Hypercar class plate as used in FIA World Endurance Championship

A Le Mans Hypercar (LMH) is a type of sports prototype race car that competes alongside LMDh entries in the Hypercar class of the FIA World Endurance Championship. It will also compete in the GTP class of the IMSA SportsCar Championship from 2023.[1]

The Le Mans Hypercar regulations were created jointly by the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) and the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) as a successor to the Le Mans Prototype 1 (LMP1) from the 2021 season onwards.[2]

Unlike its predecessor LMP1 class, where the rules allowed only bespoke prototypes to race in the category, the new Hypercar class permits two types of car: LMH and LMDh. The former is a prototype designed from the ground-up (with optional hybrid power) and the latter is a prototype based on a shared structure (with mandatory hybrid power).[3][4] Non-hybrid LMP1 cars were permitted to be "grandfathered" into seasons 2021 and 2022 only.[5]

History

Demise of LMP1 class

Following the successive exits of Audi and Porsche from the FIA World Endurance Championship at the end of the 2016 and 2017 seasons due to the fallout of the Volkswagen emissions scandal affecting the parent company of both automobile manufacturers, as well as spiralling costs in the LMP1 Hybrid sub-category, the ACO began a series of discussions aimed at reducing the costs of competition for the next generation of LMP1 rules.[6][7]

Initially, a single, low-power hybrid system had been planned for the new LMP1 rules, with plans for a shared platform with the IMSA. Representatives from the three organizations, as well as current and prospective manufacturers, were involved in talks for the proposed regulations, which would debut in the 2020-21 World Endurance Championship (WEC) season. At the time, there had been an option for a customer hybrid powertrain for small-volume manufacturers and privateers, which could lead the regulations to replace those of the Daytona prototype International (DPi) in the top class of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2022; this allowed for the unification of top level sports car racing, with teams and manufacturers being able to compete with the same car in the "triple crown" (24 hours of Daytona, 24 Hours of Le Mans, 12 Hours of Sebring) of endurance racing. These initial plans targeted significant cost reductions while maintaining the performance levels of the LMP1 prototypes.[8] A renaming of the category was later suggested by FIA President Jean Todt.[9]

Early concepts

In June 2018, ahead of the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans, the FIA first confirmed that the new set of top-level prototype regulations would feature design concepts based on hypercars when implemented, with a summary of the new technical regulations being presented to the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Manila.[10] At the time, Toyota, Ford, McLaren, Aston Martin, and Ferrari were revealed to have been in roundtable meetings with the championship organisers for the new regulations, with a significantly reduced targeted full-season budget in the region of 25 million euros—75% lower than existing budgets used by manufacturer teams.

At the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans, the initial details of the new top class for the FIA World Endurance Championship were announced at the ACO's annual press conference, with the regulations set to be active for 5 seasons. Numerous aspects of the design for the new class would be kept open, with a free engine architecture and the freedom to run any number of cylinders with the choice of a turbocharged or naturally aspirated design. The cars would have an overall weight of 980 kg (2,160 lb) with a controlled weight distribution, alongside a defined maximum fuel flow, with controlled efficiency and other regulations to control developmental costs. Hybrid systems would feature an electric motor mounted on the front axle with a fixed performance of 200 kW (270 hp), giving the cars a four-wheel drive layout, while the engine's maximum performance target would be set at 520 kW (700 hp). Each car would have two seats, a larger cockpit than current LMP1 cars, a wider windscreen, and a roofline more consistent with road cars. Manufacturers would be required to make their hybrid systems available for privateer teams to lease at a cost cap, while any manufacturer or company would be able to design and build its own hybrid system, which would undergo homologation by the FIA and ACO. The cars would also be slower than their predecessors, with a target lap time of 3:20.[11]

On 25 July 2018, Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus became the first manufacturer to officially indicate its participation in the new rules, with the manufacturer releasing images of a prototype that it planned to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The manufacturer would offer a limited run of 25 road-legal versions and one race version to fund its Le Mans program.[12] By the end of the 2018 year, apart from Glickenhaus, no other manufacturer had committed to the new regulations. Concerns were raised by several manufacturers about the tight timelines involved, which would leave manufacturers intending to commit from the first season of competition, with less than two years to design and build new cars upon gaining company board approval.[13] On 21 October 2018, McLaren announced that it would not participate in the first year of the category, due to the tight timelines involved and the relatively fluid state of the regulations at the point in time.[14]

