. Retrieved 30 December 2018.
  21. ^ "It's All Systems Go for LMP3 Gen II". DailySportsCar.com. Retrieved 27 December 2019.
  22. ^ Kish, Ryan. "LMP3 Teams, Drivers Keen to Build on Strong WeatherTech Debut Season". Racer.com. Retrieved 30 November 2021.
  23. ^ "The different classes". Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO). Retrieved 30 November 2021.
  24. ^ Sam. "Oreca FLM-09". racecar-engineering.com. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  25. ^ "Prototype Challenge Teams Weigh In on Class Future". SportsCar365.com. Retrieved 15 March 2018.

External links