ACO finalizes rules for 2009 and beyond

The Automobile Club de l'Ouest released its much-anticipated new regulations package Wednesday, officially confirming evolutionary rules that will be phased in beginning next year. Minor changes will be seen in 2009, leading up to more drastic ...

The Automobile Club de l'Ouest released its much-anticipated new regulations package Wednesday, officially confirming evolutionary rules that will be phased in beginning next year. Minor changes will be seen in 2009, leading up to more drastic developments over a three-year span for all Le Mans-branded series and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The biggest change comes in the engine department, which will see the elimination of V10 and V12 power plants in the prototype categories starting in 2011. Instead, LM P1 will feature smaller, more fuel-efficient engines that are generally seen in LM P2 today.

In P1, gasoline-powered units could either be 3.4-liter normally aspired V8s or two-liter six-cylinder turbos. A 3.7-liter V8 twin-turbo diesel power plant will also be an option. The P2 category will welcome GT2 production-based engines in 2011 with different options, including diesel and gasoline variations. Target horsepower for P2 cars will conform to a 900kg minimum weight, the same standard seen in P1. Also, fuel capacity in both classes has been reduced to 75 liters for gasoline-powered cars and 68 liters for diesel entries.

The other big news gave further details on hybrids, which will be eligible to compete next year but will not be classified in the results. Full homologation won't come until 2010, as the ACO balances the performance with its counterparts in P1.

The French organizers, though, have laid out detailed hybrid regulations that will be in effect for next year. The focus on this new revolutionary system is not of obtaining additional power but instead aimed at reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

The car's minimum weight will remain identical to other P1s at 900kg, but the fuel capacity has been reduced by 10 liters to set the first bar in the balance of performance process.

The ACO also clarified that energy can be recovered only from the brakes or from the heat of the exhaust, and only 1 mega joule of energy can be stored in an on-board battery.

Also, all hybrids must be able to drive down pit lane in full electric mode. A "push to pass" button will not be allowed in the cockpit; instead, the accelerator pedal must control the engine and electric motor together.

These refined rules may have an impact on a hybrid projects already in progress, as Zytek's system originally implemented a "push to pass" button inside the cockpit to initiate the electric motor. Peugeot is also developing a hybrid, which it unveiled in a demonstration run at the Le Mans Series season-ending race at Silverstone in September.

Significant regulation changes will come as early as 2009. In the prototype ranks, cars will feature smaller rear wings in effort to reduce the amount of high-speed accidents. The regulations state the wing's width will be cut by 300mm, similar to what has been mandated in Formula One for next season. A handful of Le Mans Series teams have already tested this new configuration at a Michelin tire test in Estroil last month.

Other previously announced changes include performance balancing adjustments between diesel and gasoline-powered P1s, a two-race lifespan for engines in the Le Mans Series, and new pit stop regulations that will only allow one air gun to be used during tire changes. Also, after much discussion, tire-warming techniques will not be banned as originally planned.

Also next year, 2010-spec LM GT1 and LM GT2 cars will be allowed to race, and the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR has been given a 25kg weight break in all series except the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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