Beginning of the Le Mans Hypercar class

On 5 December 2018, the FIA published the technical rulebook for the class, with the regulations mandating production-based powertrains. It was also decided that a minimum of 25 road cars fitted with the combustion engine and energy recovery system (ERS) of the race car would have to be produced by the end of a manufacturer's first season, with that amount rising to 100 by the end of its second season. This would mean that non-OEM racecar constructors, such as Oreca, Onroak Automotive, and Dallara, would not be permitted to build hypercars, while the previously proposed "off-the-shelf" hybrid solution was absent from the regulations. The regulations called for a total maximum power output of roughly 950 hp (710 kW) drawn from the combustion and electric hybrid system, lower than the initial figure presented in June. The maximum output of the combustion engine was now 508 kW (681 hp) rather than 520 kW (700 hp), although the 200 kW electric unit power output remained the same. In addition, diesel power would be banned, with a 3 million euro ($3.4 million US) cost cap on the supply of ERS systems from manufacturers to customer teams was announced, while it was also announced that an ERS manufacturer would be prohibited from supplying a system to more than three competitors without the formal approval of the FIA.[15] The minimum weight of the new-generation cars will be raised from the initially-stated 980 kg (2,160 lb) to 1,040 kg (2,290 lb), with maximum length being 5,000 mm (200 in), while maximum cockpit width would also increase to 2,000 mm (79 in).[16]

On 7 March 2019, it was announced that the FIA World Endurance Championship would adjust its criteria for the new prototype regulations, with manufacturers now being permitted to enter race cars derived from road-going hypercars. This was done after several manufacturers expressed interest in a closer alignment between their production and race activities, citing both budgetary and platform availability concerns.[17][18] Subsequently, the target lap time of the new cars was increased from 3:20 to 3:30 and movable aerodynamic devices, originally planned to be allowed under the new regulations, were removed due to cost concerns.[19]

On the Friday prior to the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans (14 June, 2019), the full technical regulations regarding the new class were unveiled at the race's press conference. The regulations were teamed with the announcement of Toyota Gazoo Racing and Aston Martin Racing committing to the category for its inaugural season, then-to-be the 2020-2021 WEC Season.[20][21] Aston Martin confirmed the use of the Valkyrie road-going car as the spine of their hypercar, whilst Toyota hinted at the use of their GR Super Sport concept. The two manufacturers would join the supposed Glickenhaus team and ByKolles Racing for the first few races.

On 19 February 2020, Aston Martin announced that they would be postponing their Le Mans Hypercar project, as the announcement of the joint ACO-IMSA Le Mans Daytona h (LMDh) rules led the company to reconsider their plans on the project. In addition, the company planned to re-join Formula One in 2021 for the first time since the late 1950s as a factory-backed team.[22][23]

On 11 May 2020, the FIA announced it had approved proposed changes to the LMH technical regulations, which would see a decrease in maximum power output from 585 kW (784 hp) to 500 kW (670 hp), and minimum weight of the cars from 1,100 kg (2,400 lb) to 1,030 kg (2,270 lb).[24]

Debut and LMDh convergence

In 2021, just a few days after Peugeot revealed their 9X8 Hypercar, the IMSA and the ACO announced that they would converge their respective sports prototype classes into one class. This unified prototype class is named differently by FIA and IMSA (Hypercar class and GTP, respectively).[1] This convergence allows the LMH-rules cars to compete in the IMSA SportsCar Championship in tandem with its sister LMDh-rules cars, starting in 2023. This effectively allowed LMH and LMDh to race in both North American and World Championships together, a level of commonality between Europe and America not seen in top-flight sportscar racing for several decades.[25]

Technical regulations

The frontal surface area of the car may not be below 1.6 m2, while "as viewed from above, from the side, and from the front, the bodywork must not allow mechanical components to be seen, unless explicitly authorised by the present regulations, or if respecting the original car design."[26] Movable aerodynamic elements are prohibited.[27]

Powertrain

Engine design is free, with only four-stroke petrol engines being permitted for use. For production-based engines, the block and head castings must come from the base engine (but can be slightly altered via machining or addition of material), and the crankshaft may only be a maximum of 10% lighter, while valve angles, number of camshafts, and location of camshafts must also remain as they are fitted on the original engine.

