This morning, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO)'s annual press conference in advance of Saturday's 24 Hours of Le Mans released the 2010 and 2011 regulations, aimed at balancing the divide between petrol and diesel-powered cars in the 24H's premier class.
There were five main priorities the ACO outlined: improving safety and reducing car performance, leveling the playing field, reducing costs, cutting fuel consumption and emissions, and leaving the rules open enough to continue to allow for technical innovation.
LM P1 is intended to have engine performance trimmed in turbo pressures and air restrictors for 2010. Discussions between September 2008 and April 2009 aimed to reduce the restrictors for diesels by 10.5 percent and production engines by 3 percent. There will be 30 kg more ballast for diesels and a reduction of the fuel flow from 38 to 33 mm.
Otherwise there are some minor regulations changes, improvements in aerodynamic efficiency and accepting of hybrid cars under certain conditions.
Things change for P1 in 2011, with engine performance trimmed to a maximum 520 bhp. Turbo diesels can be 3,7 L, unsupercharged petrol 3,4 L, and petrol turbo 2L. The fuel tanks are reduced from 90 to 75 L for petrol engines and 81 to 65 L for diesels.
LM P2 will have the same changes for 2010, but substantial ones for 2011. Engines will be either GT2-spec or production-based, no more than 420 bhp. Cars will be a maximum weight of 900 kilos.
In both prototype classes, current chassis will still be accepted through 2011 but as always there will be improvements and debates over legality.
The one that has presented itself this week is Peugeot's protest against the front wing segment of Audi's new R15 TDI. Stewards of the event did not uphold the protest and the appeal of the decision will be heard by the FIA at a later date, but not prior to Sunday's conclusion.
ACO officials present said the race will go on, and they were not going to have this "make a mountain out of a molehill."
No such controversy is occurring in the GT classes, though it is not clear-cut what the future of the GT1 category is after this year. As far as GT1 is concerned, the category is still open to cars that comply with the 2010 FIA GT regulations.
In 2010, FIA GT will separate into two new championships -- but this is not of the same detrimental proportions as happened in American open-wheel racing or what could potentially break in Formula One after the FOTA teams and Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone are currently sparring over the proposed 40 million pounds budget cap.
FIA GT will have both a GT1 World Championship and a European Championship for GT2. The FIA has the right to refuse homologation to cars not complying with the regulations.
GT1 regulations allow for cars with engines above 5.5 L, either 650 bhp/1300 kg or 600 bhp/1250 kg. In GT2, cars will run at either 500bhp/1250kg or 450bhp/1200kg for homologation.
As this relates to the ACO and Le Mans, ACO organizers will decide on the basis of applicants for spots in the GT1 class whether they are sincere, valid entries. If there is not a great presence of manufacturers, quality or reliability, the ACO reserves the right to withdraw the class and run a single GT category in 2010.
The Corvette teams here are in discussions about the future of the C6.Rs, what figures to be the only legitimate possible entrant for GT1 in 2010, given Aston Martin has stopped development on the DBR9 and the Lamborghini Murcielago that is here has yet to turn a wheel in anger. There will be more on the Corvettes in the coming days.
GT2 is probably the least changed of the four classes according to the new regulations. Current GT cars are eligible until the end of 2011, and cars that comply with the FIA GT regulations are eligible from 2010 going forward. There will be performance adjustments between the current GT2 cars and FIA GT2s for Le Mans events.
The same homologation deadlines remain, 30 days before the event for a new car and 15 days before hand for modifications. The summer will see further talks between the ACO and the manufacturers on the orientation of the regulations, however by October the regulations will be confirmed.