For cars utilising an energy recovery hybrid system, the speed at which it can be deployed is set in the Balance of Performance table. The electrical DC power of the MGU-K must not exceed 200 kW, and with the exception of the pit lane, the MGU-K may only apply positive torque to the front wheels should the following conditions be met:

  • If the speed of the car is equal or higher than the respective value set in the BoP table, when fitted with dry weather slick tyres;
  • If the speed of the car is equal or higher than the respective value set in the BoP table, when not fitted with dry weather slick tyres;
  • If the speed of the car is below the respective value set in the BoP table and stays below that value until the car comes to the pits.[26]

Vehicle Specifications

Maximum length 5,000 mm (200 in)
Maximum width 2,000 mm (79 in)
Maximum wheelbase 3,150 mm (124 in)
Minimum frontal area 1.6 m2 (2,500 sq in)
Minimum weight 1,030 kg (2,270 lb)
Minimum engine weight 165 kg (364 lb)
Engine displacement No limit
Maximum power output 500 kW (670 hp)
Maximum wheel diameter 710 mm (28 in)
Maximum wheel width 380 mm (15 in)
Minimum headlight height 400 mm (15.75 in) above the reference plane

Confirmed entries

Manufacturer Model Picture Year First Race Ref
Toyota GR010 Hybrid Toyotagr010.png 2021 2021 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps [28][29]
Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus SCG 007 LMH 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus Glickenhaus SCG 007 LMH.jpg 2021 2021 8 Hours of Portimão [30]
Peugeot 9X8 LMH 9X8LMH.JPG 2022 2022 6 Hours of Monza [31][32]
Ferrari TBD 2023 TBD [33][34][35]

Prospective entries

Manufacturer Model Picture Year First Race Ref
Vanwall / ByKolles Vandervell LMH TBD[note 1] TBD [36][37]
Isotta Fraschini TBD 2023 TBD [38]
Veloqx TBD TBD TBD [39]
  1. ^ Vanwall / ByKolles entry to 2022 FIA WEC championship was rejected, so the date of debut is unknown[36][37]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b "IMSA Top Class to Be Named GTP Beginning in 2023". www.imsa.com. 27 January 2022. Retrieved 1 April 2022.
  2. ^ Watkins, Gary (5 December 2019). "WEC reveals new top class name for hypercar future". www.motorsport.com. Retrieved 1 April 2022.
  3. ^ "2021 - The dawn of a new endurance era with Hypercar" (PDF). www.24h‑lemans.com. 2021. Archived (PDF) from the original on 4 March 2021. Retrieved 1 April 2022.
  4. ^ "Categories". www.24h‑lemans.com. 2021. Archived from the original on 25 June 2021. Retrieved 1 April 2022.
  5. ^ Goodwin, Graham (31 December 2021). "Hypercar Catch-Up Part 1: 2022". www.dailysportscar.com. Retrieved 1 April 2022.
  6. ^ Dagys, John. "Single, Low-Power Hybrid in Frame for Next-Gen Regs – Sportscar365". sportscar365.com. Retrieved 5 December 2019.
  7. ^ "The Coolest Racing Series In The World Got Too Expensive". Jalopnik. Retrieved 5 December 2019.
  8. ^ "Audi Sport: "WEC got too expensive"". Top Gear. 13 December 2017. Retrieved 5 December 2019.
  9. ^ Dagys, John. "Todt Predicts "Five to Seven" Manufacturers in Top Class – Sportscar365". sportscar365.com. Retrieved 5 December 2019.
  10. ^ Dagys, John. "FIA Confirms 'Hypercar' Design Concept for New Prototype Class – Sportscar365". sportscar365.com. Retrieved 5 December 2019.
  11. ^ Kilshaw, Jake. "Details of 2020 'Hypercar' Design Revealed – Sportscar365". sportscar365.com. Retrieved 5 December 2019.
  12. ^ Lloyd, Daniel. "Glickenhaus Reveals Le Mans Prototype Concept – Sportscar365". sportscar365.com. Retrieved 5 December 2019.
  13. ^ Dagys, John. "Marquardt: "Clarity" Needed on Hypercar Regs – Sportscar365". sportscar365.com. Retrieved 5 December 2019.
  14. ^ Dagys, John. "McLaren "Highly Unlikely" to Commit to Hypercar Regs for 2020 – Sportscar365". sportscar365.com. Retrieved 5 December 2019.
  15. ^ Lloyd, Daniel. "FIA Publishes 2020 Hypercar Technical Regs – Sportscar365". sportscar365.com. Retrieved 6 December 2019.
  16. ^ Andrew Cotton (6 December 2018). "WEC | 2020 Hypercar Regulations". Racecar Engineering. Retrieved 7 December 2019.
  17. ^ Lloyd, Daniel. "Production Cars to be Included in 2020 'Hypercar' Regs – Sportscar365". sportscar365.com. Retrieved 7 December 2019.
  18. ^ "2020 'Hypercar' Regulations Expanded To Include Road Car Derivatives – dailysportscar.com". www.dailysportscar.com. Retrieved 7 December 2019.
  19. ^ Dagys, John. "FIA, ACO "Enlarged" Hypercar Scope at Manufacturers' Request – Sportscar365". sportscar365.com. Retrieved 7 December 2019.
  20. ^ Kilbey, Stephen (14 June 2019). "Toyota joins Hypercar class in WEC". racer.com. Racer Media & Marketing Inc. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  21. ^ Kilbey, Stephen (14 June 2019). "Aston Martin first to confirm WEC Hypercar program". racer.com. Racer Media & Marketing Inc. Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  22. ^ Schrader, Stef. "Aston Martin Dumps Valkyrie Hypercar For Le Mans, Focuses on Formula 1". The Drive. Retrieved 19 February 2020.
  23. ^ "Aston Martin to Re-evaluate Hypercar Race Programme". Retrieved 19 February 2020.
  24. ^ "Le Mans Hypercar Changes Approved By The FIA – dailysportscar.com". www.dailysportscar.com. Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  25. ^ Goodwin, Graham (9 July 2021). "LMH & LMDH Set For Both IMSA & WEC From 2023". www.dailysportscar.com. Retrieved 1 April 2022.
  26. ^ a b "FIA WEC - 2020 Le Mans Prototype Hypercar Technical Regulations".
  27. ^ Lloyd, Daniel. "Updated Le Mans Hypercar Technical Regs Released – Sportscar365". sportscar365.com. Retrieved 12 December 2019.
  28. ^ "Toyota commits to WEC future with GR Super Sport hypercar". Autosport. 14 June 2019.
  29. ^ Lloyd, Daniel. "Toyota Launches GR010 Hybrid; Technical Details Revealed – Sportscar365". sportscar365.com. Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  30. ^ "Glickenhaus reveals Le Mans hypercar". Pistonheads.com. 19 September 2019.
  31. ^ "Peugeot joins forces with Rebellion for WEC and Le Mans 2022 hypercar". Motorsport Magazine. 4 December 2019.
  32. ^ Lloyd, Daniel (6 July 2021). "Peugeot Unveils 9X8 Le Mans Hypercar". sportscar365.com. John Dagys Media. Retrieved 6 July 2021.
  33. ^ "Ferrari announces LMH parcitipation". Ferrari Races Twitter. 24 February 2021.
  34. ^ Pruett, Marshall (24 February 2021). "Ferrari announces Hypercar plans". RACER. Archived from the original on 6 May 2021. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
  35. ^ Lloyd, Daniel (7 June 2021). "AF Corse to Operate Ferrari Factory LMH Program". sportscar365.com. John Dagys Media. Retrieved 7 June 2021.
  36. ^ a b Lloyd, Daniel (11 January 2022). "ByKolles Hypercar Entry with Vanwall LMH Rejected". www.sportscar365.com. Retrieved 2 April 2022.
  37. ^ a b Goodwin, Graham (2 April 2022). "Vanwall LMH Car Shakes Down, But Significant Potential Legal Issues Remain". www.dailysportscar.com. Retrieved 2 April 2022.
  38. ^ "Isotta Fraschini HyperCar "In Build" And Targeting 2023 Debut". 7 July 2022.
  39. ^ "Veloqx team plots Le Mans comeback with 'Fangio' Hypercar". www.motorsport.com. Retrieved 22 July 2022.

External links